TIME States

NASCAR ‘Disappointed’ in Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law

The sports league joins a growing chorus of critics

NASCAR says it is disappointed by the passage of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics say could be used to discriminate against gay people.

“We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance,” NASCAR said in a statement issued to NBC Sports. “We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”

The law, which backers say is supposed to ensure religious freedom for people in the state, has come under fire from both gay rights advocates who feel it could be used to deny service to gay people and corporations who fear the law could hurt businesses in Indiana if the state gains an anti-gay stigma. Other sports organizations, such as the NCAA, have also expressed concern over the new law, as have prominent businesspeople such as Apple CEO Tim Cook.

At a Tuesday press conference Indiana Governor Mike Pence said he would push lawmakers to amend the law so that it explicitly states that businesses can’t use it to discriminate against anyone.

TIME States

Indiana Governor Urges Clarification of Controversial Religious Freedom Law

“This law does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples," Mike Pence said

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence urged state lawmakers Tuesday to amend a controversial new religious freedom law to clarify that it does not allow businesses to discriminate, bowing to days of criticism that the measure was an invitation to refuse services to gay customers.

“After much reflections and consultation with the leadership of the General Assembly, I’ve come to the conclusion it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear this law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone,” Pence said in a news conference.

The clarification to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act would explicitly state that the law does not give businesses the right to discriminate. Pence is pushing to enact the change this week.

The law, which Pence signed last week, has ignited a national firestorm from opponents who decry it as anti-gay. Activists pointed to statements made by advocates of the law, who said that florists, for example, could deny service to weddings of gay couples. Business leaders, from Indiana health corporations to Apple CEO Tim Cook, also spoke out against the law, and a movement to boycott Indiana gained traction Monday.

MORE: Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana’s Governor

Pence staunchly defended the law on Tuesday, even as he called for an amendment that would address what he called “mischaracterizations” about the bill.

“This law does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples,” Pence said. “The language I’m talking about adding would be consistent with what the General Assembly intended, and certainly what I intended.”

Pence said he was stunned by the backlash the law prompted. He attributed the controversy to “reckless” media coverage of the law.

“Was I expecting this kind of backlash? Heavens, no,” Pence said. “Candidly, when this erupted last week, I was taken aback.”

MORE: 5 Things to Know About Mike Pence

A federal version of the law was enacted by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993, and an Illinois version was supported by then-Sen. Barack Obama. Almost 20 states have similar laws on the books. The law, proponents say, would protect religious liberties from government overreach. Proponents have pointed to the example of a Muslim prisoner who would want to have a beard despite prison regulations against facial hair as the kind of individual the law would seek to protect. But at a moment when same-sex marriage is increasingly sweeping the country, advocates have seized on a moment to paint it as a relic from another era.

Pence, who has not ruled out a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, has drawn national criticism for the law, as well as support from conservatives and some GOP presidential candidates. Pence will announce whether or not he will run for president at the end of April at the earliest.

TIME States

The Debate Over What Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act Is Really About

Demonstrators gathered at the Indiana State Capital to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.
Nate Chute—Reuters Demonstrators gathered at the Indiana State Capital to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.

More than a dozen other states have considered similar measures this year, which critics tar as "anti-gay"

Opponents of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act believe that while the law explicitly says one thing, it is designed to do another.

Supporters say the measure is meant to do just what it sounds like: make sure the government doesn’t impinge on the religious liberty of Hoosiers. But many gay rights advocates, politicians and civil liberty organizations believe the law will aid discrimination against lesbians and gays in the Midwestern state—giving businesses, landlords or employers legal grounds to treat them differently based on a religious opposition to homosexuality.

When Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law on Saturday, Indiana joined 19 other states that have similar “RFRAs,” while Indiana is one of 31 states that does not have a state-level non-discrimination law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The boogeyman that wants to attack religious adherents has just not arrived in Indiana,” says Jennifer Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University who signed a letter from academics expressing concern about the bill. “This is all coming on the heels of the same-sex marriage debate.”

The law prohibits the government from infringing on a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless the government has a “compelling interest” and that infringement is the “least restrictive” means of protecting that interest. The language of the bill defines a “person” as not just an individual, but essentially any business or organization.

