That's regardless of how anti-gay or unpopular they appear to be to blue states or Corporate America. It's regardless of what religious people like me think. Because I actually worry that these laws are dangerous for religious Americans, too — precisely because they encourage outside interference in religious life in areas where no real threats exist. At a time when religious communities face a far more real and existential threat of losing their tax-exempt status for houses of worship and schools, these unnecessary laws protecting religious people from extremely rare incidents in bathrooms and bakeries open the door to political scrutiny and backlash.
But I don't have to run for office, and the devout church goers don't have to run for office. The politicians do. And politicians love to take advantage of real or imagined voter fears to win elections. We might think the local elected leaders of states like North Carolina are cowering under pressure from religious groups, but the opposite is more likely to be true. Politicians are playing on the hyped up fears of their local religious voters to get added support.
That's right. This may only be the tip of the iceberg for these types of laws – especially in an election year.
Now, here's the caveat: Governors have to cast a much wider net of political support. For them, a few churches isn't going to do it. That's the real reason why Georgia's Republican Governor Nathan Deal vetoed his state's new religious freedom law. It's why Republican Governor Pence moved Heaven and Earth to change Indiana's law last year. And it's why I think North Carolina Republican Governor Pat McCrory will eventually cave and do the same. For state governors, outside corporate and other financial concerns do matter and those factors are part of what makes up their "local" political world.