Is The Indiana Law About Discrimination?

Is The Indiana Law About Discrimination?

Before heading to Palm Sunday service this past Sunday, I was listening to George Stephanopoulos interview the Governor of Indiana on “This Week” on ABC. Their discussion was centered on the heated reaction to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  A pin-the-tail-on-the-governor game was underway. The goal of the game was to affix to the State of Indiana the culturally detestable label “DISCRIMINATION.” Of all the sins out there, this seems to be the unpardonable one.

So let’s look it up in the online dictionary.

Discrimination: noun.

  1. an act or instance of discriminating, or of making a distinction.
  2. treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit: racial and religious intolerance and discrimination.
  3. the power of making fine distinctions; discriminating judgment:
  4. something that serves to differentiate

Definition numbers 1, 3, and 4 seem to be very good things to do. To be discriminating is to make distinctions between things, to judge rightly, to differentiate. In a sense, this is what the people of God are called to do in Proverbs. We are called to seek and follow wisdom by carefully discerning whether certain persons or actions are foolish or wise. We are called, later in the Bible, to speak the truth in love. We are also told that our God is a discriminating judge, which is probably the second most unpardonable sin in our culture – judging an action or person.

I used to dislike the word “judgment,” but I have come to appreciate its necessity. The Bible seems to make the case that judgment is God’s first saving move. God judges/discerns/discriminates/declares what is right at the very beginning. Then, based on God’s discriminating judgment, we are free to reject this divine opinion or conform to it by repentance. Without the discriminating judgment of God, I would never have changed my ways. In retrospect, God was the only one who loved me enough and knew me enough to reveal me to me. In the light of God’s loving truth, I was opened to new possibilities that made me a very different person.

What about Definition Number 2? Well, that’s pretty bad. And no one opposes this kind of discrimination more than God. Jesus invited all kinds of people into the kingdom – prostitutes, tax collectors, Gentiles, Samaritans, Roman occupiers, demonized folk, even his executioners. And lest we forget, God also invited Pharisees into the kingdom. But this did not sit well with religious people who wanted to put all “these kinds” in a box of judgment and send them straight to Gehenna (the Jerusalem trash dump that became Jesus’ favorite word picture for hell). So, to “make a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit” is unlike Jesus, kinda. We do discern people one at a time…but not based on individual merit. We discern them because they are made in the image of God, loved by God, and died-for by the Son of God. Love drives us to do what anti-discrimination laws will never drive us to do. Love them. Be discriminating in our judgment and wisdom. Care. Do the most good.

Is The Indiana Law About Discrimination?

Let me illustrate with the single flash point in the Indiana law – homosexuality. Christians are being asked to normalize homosexual orientation, same-sex relations, and gay marriage. We are asked to declare that this is the same as heterosexual orientation, relations, and marriage. And many of my brothers and sisters in Christ have come to equalize the two. I understand their rationale. But I do not agree with them. I continue to believe that for many homosexually oriented persons, their sexual orientation is a signal of one of the many ways that our world is broken. I have heard their stories of childhood abuse, rape, sexual molestation, early experimentation, familial patterns, and other traumatic experiences that have shaped their sexual orientation. I think it is unwise to “normalize” a sexual orientation that is formed from these tragedies. I prefer to make the “discriminating judgment” that this is a sign of human brokenness rather than normal human development. Love drives me to speak truth to these persons rather than normalize their desires. The church owes them our best counsel and wisdom.

Immediately, disclaimers are needed for lots of reactions. So here are few quick ones, so I can get back to the main point I’m trying to make:

  • Disclaimer #1.
    “Not all homosexual persons have orientations formed by trauma.” I agree, but many do and they are the ones I am concerned for in this blog.
  • Disclaimer #2.
    “The church has not been given the right by our government to discriminate based on group, class, or category.” Right. But it has been given the right to order our lives based on our religious convictions. As the Governor stated in the interview, tolerance should be a two-way street. And where the two collide, we have courts.
  • Disclaimer #3.
    The church is not a national or governmental institution. It is a body of people who have gathered under their discernment of a call from God. No one has to join the church. No one has to place themselves under the authority of the church. No one is forced to belong. It is a personal, voluntary, and willful choice to become part of a people who read and understand God in a particular way. In other words, it is the responsibility of a Christian to have a discriminating judgment.
  • Disclaimer #4.
    “Calling people ‘broken’ is a judgmental thing to do.” Definitely. I also judge myself to be broken and in need of saving. I haven’t met anyone who has not, in some way, been broken by a sinful world.