Many religious freedom laws are modeled on a 1993 federal law signed by former President Bill Clinton. Pence has explicitly likened Indiana’s new law to that measure. Back then, Democrats lauded the bill as righting wrongs done to Americans who had been forced to follow the letter of laws that contradicted their beliefs—like a man whose religion forbids autopsies being forced to undergo that procedure, or an American Indian who loses his job for taking part in a ritual that involves peyote.

Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett, who supports the law, says Indiana’s measure has the same aim of protecting such people. In an op-ed in the South Bend Tribune, he gives the example of a Muslim prisoner who should be able to wear a beard, as his religion dictates, despite prison regulations against facial hair. Garnett was among the signatories of another letter from academics expressing support for the bill and arguing that Indiana’s Constitution “protects religious liberty to a considerable — but uncertain — degree.”

MORE: What You Need to Know About Indiana’s Controversial Religious Objections Law

Opponents of the bill point out that more than 20 years from the time Clinton signed the federal law, the political context has changed.

Some social conservatives have championed religious freedom bills as way to exempt businesses like bakeries or florists from providing services to same-sex couples who are winning the right to marry in places where that practice isn’t politically popular. Lawmakers in Indiana worked but failed to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2014, months before the state was forced through court rulings to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Advocates who oppose the law say it appears like a “Plan B.” Eunice Rho, counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, says that amendments to the bill that would make it clear that it can’t be used to undermine civil rights laws were repeatedly offered. “The proponents of the legislation proclaimed, over and over again, that this can’t be used to discriminate, this is about religious freedom. So we said, ‘Great. We’re in agreement on that. Let’s put it in the bill,'” she says. “And all of those amendments were voted down.”

In addition to Indiana, lawmakers in more than a dozen other states have considered “religious freedom” bills in 2015. Sometimes such measures crop up alongside non-discrimination legislation that LGBT rights advocates continue to push in legislatures across the states. While federal law prohibits discrimination based on attributes like sex and race, there is no federal anti-discrimination law that protects people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The same is the case in 31 states, where there is no law prohibiting employers from firing someone or landlords from denying someone housing solely because they are gay or transgender.

In Michigan, the Christian Coalition’s Keith den Hollander recently testified against an LGBT non-discrimination bill and said it amounted to “religious persecution.” David Kallman, speaking on behalf of the socially conservative Michigan Family Forum, framed the stakes this way: “Why should that baker or photographer be forced against their religious beliefs and conscience to participate in [a same-sex wedding]? And if they refuse to because of their religious conscience, to be put out of business?”

Such opponents of non-discrimination laws sometimes seek “religious freedom” bills as a counter attack, giving that hypothetical business owner grounds to challenge non-discrimination laws and protections against being sued.

MORE: 5 Things to Know About Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

While Indiana has no state-level LGBT non-discrimination measure, several cities including Indianapolis do. Those are the places where such laws could go head to head in court when the act takes effect on July 1. Legal experts say it’s unclear how the courts in Indiana would rule. “It does not say that members of religious minorities will be successful if they seek exemptions,” Garnett, the Notre Dame law professor, wrote, “only that they are entitled to a day in court.”

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, which advocates for LGBT rights, also expresses uncertainty about what precedents might be set in court. But, she says, regardless of what happens in the legal sphere, there is also a “social effect” that could lead to more discrimination.

“People’s conduct is shaped by their understanding of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in terms of human interactions, what the social standards are,” she adds. “That bill now embodies a state policy that religion is a legitimate reason for turning away customers because of who they are.”

As Indiana has dealt with backlash from passing the new law—ranging from grassroots protests to announcements that companies would be taking their business elsewhere—North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said he wouldn’t be signing a similar bill. In Georgia, a committee meeting to consider a religious freedom act on Monday was canceled, for the time stalling a measure that already passed the state senate.

In Florida, a state that has passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the legislature is considering a LGBT non-discrimination bill. A group working to pass the measure released a study in late March suggesting that having an environment that is potentially “hostile” to LGBT people was costing the state around $362 million per year. Several organizations and businesses have expressed dismay at Indiana’s new law, which may end up being costly for the Hoosier State. Conventions are relocating, businesses are putting expansions in the state on hold and even the NCAA has expressed skepticism about the political climate.

