‘An Avalanche of Intolerance’: Student Media in Indiana Respond to ‘Religious Freedom Law’

As newshounds nationwide are well aware, an ever-growing and evermore raucous debate and furor are brewing over the state of Indiana’s so-called “religious freedom law.” Critics of the law — officially known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act or RFRA — argue it will “allow businesses to use religion as an excuse to discriminate and refuse service to LGBT customers.”

Student media across Indiana are covering various facets of the controversy and have now begun weighing in with their own takes on the bill. The initial editorial reactions I’m reading are negative. The Hoosier state’s student journos are branding the RFRA an open door toward discrimination and out of touch with 21st-century realities and values in America.

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Below are three examples of RFRA reactions appearing in Indiana student newspapers. (Email me with additional examples and I’ll do my best to add them ASAP.)

11) Most prominently, the editorial board of the Indiana Daily Student at Indiana University takes Indiana governor Mike Pence to task for what it deems faulty leadership in the face of mounting criticism.

According to the board:

“Pence acknowledges he is aware of the concerns, refuses to 
definitively say discrimination is not legal as a result of the bill and refuses to do anything about it. That is not the sign of a responsible and engaged leader; it is the sign of a politician so caught up in his own ambition, he has lost touch with his 
constituents. … This law is about protecting against an attack on religion that isn’t happening and giving Christian conservatives a way of voicing their displeasure with the LGBT community. Pence can say this is about religious liberty all he wants, but in the eyes of the Editorial Board, the avalanche of intolerance is coming straight from his office.”

12) In a separate IDS column deemed “most definitely satire,” IU student Griffin Leeds declares that the law’s potential ill effects toward the LGBTQ community have “a major loophole.”

As he writes, in uber-tongue-in-cheek-takedown style:

“You can only be discriminated against if you give people reason to think you’re gay. Just don’t look so gay and then you’re good to go, duh! Come on, Hoosier homosexuals! I already know you’ve got it in you. We’ve all been through middle school, when everyone had to act the same or face the shameful consequences. It’ll be just like when you were scared and closeted. … Sure, it’s a role you’ll have to play whenever you’re interacting with a business, but hey, we live for the 
performance, right? … Fall in line and you’ll be fine! And if they ask, just don’t tell!”

3) Reed Sellers, editor-in-chief of the The Exponent at Purdue University, also chose humor as the means through which to register his RFRA disgust.

In a column published last week, Sellers wrote that he planned to form a new religious society for a very specific purpose — one that would surely prove popular among many students.

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In his words, with the law in place:

“[I]t will officially be against my religious beliefs to take a midterm the week after Spring Break. I ask that all students on campus join me as I form a new religious society that believes it is unholy to take a midterm this week. We can sue the University, a government entity, for burdening our religious beliefs and the courts would have to rule in our favor! And as we join together as a student body to exercise our newfound religious right, maybe we can also write a couple thousand letters to our state Rep. Randy Truitt … asking him why he supported a bill that would give business owners the opportunity to discriminate against Hoosiers, including Boilermakers, simply because they don’t agree with their religion. … Do you really think this bill will protect religious beliefs? It doesn’t seem to me that it is protecting anyone.”

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  1. […] “Student media across Indiana are covering various facets of the controversy and have now begun weighing in with their own takes on the bill. The initial editorial reactions I’m reading are negative. The Hoosier state’s student journos are branding the RFRA an open door toward discrimination and out of touch with 21st-century realities and values in America.” For more.  […]



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