Director, Commonwealth Policy Center

Seven years ago, scientists at the University of Leeds conducted a study which discovered that it takes a minority of just 5 percent to influence a crowd’s direction – and that the other 95 percent follow without realizing it. While the study was performed to research crowd flow, it is symbolic of the unfortunate tendency of people to follow rather than chart their own courses. Once opponents of Indiana's proposed religious freedom law emerged, a tidal wave of criticism was directed at it, much of which was based on sentiment rather than fact. This attitude manifested itself in the case of Indiana's Memories Pizza, which was forced to close its doors when one of its owners stated they would not cater a gay wedding and was bombarded with threats and negative comments. Fortunately, in a country of freedom, there are still those capable of independent thought. Courtney Hoffman, a gay woman from Indiana, recently spoke out in favor of the pizzeria's owners' rights to defend their beliefs. Hoffman offered an apology on behalf of the homosexual community and pointed out as a small business owner herself, she would not feel comfortable violating her own beliefs. Hoffman's stand should remind all of us that while there are plenty of voices attempting to shepherd us, we can still choose to follow our own convictions.