Senate Bill 101

By Colleen Fay

Who, What, When, Where, Why

On March 26th, 2015, Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 101, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into Indiana law ( The purpose of the bill was to prevent the government from “substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion” ( The bill quickly brought Indiana and the governor under intense controversy as opponents of the bill and the media twisted the true intentions of the bill. SB 101 was presented as a bill designed to allow discrimination of the LGBT community.
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Perspective 1

Criticism of SB101 came after an Indiana pizzeria said that it would use the protections of the bill to refuse catering a gay wedding, which the owners believed would be participating in a practice that goes against their religious beliefs. This sparked a rumor that the bill was a roundabout way of allowing businesses to discriminate. The media portrayed this bill through a very liberal lens. Many national headlines stated that the bill allowed for religious freedom to be used as an excuse to deny service to members of the LGBT community, while ignoring other key religious protections under the law. Some outlets, such as the Huffington Post, labeled the bill “a license to discriminate.”

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Perspective 2

During the days following the signing of the bill, Indiana lawmakers insisted that the bill was not intended for this purpose. In addition, they cited other states who had signed similar bills into law. House Speaker Brian Bosma reiterated this point when he said in a speech, “What was intended as a message of inclusion was interpreted as a message of exclusion.” On April 2nd, the Indiana senate and Pence signed a second bill to clarify and illegalized the use of the bill for discrimination.

Media Bias Explained

The bill came at a time when the majority of Americans were accepting of the LGBT community. As a result, anything that was seen as going against that received major backlash. The bill did not specifically intend to allow for this discrimination. The bill would protect religious freedom in other situations as well. However, that point the media focused on the possible discrimination because it created the biggest response.

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Criticism 1

The bias of the liberal media explains the first type of criticism shown: historical criticism. During this time, the LGBT community was battling discrimination and same-sex marriage rights. They would receive these rights in the months following the RFRA battle.

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Criticism 2

Marxist criticism is also very prevalent in this controversy. Both sides of the argument felt oppressed by the other side. The LGBT community felt that the religious community was being hateful towards them. On the other hand, the religious community felt that their deeply held convictions were being compromised. The controversy mainly stemmed from a lack of understanding between both sides.