In December, Michigan's House passed the "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," which would allow businesses with "sincerely held religious beliefs" to "act, or refuse to act" based on those beliefs. (In other words, refuse service to anyone they feel like.) Now, the state's local Satanists are proposing a modest—and devilishly clever—amendment to the bill.
The bill passed the House in December and it's currently being considered by the Senate. You can read the full text here. This isn't just an academic exercise; some Michiganders, in fact, are so excited to discriminate, they can't even wait for the bill to be passed into law. In February, a Roseville pediatrician refused to treat a baby girl, explaining in a letter that it was because her parents are lesbians.
The Satanic Temple is a merry group of pranksters with a roughly Satanic belief system and an abiding love for trolling hypocritcal asshole politicians, especially those of the religious persuasion; they also happen to have a strong presence in Michigan. Naturally, they're delighted by the RFRA. On Thursday, Temple spokesperson Doug Mesner (who also goes by Lucien Greaves), suggested in a piece on the Daily Kos that if Michigan businesses who serve the public really want to discriminate, they should have display their particular discriminatory policies openly. If your religious sensibilities are desperately offended by making a wedding cake for a gay couple, then put up a large and easy-to-read "No queers" sign on your bakery wall.
Jex Blackmore, who's part of the Satanic Temple's "executive ministry"and the head of their Detroit chapter, says it'll save everyone time. "Not only would such signs help save time and embarrassment for those who might otherwise go into a place of business and find themselves unwelcome," she's quoted as saying in Mesner's piece, "But they would also prove helpful to those of us who disagree with discriminatory policies in general. We will wish to take our own business elsewhere, whether the policies directly exclude us or not."
The group is circulating an online petition to get their language added to the bill. It reads, in part:
It's clear that the Michigan legislature wants to permit businesses to legally sidestep civil rights protections under the guise of "Religious Liberty." If an individual or business can refuse to recognize a person's civil rights on the pretext of religious belief, those rights become effectively meaningless. Let's call it for what it really is, and require businesses who serve the public to specify who they discriminate against.
Amen to that.
An undated photo shows a Jim Crow-era sign in Louisiana. Photo via AP