Some Indiana politicians are calling for the state’s civil rights law to be updated so that people are explicitly protected on the basis of sexual orientation. Pence has meanwhile said he’s open to legislation that will further clarify what the new religious freedom law can do. Rho, of the ACLU, says there are few limitations about which acts the law could be used to defend based on religious conviction—whether it’s firing a woman for using the pill or kicking a couple out of an apartment for cohabiting before marriage.

“I’m definitely worried about gays and lesbians, but I’m also worried about women who want to access birth control,” says Indiana University’s Drobac. “This is a stupid law … We need to repeal this law immediately.”

Read next: Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana’s Governor

TIME States

Connecticut Bans State-Funded Travel to Indiana Over Controversial Law

Following similar bans by San Francisco and Seattle

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an executive order Monday to ban state-funded travel to Indiana as a protest to that state’s new religious objections law, which critics are slamming as discriminatory, following through on an earlier pledge to do so.

Malloy, who called the legislation “disturbing, disgraceful and outright discriminatory” against the LGBT community, according to the Hartford Courant, also suggested it would be “a wise choice” to move next year’s Final Four of the NCAA college basketball tournament out of Indiana.

MORE: Going Into Final Four, No Cheers for Indiana

The law, newly signed and staunchly defended by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, is considered by critics as discriminatory because it would essentially allow businesses to refuse services to customers due to business owners’ religious beliefs. Indiana legislators said Monday that language will be added to the law to clarify that it doesn’t mean discrimination against gay people is allowed, NBC reports.

Connecticut’s travel restriction will follow similar moves by two major cities in recent days. On Friday, San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee banned city-funded travel to the state of Indiana, and Seattle Mayor Ed Murray followed suit on Saturday.

Read next: 5 Things to Know About Mike Pence

MONEY Student Loans

22 States Where You Could Lose Your License for Not Paying Your Student Loans

female driver handing over license to officer
Jeremy Woodhouse—Corbis

You have a lot to lose if you default on your student loans, and in some states, that includes state-issued licenses.

Failing to repay student loans has all sorts of terrible consequences, but in some states, more than just your financial well-being is at risk — student loan default could cost you your professional certification or even your driver’s license.

Two state legislatures (Iowa and Montana) are considering bills that would repeal laws that allow states to suspend the driver’s licenses of student loan defaulters, Bloomberg reported in a March 25 piece on the topic. Even if those repeals succeed, several other states have such laws in place. Some states suspend licenses needed to practice in certain fields, from health care to cosmetology, though license suspension can extend to driving, too.

Repeal advocates argue that license suspension is a counterintuitive punishment for student loan defaulters, because it may keep them from working, which theoretically enables them to repay their debts. That’s the case Montana state Rep. Moffie Funk is making for the bill she introduced to repeal the state’s law that allows driver’s license suspension, Bloomberg reports.

According to a list from the National Consumer Law Center, 22 states have laws that enable suspension of state licenses issued to student loan defaulters. The professions and licenses affected by suspensions vary by state and cover a wide range of earning potential, but some of them include doctors, social workers, barbers, transportation professionals and lawyers — the lists can be quite extensive. If your state is on the list and you’re at risk of defaulting, you might want to research the details:

Alabama
Alaska
California
Florida
Georgia
Hawaii
Illinois
Iowa
Kentucky
Louisiana
Massachusetts
Minnesota
Mississippi
Montana
New Jersey
New Mexico
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Tennessee
Texas
Virginia
Washington

Student loan default trashes your credit, and the loans continue to incur interest and fees as long as they remain unpaid, so getting out of default can be very challenging. If you have federal student loans, as most people who borrow do, there are many options available to you before you’re 270 days past due on your student loan payments (that’s the definition of default): You can apply for income-based repayment or pay-as-you-earn programs, in addition to applying for an extended repayment period, which will raise the cost of your loans in the long run but make them more affordable now.

If you want to see how your student loans are affecting your credit, you can get your free credit scores, updated monthly, on Credit.com. You can check your credit reports for free once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies at AnnualCreditReport.com. Because student loans are generally not dischargeable in bankruptcy and default can be catastrophic for your credit, it’s crucial to prioritize making your loan payments on time.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME States

What You Need to Know About Indiana’s Controversial Religious Objections Law

Organizers fire up a crowd of demonstrators gathered to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.
Nate Chute—Reuters Organizers fire up a crowd of demonstrators gathered to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.

