A new controversial law in Indiana has brought out a number of high-profile opponents, including the head of one of the biggest tech companies in the world. In a Washington Post op-ed published Sunday night, Apple CEO Tim Cook blasted "religious freedom" bills, such as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was signed into law in Indiana on Thursday. Similar bills have been introduced in roughly two dozen states across the country, a movement that Cook describes as "dangerous" and bad for business.
Opponents of "religious freedom" laws argue that they allow businesses to refuse services to LGBT individuals by citing their right to religious expression. Proponents say that they protect individuals' religious beliefs from being "substantially burdened" by the government. That, Cook said, is where people misunderstand the significance of these laws and their potential to unravel the country's decades-long progress toward true equality.
Cook, who wrote on behalf of Apple, said he has "great reverence" for religious freedom. He cited his upbringing in a Baptist church, where he was baptized, and emphasized the importance of religious faith in his life. These "religious freedom" laws, however, aren't necessarily about the freedom of religion. He wrote:
I was never taught, nor do I believe, that religion should be used as an excuse to discriminate.
Cook drew comparison between the LGBT community's fight for equal rights and the civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s. He said this new wave of "religious freedom" bills promotes a form of discrimination similar to what he saw growing up in the South. To him, discrimination can be disguised in laws that are meant to protect people.
This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.
This isn't the first time that Cook, who has become one of the world's most vocal and visible LGBT advocates, has chosen to lay out his thoughts in writing. Three years after taking Apple's helm following the death of co-founder and former CEO Steve Jobs in 2011, Cook came out and acknowledged he is gay in a column for Bloomberg Businessweek. He is the first CEO of a Fortune 500 company to publicly identify as gay.
While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.