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RFRA and the Criminal Case Implications - Criminal Justice News

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Criminal Justice News

Posted on: Apr 1, 2015

By Shaunestte Terrell, Marion County Prosecutor's Office

One would almost certainly have to be living under a rock to have not heard at least something about the ongoing controversy surrounding the newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed into law by Governor Mike Pence on Thursday, March 26, 2015. Since the governor signed this controversial bill into law, the state of Indiana has faced enormous backlash from community members, corporations, human rights groups, professional sports organizations, media conglomerates, other governmental bodies (including the White House) and American citizens from all across the country who have argued that this statute is an ill-conceived, poorly written, veiled act of discrimination targeting members of the LGBT community.  

Supporters of the statute have argued that the law is simply a means of protecting the religious freedom that every American is entitled to, should not be interpreted in any other way and is, in fact, a mirror image of the federal legislation signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1993 and by 19 other states over the past 20 or so years.

Opponents of the law respond by arguing that the Indiana version of this legislation is markedly different because it lacks a very important clause prohibiting discrimination of any group of people based on religious belief. It is argued that omission of this provision and absent any legislation or judicial opinion designating the LGBT community a protected class, citizens and businesses (see: Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) may use this legislation to deny services to our LGBT citizens based on their religious beliefs.

Marion Prosecutor Terry Curry released a statement offering an interesting perspective into how this opinion could affect criminal cases. That release can be found below.

Regardless of any personal opinion on the topic, it cannot be denied that the state of Indiana has already suffered both financially (see the below list) and in terms of reputation.

The following resources may be used to gather more information on the facts in order to reach a well-informed opinion on the matter.

  • SB 101 can be found here
  • The federal legislation can be found here
  • Arguments concerning the difference between the two can be found here (including opinion pieces)
  • Press Release by Terry Curry can be found here
  • The Hobby Lobby opinion can be found here
  • The list of people boycotting Indiana can be found here

This post was written by Shaunestte Terrell of the Marion County Prosecutor's Office. If you would like to submit content or write an article for the Criminal Justice Section page, please email Rachel Beachy at


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