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Apple CEO Tim Cook slams Indiana religious freedom law

Apple CEO Tim Cook skewered recent religious freedom laws like the Indiana law, calling it “dangerous” and “pro-discrimination.”
In this June 2 2014 file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an event in San Francisco, Calif. (Photo by Jeff Chiu/AP)
In this June 2 2014 file photo, Apple CEO Tim Cook speaks at an event in San Francisco, Calif.

Apple CEO Tim Cook skewered recent religious freedom laws that critics say make discrimination legal in a Washington Post Op-Ed on Monday, calling the Indiana law and others like it “dangerous” and “pro-discrimination.”

“These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality,” he wrote of Indiana Senate Bill 101, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law last Thursday. Many argue that the law is disguised to give the right to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds; supporters say it simply protects peoples religious beliefs and prohibits government intrusion.

Cook, who came out publicly as gay last year, is the latest public figure to condemn the Indiana law and the 19 others like it around the country that protect religious freedom, but open the door for serious discrimination, particularly against LGBT people.

Related: Pence defends religious freedom law: 'Absolutely not' a mistake

Cook recounts his own faith and compares anti-gay discrimination to racism in the South in the 1960s and 1970s. 

“I was never taught, nor do I believe, that religion should be used as an excuse to discriminate,” he said. “I remember what it was like to grow up in the South in the 1960s and 1970s. Discrimination isn’t something that’s easy to oppose. It doesn’t always stare you in the face. It moves in the shadows. And sometimes it shrouds itself within the very laws meant to protect us.”

He also affirmed that Apple – a company that employs 60,000 people in the U.S. directly and takes credit for supporting more than a million jobs overall – will not tolerate discrimination. “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,” he wrote. 

Related: Reggie Miller, Charles Barkley rail against Indiana law

Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence defended his signing of the bill on Sunday, saying it was “absolutely not” a mistake, but that he would support legislation that would “clarify” the law. 

Still, national outrage has erupted in the wake of the bill. Angie’s List announced they wouldn’t be expanding their Indiana campus – growth that would have added 1,000 jobs in the state – because of the law. NBA legends Reggie Miller and Charles Barkley also slammed the law in separate statements over the weekend. I’ve never been big into politics but I’m very disappointed in my adopted home state of Indiana and the passing of Senate Bill 101,” Miller wrote. “I’ve always been about inclusion for all, no matter your skin color, gender or sexual preference.. We are all the same people, beautiful creatures..”