So, where does it go from here?

I believe the church is called to discriminating judgment of the human condition of brokenness. Where that is found, love compels us to speak truth in love.

As practiced by the people of God throughout time, we are also called to rich hospitality, Biblical wisdom, good news, and gracious response. And the people we offer this to have all the freedom in the world to accept our loving offer—or pass judgment on us and walk away.

Many will put us down, label us, speak lies about us, and discredit us. They will judge us by the worst among us, even as we have judged them by the worst among them – and we’re both wrong to do so.  They will pin the label of discrimination on us. It is happening now and will happen more often in the future.

But Jesus actually gave us a strategy for when that happens. In Matthew 5:11-12, we are told to bless them.   May God give us the grace to do as we have been instructed.

I fear that most Christians are more interested in the government siding with our religious liberty than in taking up the cross of a suffering Jesus and helping people in the wisest way we know.


  1. Here’s a great MLK quote, Dan. “If any earthly institution or custom conflicts with God’s will, it is your Christian duty to oppose it. You must never allow the transitory, evanescent demands of man-made institutions to take precedence over the eternal demands of the Almighty God.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.

    More bold King quotes at

  2. Randy Anderson says

    Holy love cannot be legislated or coerced. Hospitality doesn’t include ratifying an unchristian lifestyle with our business. The law in question was signed by Clinton to protect peyote rights in Native American religion. Our religious rights should Carry no less weight. However, we are called by a higher law to live out holy love. Even we we can’t agree or do business.

    • Lisa del Rio says

      With all due respect if a person comes into your business and has been divorced do you refuse to serve them? God hates divorce and it was never his will but the church seems to have accepted this sin since it is so prolific. I dare say most businesses would never choose to deny them service or they would be eliminating half of their revenue. I am not suggesting that they should be denied service but rather shed light on the serious inconsistency in the name of faith. Oh that Christians ( of which I am one) could be known by their love and not by what they are against!

      • This isn’t what Christians are doing, Lisa. They are saying “I won’t support a same sex wedding”, not “I won’t serve a gay person”. Do you know ANY Christians saying the latter? Neither do I. The former is directly supporting something Jesus taught against. I hope you would not, for example, write a letter to support someone cheating on their wife.

      • If a divorced person came into my business I would them as well as a gay. But if either asked me to celebrate with them their divorce or gay marriage by my skills I would say I cannot. It would be wrong for me to celebrate what I consider sin. I have this right and should. But I’d make them a really good birthday cake!

      • lovingaholyGod says

        In the book of Malachi, God says he hates divorce. As a divorcee, I see 2 things. One, God does not say he hates the divorcee. I am reassured of His love daily.
        Two, I think God hates the brokenness, pain and consequences caused by divorce.

        I am grateful that God has forgiven me for the part I had in the divorce. That He has shown me kindness.

        Rom 2:4 says it is God’s kindness that leads [us] to his repentance. I choose to be His kindness (even when it is hard)! No law, will keep me from showing God’s love. That does not mean that I welcome sin! I welcome the opportunity to show God’s unconditional love.

  3. Anonymous says

    Disclaimer #1 is going to turn every gay person who comes across this post away from Jesus. Take. It. Down.

  4. Dorman Dowling says

    Cross-bearing was preceded by garden-prayer. We humans desire temporal emancipation, but our divine adoption relies on eternal imperative. Perhaps “most Christians” throughout history have struggled to get this right, but hopefully, in the long run will chose the right course. Dr., thanks for the fine thoughts on this matter.