A guide to the law, signed by Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday, that critics say allows discrimination against LGBT people

A controversial Indiana law signed by Gov. Mike Pence last week has brought nationwide scrutiny to the Midwestern state — but what’s it all about?

The so-called “religious objections” law has sparked high-profile allegations that it opens the door to legal discrimination against gay people. Meanwhile, Gov. Pence has stood by his position, arguing on Sunday that the law “is not about discrimination.” Here’s a guide to the law, and the controversy:

So what exactly is this law?

The legislation, officially termed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (SEA 101), prohibits any state law that would “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. It was signed by Gov. Pence in a private ceremony on Thursday, as he explained, “to ensure religious liberty is fully protected under [Indiana] law.” Scheduled to take effect in July, the law boils down to the following clause (full text available here):

A [state] governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s [defined as an individual, business, religious institution or association] exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.

While the law’s full text defines “substantially burden,” in practice the law remains vague and up to the courts’ interpretation. Gov. Pence has denied accusations that the law is discriminatory, though he has dodged questions concerning whether the law would permit such a scenario.

MORE: 5 Things to Know About Mike Pence

Why is it considered discriminatory?

Critics argue it would theoretically allow businesses such as hotels or restaurants to deny service to gay customers due to their moral or religious convictions. When a Colorado bakery refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple and a New Mexico photographer refused to take photos of a lesbian couple’s commitment ceremony, state governments sided against the businesses. That has prompted some lawmakers, including in Indiana, to push for legal support for religious objections.

Others have warned that the bill could permit discrimination more broadly, on religious grounds. The Human Rights Campaign argued in a report last year that bills like that passed in Indiana could empower any individual to sue the government to attempt to end enforcement of a non-discrimination law:

The evangelical owner of a business providing a secular service can sue claiming that their personal faith empowers them to refuse to hire Jews, divorcees, or LGBT people. A landlord could claim the right to refuse to rent an apartment to a Muslim or a transgender person.

Who has criticized the bill?

A broad coalition of people from Democrats and liberal groups, to some high-profile businesses and organizations have criticized the bill. On Monday, Democratic Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy announced on Twitter that he will sign an executive order barring state-funded travel to Indiana, making Connecticut the first state to boycott Indiana over its new law. “We are sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated,” Gov. Malloy tweeted. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, the city’s openly gay chief executive, also signed an executive order on Monday in response to Indiana’s law, barring city-funded travel to the Midwestern state.

The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, has expressed concern over Indiana’s law as it prepares to host the Final Four next week in the Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium. NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement last week, “we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

On Monday, the professional football world broke its silence on Indiana’s law when Indianapolis Colts CEO Jim Irsay appearing to address Indiana’s law on Twitter. “The Colts have always embraced inclusiveness, tolerance, and a diverse fan base,” Irsay tweeted. “We welcome ALL fans to Colts Nation. ONE FAMILY!” The NFL, however, has remained silent on the issue as the league is “in the process of studying the law and its implications,” a spokesman told the Indianapolis Star last week.

Elsewhere, high-profile leaders including Apple CEO Tim Cook and presumptive 2016 candidate Hillary Clinton have criticized the bill. Cook further explained his objections on Monday in a Washington Post op-ed, writing that “America’s business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business.”

Meanwhile, the CEO of business-rating site Angie’s List withdrew an expansion project in Indiana in response to the law. Similarly, the CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce said all Indiana-based events and travel responsibilities would be cancelled.

Hollywood has chimed in, too, including social media posts from Miley Cyrus and Ashton Kutcher as the hashtag #boycottindiana gains steam on Twitter.

Do religious groups support Indiana’s law?

Most have been somewhat silent surrounding Gov. Pence’s decision, the Indianapolis Star reported Friday, after surveying several local institutions. Indiana Right to Life CEO Mike Fichter, for example, said the group supports for the law for its “to provide greater protections for pro-life businesses and ministries in Indiana.”

Still, others groups including the Indianapolis-based Christian Church and a bishop from the Indiana area United Methodist Church said they were hesitant to support the law, according to the Star. “Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,” said Todd Adam, associate general minister of the Christian Church.

Is this the first state law of its kind?

