Ball State professor: Religious freedom bill violates biblical principles

From Ball State University:

Indiana’s controversial "religious freedom" bill, signed by Gov. Mike Pence this morning, violates Jewish, Christian and Muslim principles, says Ball State’s Joseph Marchal, a religious studies professor.

The measure will allow business owners to cite their religion to refuse services to anyone, which contradicts Hoosier and biblical hospitality, he said. Marchal is a religious studies scholar with primary training in biblical texts, cultures and languages as well as the ancient Greco-Roman world.

“There are just as many, and possibly even more, reasons to oppose this bill on the basis of Jewish, Christian or Muslim principles, as to support it,” he says. “Some of the news reporting on this bill is getting this issue right. See, for example, the Disciples of Christ's statement not to hold conventions in Indianapolis.”

Marchal points out that the principle of “right to refuse” contradicts not only an ethos of Hoosier hospitality but also a prominent and specifically biblical ethic of hospitality.

“In both the Jewish and Christian versions of the Bible, protection of, solidarity with and hospitality for the stranger, the foreigner and the one with whom you disagree are stressed,” he says. “Think here, for Christians, of the lessons of Jesus sharing meals with social outcasts. Consider also, for both Jews and Christians, the lesson of the story of Sodom — which was not considered a story about same-sex eroticism — that the people of Sodom are punished for violating the code of hospitality. Throughout the rest of the Jewish and Christian versions of the Bible, the lessons of this story are the importance of hospitality to strangers — those who are different — and the problem with ignoring the poor, the vulnerable and the needy.”

Marchal believes those who advocate for this bill and a "right to refuse" hospitality to those they believe to be different are engaging in what the biblical texts define as the sin of Sodom.

You can contact Joseph Marchal at jamarchal@bsu.edu