Indiana stirs up a hornet’s nest for local retailers

When the “religious freedom” act in Indiana was on the front pages a few weeks ago, RetailWire panelists weighed in on the business impact of the legislation. Here’s my take:

Without turning this into a political discussion about the stampede to pass “religious freedom” laws, it’s worth noting the pushback from the business community. Mainstream companies like Walmart and Eli Lilly see the laws in Indiana and Arkansas as a threat not only to anti-discrimination practices but also to the recruitment of a diverse workforce. And as companies start to “vote with their checkbooks” by taking convention business or expansion plans to other states, maybe some state legislators and governors will realize the misguided impact of their actions.

While the focus of the discussion has been on the LGBT community, especially in states where it is not treated as a “protected” class by anti-discrimination laws, I wonder about some of the other unintended consequences of the RFRA and similar laws. By the same theory, does a Quaker restaurateur have the right to refuse service to a uniformed military member because her conscience opposes waging war? Can a Kosher deli owner refuse service to a Christian customer who does not follow the same strict dietary rules?

I’m guessing that the legislators in question would answer “Of course not!” to the last two questions, which makes the targeting of the legislation more blatant. We’ll see whether the 800-pound Arkansas gorilla has any sway in its home state.


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