No. Indiana—while the first to enact such as a law this year—is actually the 20th U.S. state to pass such a law, the Associated Press reported this weekend. And others have similar legislation on the books, including North Carolina, Georgia and Arkansas. The latter bill has already passed the State Senate and State House of Representatives, and received a nod of approval by Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson this weekend, who said he plans to sign it.

These laws are modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which passed the House and Senate in 1993 before being signed by former Democratic president Bill Clinton. At that time, the RFRA was not understood to legalize discrimination against gay Americans—in fact, its origins lay in Oregon v. Smith (1990), a case regarding two Native Americans being fired after taking part in a religious ceremony. As a result, the RFRA established a balancing test to determine whether there was indeed a breach of religious liberty. Its definition of “substantially burden” is the same one used in Indiana’s law.

If a federal religious freedom law already exists, why do states need their own versions?

In 1997, the Supreme Court ruled that the federal act was not applicable to state and local laws. Since then, states including Texas, Florida, Connecticut and Illinois have passed their own versions of the religious freedom restoration act.

But in passing these laws, most states did not have the issue of gay rights on their minds, UVA law professor Douglas Laycock told the Washington Post last year. “There were cases about Amish buggies, hunting moose for native Alaskan funeral rituals, an attempt to take a church building by eminent domain, landmark laws that prohibited churches from modifying their buildings—all sorts of diverse conflicts between religious practice and pervasive regulation.”

More recently, though, some states have introduced bills explicitly tackling the topic of marriage. In Oklahoma, for example, a proposed bill states that businesses aren’t required “to participate in any marriage ceremony, celebration, or other related activity or to provide items or services for such purposes against the person’s religious beliefs.”

What motivated the Indiana state legislature to pass the bill?

It was partly inspired by the landmark Supreme Court case Burwell v. Hobby Lobby (2014), which used an interpretation of the federal RFRA to rule that businesses may refuse to pay for employee contraceptive coverage required by President Obama’s Affordable Care Act on religious grounds.

Republican Indiana State Sen. Scott Schneider, who introduced Indiana’s “religious objections” bill last December, said in a statement that the Hobby Lobby case motivated the bill: “In reviewing that court ruling, it became clear that Indiana’s laws were not reflective of federal law. This bill, which I plan to author this session, would match federal law in the state of Indiana.”

The legal case for the bill was also set out in an Indianapolis Star article by Indiana University law professor Daniel Conkle. In it, he wrote:

The bill would establish a general legal standard, the “compelling interest” test, for evaluating laws and governmental practices that impose substantial burdens on the exercise of religion.

Is it possible for the bill to be reversed?

Gov. Pence isn’t interested: “We’re not going to change this law,” Pence said on Sunday. However, the Indiana governor added that he welcomes a clarification bill, which is expected arrive later this week: “If the General Assembly … sends me a bill that adds a section that reiterates and amplifies and clarifies what the law really is and what it has been for the last 20 years, then I’m open to that.”

While Gov. Pence did not disclose what specific clarifications would be included, he told the Star that the legal protection of gay and lesbian Indiana residents is “not on my agenda.”

Read next: Democrats Caught Up in Controversial Indiana Religious-Freedom Law

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME States

12 Reasons Not to #BoycottIndiana

Covered bridge
Getty Images I mean, look at that covered bridge.

Josh Sanburn is a Nation writer for TIME covering crime, demographics and society.

There's more to the state than one terrible law

Indiana has elicited some serious hate thanks to the so-called religious freedom bill signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Pence that allows businesses to deny service to same-sex couples. The hashtag #boycottindiana has been making the rounds on Twitter and been promoted by the likes of Star Trek’s George Takei, who asked his 1.6 million followers to boycott the heart of the Midwest.

On behalf of my home state, I would like to offer a defense. Not of the religious freedom bill, which I would never defend. But of the state itself, one with fine folks, fine sporting traditions and, well, a delicious pork tenderloin.

