I like to start every week if I can with some Good News. This week, however, we are starting with some Not Good News.
You have no doubt heard that on March 26, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The problems with this piece of trash start with the name: the Religious Freedom Restoration Act - as if religious freedom had been stripped from the residents of Indiana and now had to be "restored." What freedoms had been lost? What examples where there of people denied the ability to practice their religion? No examples were offered unless you want to count the reference, by at least one member of the legislature, to the case in a different state where someone - a florist - was sued for discrimination for refusing to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding.
Which just shows what this bill is really about and what "freedom" is being "restored" here: the "right," the "freedom," to be a bigot and to ignore anti-discrimination laws.
Because that's what the bill does. The most controversial part of it is Section 9, which says that, quoting the law,
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. [emphasis added]That last part is the big one. Defenders of the law note that the federal government and 19 states have passed so-called some version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act - but every one of those laws is about the government supposedly "burdening" religious practice and not one of those offers the protection to for-profit businesses or covers disputes between private parties that this one does. Nor do those other laws specifically define corporations as "persons" under the law, as Section 5 of Indiana's does. When defenders of this bit of noxious gas tell you it's "just the same as all the others so what's the problem," they either have no idea what they are talking about or are lying through their teeth. There is no third option.
One of the chief liars is Governor One-Cent who, when asked directly if the bill would allow for discrimination against LGBT people, talked in bumper stickers about Hoosiers being "against discrimination" but ran away - more than once - from actually answering the direct yes-or-no question.
Indeed, when he signed the bill in a private ceremony from which all media were barred, three of those present were lobbyists for groups that want to limit civil rights for LGBT folks. One of those lobbyists, Eric Miller of Advance America, praised the new law as doing exactly what Governor NotWorthAFarthing lied to avoid admitting: It would, Miller said, protect Christian bakers, florists, and photographers from penalty "for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage, among other examples."
This bill should not be called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it should be called the God Gave Me The Right To Be A Bigot Act. Several sources have claimed the actual impact of the bill will be small because to date few such claims have held up in court. I don't know if that's true or not. I also don't care. The right wing sees this bill, sees these sorts of bills, as a means to oppose same-sex marriage and oppose civil rights for LGBT people. That is what they are about, that is what they are for, and that is why they should and must be opposed.
Note: There obviously have been some fast-moving events regarding the Indiana law which occurred after this show was done and so are not addressed here. They will be addressed next week in an Update.
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