Local Wedding Industry Businesses Weigh In On Religious Freedom Act

Warsaw businesses who meet the needs of individuals planning a wedding weighed in on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law Thursday that says the government cannot intrude on a person’s religious liberty unless it can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden and do so in the least restrictive way.
The Times-Union talked to Warsaw business owners who provide services to those planning weddings to get their take on the bill. They were asked if they have firmly held religious beliefs that would prevent them from serving anyone.
Stephanie Morris, Creative Floral Designs owner, said all customers are welcome.
“Everyone is welcome here and I feel it is a sad time for Indiana to be putting a bill like that through,” Morris said. “I’m not going to turn anyone away on their beliefs, orientation or their views. It’s not my place to judge.”
Tim Hamann, Male Fashions owner, rents and sells suits and tuxes for weddings. He said he will serve anyone.
“That’s what we do, is customer service. I may not agree with what everyone believes, but they don’t agree with what I believe. I am here to help them,” Hamann said. “I believe in religious freedom. Our country was founded on religious freedom.”
Cristal Brewer, Warsaw Party & Rental owner, rents tuxes, wedding tents, chairs, tables, dance colors, linens and china for weddings.
“I have strong religious beliefs, but that would not prevent me from renting to anyone,” Brewer said. “As a Christian we should reach out to anyone in need regardless of race, background or certain life choices.”
Carla Collins, owner of Behind The Lens Photography, Syracuse, said she is taking photos for a gay couple’s wedding.
“My husband and I take our job very seriously and our job is to document a wedding day as it happens regardless if it’s a man and a man, woman and a woman or woman and a man,” Collins said. “We are happy to serve anyone no matter what.”
Lindsay Heck, Southern Exposure Photography, North Manchester, does wedding, engagement and bridal photography.
Heck said a gay couple asked her to photograph their wedding and she had plans to, but she was booked that day with another wedding. She said if she had been available she would have photographed the gay couple’s wedding. 
“I am a Christian woman and I just don’t feel like it is my place to judge someone else, so I would not refuse service to someone just because I don’t necessarily agree with their preferences,” Heck said.
Monica Boyer, Kosciusko Silent No More co-founder, who witnessed Pence signing the bill, said during an interview with the Times-Union Monday afternoon said she has been watching the bill very closely.
“I support religious freedom and the Indiana RFRA because religious freedom is foundational to our nation’s founding. This bill encapsulates so many things that our founders gave their lives for,” Boyer said.
She said she can think of many examples, and one in particular is the Amish. 
“RFRA has been there to help them keep the ability to live their lives according to how their faith dictates, not how government tells them to,” Boyer said.
Boyer said she has been very disappointed in how the media has reported the bill, and said the “false talking points” have dictated the news headlines.
“This is not a discrimination bill. It’s a freedom bill. I want people of all faiths, even those who claim no religious convictions, the ability to know that government cannot force people to violate those convictions,” Boyer said.  
Bill Katip, Grace College president, also witnessed Pence sign the bill.
“First of all we are not trying to discriminate against anyone and that’s important at Grace,” Katip said. “Twenty states have this law and there aren’t any cases that I know of where there have been any discrimination claims that have gone to court.”

(Story By The Times Union)