  1. Indiana is basketball’s beating heart. Basketball is everywhere. The red barns with battered hoops. The city playgrounds with rims so overused its nets have long since parted. If it wasn’t for actual religion, the sport would be the state’s true faith. Indiana is home to two of the historically great basketball programs: 5-time national champions Indiana University (Let’s overlook the last decade or so. Please.); and perennial underdog Butler, which made it to back-to-back national championship games in 2010 and 2011. Butler also plays in historic Hinkle Fieldhouse, the site of one of the great underdog stories in all of sports: the 1954 Milan team, a tiny school that won the state championship in Hinkle and inspired the movie Hoosiers.
  2. Corn. Listen: There’s a lot of it, and it’s delicious.
  3. The breaded pork tenderloin sandwich. It’s perhaps the only true fare that Indiana can claim. You take a pork tenderloin, you smash until it’s practically paper thin, and then you fry it up. Also, delicious.
  4. Hoosier Hospitality. Knock on anyone’s door and it’s mandated by law that they give you shelter for the night. People in Indiana are that nice. Try it. Tell them Josh sent you.
  5. Gary. Wait, no, not Gary. Sorry. Moving on.
  6. The Jackson 5. Their formative years were spent in the state before making it big and before Michael Jackson completely transformed pop music. Come to think of it, they’re from Gary.
  7. Gary. Sorry, no. Still not Gary.
  8. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. The Indianapolis 500 is still one of the most incredible sporting events to see live. The 2.5-mile track is like the Grand Canyon of sports. Although I still don’t understand why the winner drinks milk at the end. Which reminds me:
  9. Rolling farmland. Parts of the state (particularly southern Indiana where I’m from, but I’m biased) are truly beautiful with gently rolling hills, wooden barns and silos in the distance. The appeal is in the subtlety.
  10. Johnny Appleseed. Are you eating an apple right now? Thank Johnny Appleseed, who spent much of his time in the state. He probably planted the tree that grew that apple. Or at least that’s what Mrs. Newman in fourth grade told me.
  11. Lincoln’s Boyhood Home. Our greatest president spent his youth in southern Indiana and thank God, because then we would’ve only been able to claim Benjamin Harrison and his grandfather, who was president for a month before he died of pneumonia. Just grab a coat, William Henry!
  12. It’s not Kentucky. Because, seriously, who would want to be from that state?

MORE: Indiana Governor Defends Signing of Religious-Objections Bill

 

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME States

Indiana’s Controversial Religious Freedom Bill Set to Become Law

Religious Freedom
Robert Scheer—AP Community members on both sides of the issue stand outside of the Indiana House chamber during a meeting of an Indiana House committee to discuss the merits of Senate Bill 101, the Religious Freedom Bill, at the state Capitol in Indianapolis, March 16, 2015.

The state's House passed it 63-31 on Monday

A controversial religious freedom bill in Indiana that critics say could legalize discrimination against LGBT people is on track to become a law after the state’s House approved it 63-31 on Monday.

The bill would prohibit local government from “substantially burdening” a person’s free expression of religion with few exemptions, the Indianapolis Star reports. Opponents of the bill say it could give business owners a free pass to refuse service to customers in same-sex relationships. Supporters, however, say it protects citizens from government intrusion on their beliefs.

The bill is based on the decades-old federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act law, which played a major part in the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby decision that allowed companies to opt out of a requirement to cover contraceptives to female employees under the Affordable Care Act for religious reasons.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence has voiced his support for the bill, which was approved in a different form by the Indiana Senate in February. Some 19 other states have similar laws in place.

[Indianapolis Star]

TIME States

FBI Investigating Death of Man Found Hanging From a Tree in Mississippi

Authorities have not yet determined whether the death is a homicide or suicide

The FBI is helping local authorities investigate the death of a black man found hanging from a tree in Mississippi.

Authorities discovered the body around 10 a.m. Thursday, according to Claiborne County Sheriff Marvin Lucas. The sheriff’s team and state officials were conducting a ground search for a man reported missing when they discovered the body. “We found him in the woods hanging from a tree,” Lucas tells TIME. “Whether it was a suicide or a homicide is yet to be determined.”

Jason Pack, an FBI agent, confirmed to TIME that local authorities had contacted the FBI and Mississippi Bureau of Investigations to assist with the ongoing investigation.

The Claiborne County sheriff told TIME they had not been able to positively identify the body, though authorities say the body was found about half a mile away from the missing man’s last known residence. The family last saw the missing man on March 2; a missing-persons report had been filed on March 8.

