Last week Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a shameful, disgraceful piece of legislation that sets its state back a century in time.
This is America’s version of the Defense of Marriage Act for the year 2015. It is a regurgitation of a repudiated consciousness that fails to understand the separation of church and state is the fundamental principle upon which the melting pot of America is built.
We come together as a society not to restrict the rights of any, but rather to secure the rights of all. We build a country based on inclusion and reaching out to each other, not by turning one group against another.
Governor Pence made a fool of himself by signing the bill, and hard as it may seem, made himself look worse when he tried to defend himself against ABC’s George Stephanopoulos hard interrogation last Sunday on a talk show. Pence refused to state the law could or would unjustly discriminate against not only the LGBT community, but also anyone that someone believed to be gay. That’s right — that is what the law does.
If a bakery owner says he does not want to serve two men walking in to a shop together because he perceives them to be lovers instead of brothers, his refusal would be constitutionally defensible in the Hoosier state. That’s no state for an American to be in.
The Constitution of the U.S. provides absolute protection for freedom of religion, and there is no state law that can make those protections stronger. There are state laws, like this one, that can take the fulcrum and throw it off balance. This is a law for Fox news watchers who are being falsely told every day that their faith and religion is under attack by the federal government. It is a lie they buy into.
Let’s not play word games. The law creates a license to discriminate. The law is not about protecting beliefs. It countenances bigotry. It is constitutionally vague and just too impermissibly broad to fairly enforce. Educated jurists will throw it out, and it looks like many will get the chance. If you want to turn your stomach, it appears at least a dozen state legislatures have similar laws pending.
The measure, which takes effect in July, prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, for profit businesses and associations.
This new and offensive law creates a power allowing a person or business to claim a religious basis to discriminate, including on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. It’s unconscionable.
Riddle me this. When was the last time church-going friends of yours came up to you and said he could not pray freely or practice his religion without restriction? Now tell me this. When was the last time you heard the story of a gay teenager bullied?
The new legislation has horrified local chambers of commerce in the state. They correctly perceive that it will adverse Indiana’s economy and compromise them politically. It most certainly will, and the governor knows it. That is why he told CNN yesterday that he wanted to introduce remedial legislation to ‘fix’ the law. Please. There is no fix for this. You nullify it, revoke it, kill it, and bury it, like Arizona did last year.
The protest growing out of the law has gone justifiably gone viral. Companies from Apple to pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly took to social media to express reservations about the law. Angie’s List, a business rating website, publicly announced they were pulling their plans for expansion. Marc Benioff, the chief executive of Salesforce.com, a technology company with a major presence in Indiana, announced that he would cancel all company events in the state.
West Palm Beach Mayor Jeri Muoio yesterday announced she has banned city-funded trips to Indiana in response to the new law, calling it "legally sanctioned discrimination." In an interview with SFGN yesterday, the actor, Alan Cumming, who will be appearing at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale next week, stated that he thought the law was “horrendous.”
Freedom of religion is sacred under the U.S. constitution, and has never been legislatively compromised. It is guarded jealously by federal and state constitutional guarantees, but freedom to indiscriminately discriminate is not.
This law is a renaissance day for people who enjoyed ‘colored’ water fountains. It is racism against gays, legislatively protected by governors who are the reincarnation of George Corley Wallace, standing on the capitol steps and saying ‘Segregation now, segregation forever.’ It is saying YOU- and other gay people, and other people who are perceived to be gay- may not be served. There is no room at the inn.
If you are not outraged, you should be. This is right wing retaliation against gay marriage equality and equal rights for the LGBT community. They say they are just trying to protect ‘their’ rights. No, they are trying to deny you yours. Be angry.
This law is not about whether some bakery in Elkhorn, Indiana, or Glendale, Arizona, has the right to refuse to bake a gay wedding cake. It is about whether a gay customer walking into a bakery has the same right to buy the same cake that a Christian couple does. You can’t allow an owner to say he won’t serve someone wearing a Jewish star or rainbow ring. Life can’t work that way today, not that it ever should have in the past.
The business bakes goods with electricity the city supplies and everyone’s taxes pay for. It is on a public street using public utilities that we all contribute to. It is using water we all share and together communally underwrite with homeowner and business taxes. We must honor and recognize diversity, not impose limits on its soul.
A business operating in the community marketplace cannot independently decide whom it will and won’t serve based on some vague concept that the service might infringe on their beliefs. No one is doing so. Everyone is free to pray where they want and how they want and to whom they want. We are also equally free not to pray.
If a local hardware store wants you to sign an affidavit that you believe in God before you buy a gallon of paint, will it be legal? What if the storeowner says he does not want to sell paint to a gay couple to use on their home? Will he have that right? He certainly will now have a legal argument in court. The governor gave him that, but the 21st century won’t stand for it.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is not only fundamentally unconstitutional, it is frankly unfair, offensive not only to the gays and lesbians it targets, but the society we aspire to live in. A governor who signs it, a community that supports it, is our enemy. Our duty is to stand up and be heard.
Interact: Agree with what our publisher has to say? Tweet, Facebook, or Google+ this article with the hashtag #SFGNagainstPence