Debate on Indiana 'religious freedom' bill explodes on social media

A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis florist, Wednesday, March 25, 2015, objects to the Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature.

Story highlights

  • Social media supporters of Indiana's "religious freedom" bill say it protects their right to hold their own beliefs.
  • Opponents of the bill say its "freedom" is a cover for bigotry against gays and lesbians.
  • Some Indiana businesses tweet that they will continue to serve all customers, regardless of orientation.
  • Some users take to social media in attempt to organize boycott of Indiana

(CNN)It was nothing if not predictable. Take combustible issues like religion and sexuality, stir in a new law and talk of a boycott, then -- boom! -- the debate on social media explodes.

And so it has proved with Indiana's new "religious freedom" law, signed Thursday by Gov. Mike Pence. The new law could allow businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers if serving them would contravene the business owner's religious beliefs.
Supporters of the bill say it protects their right to believe as they choose. Opponents say it is nothing but bigotry dressed up as liberty.
    The debate is nothing if not vitriolic. And colorful, too.
    "Libs SHUTUP," reads one tweet, which goes on to assert that Indiana's "Relgious Freedom Restauration Act (sic)" is modeled on federal legislation signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
    People on the other side of the debate are equally emphatic -- and, it seems for the moment, more numerous. Some have likened the new law to permitting businesses to discriminate against black people, if perchance their religion dictated that.
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    Others say that Indiana seems out of step with modern times.
    And then there is the business reaction -- both the nascent boycott from outside the state and the rush by some businesses inside the state to declare that, law or no law, they have no intention of turning anyone away.
    "My team just canceled travel to IN due to the #ReligiousFreedomRestorationAct," tweeted a user under the name Mark C Somerville, who says he works for @salesforce. "We stand against discrimination."
    And a tweet from a the St. Elmo Steak House, a business in Indianapolis, the state's capital and its largest city, pledged in capital letters to continue serving ALL. The word Freedom should only be used when it's inclusive and fair for all.
    Supporters of the law, however, made it clear what they thought opponents should do with their proposed boycott.
    "Before you go and get too self-righteous w/ your #BoycottIndiana," a user called Caleb Parke tweeted, "@GovPenceIN is protecting #religiousfreedom for EVERYONE! #EqualRights."