  5. Charles W. Christian says

    My concern is this: When a business is what we are discussing here (not private homes, not private individuals, etc.), then aren’t there certain fiduciary responsibilities that are assumed? For instance, if I sell chewing gum from my residence, then I can choose who chews (:-) ). But if I sell it in a store, my understanding is that I have fewer options regarding my customers. Otherwise, aren’t we in danger of getting back to a “Whites Only” kind of mentality that once permeated the South (and the whole U.S., really)? In other words, if I say: I don’t believe in homosexual marriage, so if a homosexual couple comes in to buy my chewing gum at my grocery store, I will not sell it to them, have I broken the law? The fear I keep hearing from opponents of the Indiana law is that this law would make it OK to do just that (or something like it). I don’t think it is particularly heroic or Christian to do what I just described. Nor do I think it is “oppressive” for the laws to say as a matter of public policy, that I cannot discriminate in such ways if I am a business. Non-profits are different, and they should be. Religious organizations have necessary exceptions. But, do “open to all” kinds of businesses have the same kinds of exceptions? Should they? It’s a tough one….

  6. Paul Myers says

    It all comes down to establishing a Healthy Christian Sexual Theology. We are so afraid to open those doors, we are drifting like boat with no rudder. God’s word did not stray on these issues, but we must approach them in the same sense that Jesus approached all sin; not setting aside just one or two as special. This may be the defining issue for this and the next few generations. We need to engage with them now so that the wisdom of our experiences are not lost to time.

    I never imagined the time might come when I would be old enough to actually say that last part!

  7. Thank you for this insightful look at this powder keg issue right now in society. I have been searching and seeking my own best response to this issue and this has definitely given me more to think about and digest regarding the matter.

  8. Dan…thanks so much for your insightful treatment of this volatile subject. I now live in Indiana, and I know of the scrutiny of our governor by so many. Your article puts it all in proper perspective.

  9. Dan, thank you for you article on Indiana. I really see things more clearly now and your writings are so good, powerful, and simple but profound thoughts. Again Thank you, thank you, thank you. I will read this again today .

  10. Steve Dillman says

    Thanks, Dan, for an excellent commentary. I appreciated the perspective.

  11. L. Alan Thompson says

    Good thoughts, Dan.

  12. Dan, I appreciate your willingness to have a public conversation. Being north of the border I don’t feel I have a full perspective the legal framework of the law. It does seem like you are speaking about what Christian’s and the church think about this. My understanding is that the law broadly opens the door for businesses and organizations of whatever stripe the ability to refuse service to individuals based upon their personal religious sentiments.

    Perhaps you are trying to split hairs at the end of the article and find some middle ground. Honestly, I’ve read it several times and I’m still not sure what you are saying–perhaps that your method. Sounds like those who are in favor of these public polices will find what they want to hear in this article–with perhaps a subtle and gentle caution about relying on government to secure our liberties in a way that relives us of our call to follow the suffering Jesus.

    In the end, I think we might disagree on what the truth is and when and how is should be lovingly spoken–or perhaps the length of time we are to suffer alongside brokenness before walking away. Anyway, I’ve been thinking about your article. Thanks for the courage to engage in the conversation.

    Here is a link to another article that takes on Holy Week and this public conversation from a friend. Hope you find it helpful.

  13. Monty Fox says

    Dr Boone,

    The only point of disagreement that I have with your statement is that the Indiana law along with the federal version and the other 19 states’ versions do not include any language calling out any group whatsoever. Let alone gays. All of those individual laws are meant to be all inclusive of all groups. There are 4 of the 19 states (all traditionally democratic reliable states) that have state anti-discrimination laws in place that do call out certain groups for protection including gays. But the other 15 states do not. And the state anti-discrimination laws are really politically motivated for 2 reasons: 1.) They duplicate federal anti-discrimination laws that unlike the federal RFRA covers all groups and classes of citizens at both the federal and state levels. 2.) If an anti-discrimination case goes to court, the federal laws always trump state and local laws. So the state laws are really non-value added. My personal opinion is that the gay progressive community has targeted this particular case to try and push an agenda and a narrative by continually spouting that it is a law that allows Christians to discriminate against gays when in fact there is absolutely no wording in the Indiana law that says anything even close to this. (And just because someone continues to yell misinformation repeatedly does not suddenly make it true.). Secondly, there has never, ever been a case brought to court in the over 2 decades history of the RFRA law that pits a Christian against a gay while using the RFRA as a defense. Never. So, why the outcry from the gay community? It could be because that there is between 7 and 15 other states that have RFRA in their legislative agendas for 2015 and so if they can stop it now in Indiana, then the other states will heed the warnings and not pass it in their states. Besides the 20 states that currently have the actual law in place there are another 13 states that also have this law embedded in their state laws due to court decisions handed down in those states jurisdictions. That’s 33 states with the law already. If 7-15 other states pass it that would mean between 40-48 states could have this law in place by the end of 2015. Plus the federal version. So, where are all of these boycotts going to move their businesses and events to? I can’t see the NCAA final four taking place in Montreal or Juarez. I would hope that the vast majority of people who are engaged in some form or fashion in the debate of this issue would take the time to read the actual law itself and do some research. I appreciate your article and the research that you obviously put in to it. I hope others will follow your example.

