Indiana’s Small Businesses Are “Open for Service” in Face of New Law

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March 25, 2015; WLFI (Lafayette, IN)

Some small Indiana businesses have declared themselves “open for service” as a reaction against the passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed into law yesterday in Indiana. (For more about the new law, you can read Shafaq Hasan’s newswire by clicking here.) The law allows people and businesses to refuse to participate in matters that they feel are against their religious consciences—for instance, serving gays and lesbians.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor describes the Indiana bill, like existing state and federal laws, as allowing “individual religious freedom to trump other laws if they impose a “substantial burden” on the free exercise of religion. Unless the government can demonstrate a “compelling state interest” and prove that a law’s religious burdens were “the least restrictive means” of furthering that interest, religious freedom would prevail.” Still, some of the tests in state courts including New Mexico have upheld other anti-discrimination and civil rights laws over these kinds of provisions. But while legal tests of such laws progress, businesses and citizens can declare themselves as rejecting the law. External concerns doing business in the state have either, in the case of Salesforce, said they would not do business in Indiana or are, as in the NCAA’s case, questioning it as a safe place. But what about businesses in Indiana?

Sylvia’s Brick Oven pizzeria and Italian restaurant sports a blue sticker to declare that it is a part of the Open for Service campaign, sponsored by SCORE, a nonprofit that helps small businesses get off the ground. “Our establishment is a nondiscriminatory establishment, so we will service anyone that comes in. We’re proud to say that and we’re proud to be able to do that,” said owner Wayne Applegate.

The campaign is several weeks old and it promises a list of participating establishments will be posted on its website very soon.

Heather Maddox of the Hanna Community Center has one of the stickers and is acting as an informal organizer. “It fits perfectly for Hanna Center. This is what we are about. This is what we are founded on, diversity and inclusion of everybody,” said Maddox. “So, I thought, I’m going to order one of those and put it in our window.”

After posting a picture of the Open for Service icon to social media, Maddox said, “Several businesses and individuals have contacted me, ‘How did you get that?’ And so, I think you’re going to see a lot more popping up,” said Maddox.—Ruth McCambridge


  • Tricia

    How wonderful! “Open for Service” is a clear concept, and demonstrates how those who do not discriminate may solicit all types of business. I can’t imagine how it would be to have to call first to see if a restaurant accepted my nephew when dining with him and his partner, or taking my pals out to lunch but calling first. How absurd this law is!