TIME Drugs

New Senate Bill Could Solve Medical Marijuana’s Tax Problems

Katy Steinmetz / TIME Bryan and Lanette Davies pose for a portrait at their "Christian-based" medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento in February 2014.

The bill aimed at healing the sick could save dispensary owners lots of money

When Bryan and Lanette Davies got an $875,000 bill from the Internal Revenue Service, they didn’t pay it. Instead, they took the IRS to court, arguing that a 1982 law meant to prevent drug traffickers from deducting business expenses should not apply to Canna Care, their small “Christian-based” medical marijuana dispensary in Sacramento—or any other medical marijuana dispensary legal under state law.

The couple is in the midst of a years-long legal battle over these expenses, arguing that marijuana dispensaries should be treated like most other small businesses and be allowed to deduct payroll, rent and health benefits from their taxable income.

But a new bill introduced in the Senate could help bring their trial to a conclusion.

On March 10, three Senators introduced a historic bill called the CARERS Act that would end the federal ban on medical marijuana, clearing up the discrepancy between federal law that considers pot an illegal drug and the 23 state laws that sanction the use of medical weed. The bill explicitly does several things: It would reschedule marijuana as a drug with known medical uses to allow for research. It would allow banks to work with dispensaries—both medical and recreational—without fear of being prosecuted for money laundering. And it would create an exception in the Controlled Substances Act that essentially says it doesn’t apply to medical marijuana in states where that substance has been legalized. That last part may help solve legal pot’s tax problem.

An obscure bit of the tax code known as 280E states that businesses in violation of the Controlled Substances Act can’t take a tax deduction or receive any credits for any expenses connected with their trafficking of illegal drugs, which is what medical marijuana dispensaries are currently doing in the eyes of the federal government. (Due to a tax court ruling, the one deduction they can take is for the cost of goods sold). The costs can be crippling, and politicians have joined dispensary owners in saying that prohibiting cocaine dealers from writing off the boats they bought to ship the drug, as one lawyer put it, is not the same as businesses deducting quotidian operating costs while on the right side of the law in their state.

In 2010, a group of Congress members, including Colorado Rep. Jared Polis and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank, sent letters to the IRS asking the agency to interpret the tax code in a way that would allow medical marijuana businesses to be taxed on net income instead of gross income. This is what the IRS told those members of Congress in response:

Because neither section 280E nor the Controlled Substances Act makes exception for medically necessary marijuana, we lack the authority to publish the guidance that you request. The result you seek would require the Congress to amend either the Internal Revenue Code or the Controlled Substances Act.

Legal experts have said that the IRS’ hands are essentially tied. If this bill passes, University of Denver’s Sam Kamin says that may be enough for the IRS to loosen the rope and issue that guidance. “It definitely puts marijuana on much sounder footing and makes much clearer what the legal rights of marijuana businesses are,” he says.

Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, who worked with the Senators’ offices on the Hill to craft the bill, is more absolute in his interpretation: “It resolves the 280E issue.”

Both of them agree that the bill has the potential to affect other areas of life too, in states where medical marijuana is legal. It may prevent people from being fired for using marijuana as medicine. Parents may no longer lose custody of their kids for having medical marijuana in the house. Known medical-marijuana users could be allowed to legally own a firearm; if a drug user or addict currently possesses a firearm, that’s punishable by up to 10 years of jail time.

Malik Burnett, policy manager at the Drug Policy Alliance—which also had a hand in crafting the bill—cautions that these are only potential interpretations of a potential law and that separate, explicit legislation should be passed if reform advocates want to definitively solve these issues. But he says the bill would enable lawyers to make stronger arguments to protect clients who use medical marijuana. “You would certainly have more solid ground to stand on,” he says.

Since being introduced, the bill has gained two cosponsors: Republican Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada and, as of Monday, Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer of California. Despite bipartisan support for the bill, it remains unclear whether it will be taken up in the Republican-controlled Senate.

The Davieses, in an interview for a previous article on their legal battle, said that they not only see themselves as a legitimate business but as a force of positive change in society. Lanette Davis said she felt they were being unfairly punished. “It has to do with taking care of the sick and ill. Jesus Christ made a statement that all people should care for one another, and this is our way of taking that to our community,” Lanette said. “What we try very hard to provide is a way for people to get well.”

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