  14. Laura Roy says

    I have been sharing my thoughts regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts being enacted in some states at this time, noting that this basic law has been around in various forms for many years now. It is hardly new, but yet much needed in our times when the rights of Christians to follow the dictates of their sincerely-held beliefs are being trampled by others intent upon normalizing their lifestyle. I have been surprised at the number of Christians who believe so much in bowing at the altar of Tolerance in their desire to be seen as open-minded and loving towards others that they would cast aside religious freedom and freedom of conscience. The social engineers have done an excellent job these past 50 years or so in sharing their values with our citizens regarding sexuality and abortion. We Christians have obviously not done as well in sharing ours.

    I appreciated your perspective on this serious topic, but must take exception to at least my perception of one of your conclusions. Perhaps I have misunderstand you. In Disclaimer #2, you said:
    ‘The church has not been given the right by our government to discriminate based on group, class, or category.’ Right. But it has been given the right to order our lives based on our religious convictions. As the Governor stated in the interview, tolerance should be a two-way street. And where the two collide, we have courts.” This is a valid position in some respects, but I must hasten to correct you on one underlying premise. Our rights and freedoms do not come from government at any level — local, state or federal. Our Founding Fathers made it very clear that they recognized that our freedoms (including freedom of religion and conscience) come from God, not man. Relying on any man-made institution (especially the Courts which by no means have a corner on “truth’) to protect those rights is a foolhardy proposition. The founders of our nation recognized that governments are established to protect their citizens, often from the government itself. The people who fought and died to establish a nation where people are free to worship God and follow the dictates of their conscience would no doubt be appalled to see how both ignorant and cavalier the American people are in giving up the freedoms they worked to establish for our benefit. Taking God out of the picture as the Source of our freedoms is a serious error and one we will most certainly pay for as our freedoms are stripped from us in the name of the new god Tolerance.

    • Laura – don’t know you, but couldn’t agree with you more. So very fabulously written. Thank you!

  15. Chip Killingsworth says

    I am a Gay. I am profoundly happily married to the love of my life (who happens to be a man). I am a living breathing person seeking to live a life of truth in faith, hope and love. I am not not an “issue” to be debated. I feel anything but loved reading this, only more margenalized. Alas, we press on…Peace.

  16. I resonate with Lisa del Rio’s comment above and I am also perplexed as to the motivation of those who wish to refuse to provide a good or service to a gay couple. Is it a concern of being influenced by the gay couple? Is it a demonstration of righteousness? Is taking this type of stand believed to be a way of influencing the couple toward Christ (if you are assuming they are not already on a faith journey)?

    In another comment the act of tolerance is portrayed as something negative. It seems that as Christians we are called to go much further than tolerance, we are called to love.

  17. Shannon Hutchison says

    It seems to me that if the community we claim to be speaking to in love feels no love, we’re in the wrong.

  18. IceBankMySelf says

    Governor Mike Pence has repeatedly stated the bill does not cause discrimination, stating in a release that the bill is about “respecting and reassuring” citizens that their “religious freedoms are intact.” (What Utter B.S. Nonsense and typical “Political-Ploy.” Lack of reasoning” makes crystal clear how religion make a person say anything silly absurd thing to say, so his words are meaningless, pablum-puke are pure-poppycock.)

