Apple's Tim Cook: Indiana's RFRA is dangerous. Also, you can pick up an iPhone in Saudi Arabia.

The sheer level of willful deception and calculated, propagated ignorance of the actual content and scope of any Restoration of Freedom of Religion Act is astonishing, which others have chronicled far better than I. Apple’s CEO Tim Cook throws his emotional nonsense op-ed in the ring today, declaring religious liberty protections that exist in 30 states “dangerous,” and the sure path to a semblance of “days of segregation and discrimination marked by ‘Whites Only’ signs on shop doors, water fountains and restrooms.”


Cook, of course, does not note that in the years these laws have existed, no on has every successfully used this process of appealing the government “successfully to defend anti-gay discrimination, not in twenty years of RFRAs nationwide.” That would require dealing honestly and intelligently with the law’s content, which is what Gabriel Malor did in his Federalist piece and John McCormack has done, here.

Indiana’s RFRA does not grant a license to discriminate. First of all, the state of Indiana, like 28 other states, has never prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation at public accommodations. Even without such laws in most states, discrimination doesn’t commonly occur because the United States is a nation that is tolerant of gay people and intolerant of bigots. Mean-spirited actions by a business owner anywhere in the country would almost certainly be met with a major backlash.

It is true that several local ordinances in Indiana prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, but RFRA does not declare that those ordinances are invalid if someone requests a religious exemption. Again, RFRA simply establishes the balancing test courts must apply in religious freedom cases.

But back to Cook, who offers this clarion call.


Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.

Super. Now we know that Cook’s ignorance applies, not just to state and federal laws in the U.S., but to laws in the other countries where Apple does business. As Allahpundit pointed out on Twitter:

Ryan Anderson dings Apple for engaging in the, ahem, “discrimination” it would like to make illegal for others:

Apple itself has exercised this freedom (or is the proper word, according to Cook, “discrimination”?). After all, Apple removed the Manhattan Declaration app from its App Store. Apple decided that a Christian app bearing witness to the dignity of unborn life, the nature of marriage as the union of husband and wife and the centrality of religious liberty was incompatible with its mission. So they “discriminated” against the Manhattan Declaration.

No one suggested that this should be made illegal. Even if we thought it a misguided decision, we thought Apple should be free to decide its own values and live according to them.


Salesforce is another company gravely concerned about Indiana, but not sufficiently concerned about China’s human rights abuses to pull out of that country.

Mollie Hemingway, who has much done heavy lifting on the pushback against this overblown outrage, has my favorite piece on RFRAs: Meet 10 Americans Helped By Religious Freedom Bills Like Indiana’s. A taste of just two of these cases:

1) Most recent RFRA winner: Lipan Apache religious leader Robert Soto

Just a few weeks ago, on March 10, the federal government returned the eagle feathers it had seized nine years prior from a Native American religious leader and famed feather dancer Robert Soto. He had appealed the seizure of the eagle feathers, for which he faced 15 years in a federal penitentiary and a $250,000 fine, on Religious Freedom Restoration Act grounds.

The feds had sent undercover agents to a powwow in 2006 to confiscate the feathers, which are central to Soto’s Native American faith. The federal government prohibits possession of eagle feathers without a permit and only grants permits to museums, scientists, zoos, farmers, large power companies and federally recognized tribes. Even though the Lipan Apaches are recognized by the State of Texas, historians and sociologists, they’re not recognized by the feds.

2) An arbitrary ban: Sikh federal employee Kawal Tagore

After being baptized in the Sikh faith, Kawal Tagore began carrying a kirpan, “an emblem resembling a small knife with a blunt, curved blade” that reminds Sikhs of their commitment to justice. It’s one of five articles of faith baptized Sikhs are supposed to carry.

She was told to go home from her job with the IRS in a federal building in Houston and told not to return. The building allowed scissors, knives, box cutters and other items with far sharper blades than her kirpan, but they wouldn’t let her carry her religiously required emblem. After working from home for nine months, she was fired.

She sought protection under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and on November 4, 2014, the government agreed to settle the case.


Tolerance is giving these people a chance to defend themselves when the government is requiring them to violate their sincerely held beliefs. These cases do not represent some horrible, regressive country giving in to its darkest desires for discrimination. Quite the opposite. They represent the very best of the American experiment, which allows all kinds of people to coexist and do business together without running roughshod over the varied and beautiful customs and religions we practice. But let’s stop with all that. Because tolerance.

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