Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The Mess in Indiana

Wow talk about something blowing up in your face.

Talk about the governor or Indiana bombing on a national political show. When asked over and over again if the Religious Freedom Restoration Act you just signed can discriminate against people Governor Pence just couldn’t answer the question.

Talk about a backlash from no less than WalMart and the Chamber or Commerce.

Then boy are you in a mess.

Is the law specifically aimed at gay and lesbians no not really? But the claim that this is the same Religious Freedom Restoration Act that other states and the federal law is simply not true. The changes put in the law would make it easier for people to discriminate against a whole host of people. When one of the main supporters and proponents of the law Advance American posts this on its website about the law:

  • Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!
  • A Christian business should not be punished for refusing to allow a man to use the women’s restroom!
  • A church should not be punished because they refuse to let the church be used for a homosexual wedding!

Then it’s pretty clear how they view the intent of the law. The ability to deny service to gays and lesbians.

The best story on the differences in the law is in the Atlantic by Garret Epps.

The claim from some in the media is there is very little difference in the Indiana law and other Religious Freedom Restoration Act but Epps points out this is wrong:

The problem with this statement is that, well, it’s false. That becomes clear when you read and compare those tedious state statutes. If you do that, you will find that the Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.

The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post, says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.

He adds:

Of all the state “religious freedom” laws I have read, this new statute hints most strongly that it is there to be used as a means of excluding gays and same-sex couples from accessing employment, housing, and public accommodations on the same terms as other people. True, there is no actual language that says, All businesses wishing to discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, please check this “religious objection” box.

The statute shows every sign of having been carefully designed to put new obstacles in the path of equality; and it has been publicly sold with deceptive claims that it is “nothing new.”

And why would you think that? Well look at the people standing behind Governor Pence in the official signing photo. A ceremony which was private. When the Indianapolis Star asked who the lobbyists in the photo were Pence refused to name them. You can see who these outstanding individuals are by following this link. I’m not going to mention them in my blog post.

There’s a list of companies that object to the law here are just a few: Angie’s List, Apple, Eli Lilly, Gen Con, Levi Strauss & Co., Salesforce to name just a few. A list of celebrities here are a few: Charles Barkley, Cher, Ellen DeGeneres, George Takei, Jason Collins, James Van Der Beek and Wilco - canceled Indianapolis show.

But probably the most damning thing is this front page from the Indianapolis Star:

Pence has promised this will be fixed even though he still thinks there's nothing wrong with the bill. We'll just have to wait and see.

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