    After the bill’s signing, a restaurant owner called Ryan (and Flamming-Idiot!!!) called Indianapolis radio to say that his Christian belief in “Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve” (A mindless-robot who think his own opinions are the very “revelation of God.” Can we please quit with the meaningless and canned christian-fundy rhyme statements and deal with reality for a change? Nothing about how to communicate his ideas or form coherent logical-arguments. I think he should probably go enroll and take a class at a community college or read a book that explains how to. What is wrong with his brain? Doesn’t he know anything?) means he should be able to turn away same-sex couples.

    Presidential candidates (Err…Ummm….Losers. LOL.) Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum, Ted Cruz and Ben Carson have all defended the law. (Sounds to me like typical “Political-Ploy.” We have all seen how this is played out in our society and politics. Convictions blinds people to the “stupid-things” that they are capable of saying or defending.)

    Bryan Fischer, the former Director of Issues Analysis for the American Family Association (Christian Cultist), a supporter of the law “likened opponents of the law to Hitler!” (“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt!”Those meaningless jingoistic-words mean absolutely nothing to anyone especially from a stinking pie-hole like this! They should mean nothing to to you either. I’m sorry, they are just really just so much religious-jargon and a metric-load of cow-patties! A perfect example as to why dogmatic fundamentalist-religion is a “mind-killer.” It corrupts both the mind of those who have been indoctrinated and brainwashed. The threats and dogma have to go!) Micah Clark from the evangelical lobby group American Family Association (Cult and Hate Group) stated that adding anti-discrimination language “could totally destroy this bill.”

    Former Republican governor of California, Arnold (“I’ll Be Back”) Schwarzenegger expressed his opposition to the bill saying, “Distracting, divisive laws like the one Indiana passed aren’t just bad for the country, they’re also bad for our party.” (Awww…To bad indeed! CORRECTAMUNDO! Because conviction that you’re God’s chosen and elect saved-ones to blinds people to the very “stupid-things” that they are capable of saying. The conviction that we are on the side of the good, “god’s people,” godly, the elect, righteous – of God- is, however, an ancient one- enormously powerful!)

    The RFRA bill is “bigotry, cloaked as religious protection.” The days are over where some may be denied a seat at the table simply because of who they are– or in this case, whom they love.

    Christian Right lobbyists (Cults and Hate Group), who fought the bill after the legalization of same-sex marriage, said that the changes “destroy” the bill by preventing Christian bakers and florists from refusing service to same-sex weddings. Christian lobby groups like Advance America and the American Family Association (Cult and Hate Group) are “on the wrong side of history in this.” (NO DUH! They are taught that blind faith is a virtue, and to doubt a sin. They’re a perfect examples as to why dogmatic religion is a “mind-corrupter and killer.” It corrupts both the mind of those who have been indoctrinated and brainwashed.)

    A study by the Associated Press in April 2015 finds only 40% percent think most business owners should be allowed to refuse service to gays and lesbians on religious grounds. 60% percent of “Southerners,” say wedding-related businesses should be allowed to refuse service to gay couples. (No surprise there! LOL.)

    On March 28, 2015, the Arkansas Senate passed a bill called the “Conscience Protection Act” (What Utter Nonsense! LOL. Just more mindless, meaningless religious sloganeering and jingoisism. I think the reason is pretty simple– intellectual-inquiry is the primary deadly-threat to dogmatic-religions), modeled after Indiana’s RFRA. Thousands of protesters rallied at Arkansas’s Capitol to oppose the bill.

    Texas SJR 10 and HJR 55 plan to introduce a similar bill that changes the language from “substantially burden” to “burden”. (The Texas Business Association thankfully voted to oppose the bills!) Molly White introduced a bill that would expressly grant private businesses the right to “refuse to provide goods or services to any person based on a sincerely held religious belief or on conscientious grounds.” The bill was introduced following oral arguments during Obergefell v. Hodges. (Religion has totally corrupted her mind, communication, reasoning, and critical-thinking. Don’t let your mind become a Septic-Tank by uncritically accepting religious -biogted- dogmas!)


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