Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Indiana Governor Pence signed the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law last week. The Indiana law states, “A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The Indiana RFRA defines a “person” as individuals, corporations, partnerships, and other non-human entities. Many prominent businesses, such as Apple, Angie’s list, and the NCAA, spoke out against the law due to fear that it will allow businesses to use religious objections to discriminate the LGBT community. The backlash led Governor Pence to sign a clarification bill on Thursday. The clarification bill includes language that prohibits individuals and business from refusing to “offer or provide its services, facilities, goods or public accommodation to any member of the public based on sexual orientation or gender identity, in addition to race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex or military service.” The new language undoes the religious freedom defenses the RFRA provided, but the RFRA still provides enhanced protections for churches, clergy, and other religious organizations against private actions.
Execution by Firing Squad in Utah
Utah Governor Gary Herbert signed a bill to bring back firing squads as a method of execution because of the shortage of lethal injection drugs. Utah is the only state in the country that allows death by firing squad. The ACLU in Utah argues that this is backwards. However, proponents argue that firing squads are more human because botched lethal injections may inflict more pain and suffering to the prisoner.
A New York Police Department officer is suing the NYPD in a whistle blower lawsuit alleging quotas at the department. Although quotas for tickets and arrests are illegal in states such as New York, California, Illinois, and Florida, they may still exist. The NYPD denies allegations of quotas. Quotas are problematic because they impose pressure on officers to issue a certain number of tickets or make arrests in order to demonstrate officers’ productivity. Also, quotas change officers’ views of the community they serve into revenue sources. Quotas may track a police officer’s productivity, but not his/her effectiveness in building trust with residents and protecting the community. In part, police quotas contributed to the racial tensions in Ferguson because largely white cops issued large numbers of tickets and collected millions in fines from the black residents. An officer’s incentive to meet the quotas to keep his job does not align completely with his/her mission to protect the community.