So, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who was rather boastful earlier this week about signing into law SB 101—the so-called “religious freedom” bill—did so in a “private ceremony” today. The once proud and gloating governor has become the Coward of the County. Gee, I wonder why.
It would be because his office, his phones, his Twitter feed and virtually every media outlet in Indiana has been flooded with angry, outraged, embarrassed Hoosiers demanding Pence to veto the bill. Calling it a reiteration of religious freedoms sound warm and fuzzy, but this bill is potentially dangerous, as it will provide legal cover to any business owner in Indiana to refuse service to anyone of their choosing. All they need to do is cite “religious freedom” as the reason.
We’re not talking about “no shirt, no shoes, no service.” We’re talking, “no gays, no atheists, no Jews.” Don’t believe me? We’re already there. The impetus of this pandering motion stems partially from an Indianapolis bakery that refused to provide a wedding cake for a couple. The baker was not asked to attend, officiate, sanction or even participate as a bride or groom. They were being paid to provide a service they’ve provided to scores of other people. But they refused. Why? Because the couple is gay. They cited their religion as the reason, which is another way of saying “my god allows me to be a bigot and you can’t stop me.” And now, the State of Indiana is codifying this bigotry into law.
Proponents of this measure always run to the same, tired, “free market” tropes Republicans love to espouse. In their minds, markets should be unfettered from any restrictions, free to run any way they choose because, in their world, the free market makes everything right.
It wasn’t so many years ago in this country it took an act of Congress to compel local governments, business owners and universities to end the practice of racial segregation. It was not uncommon for defenders of racism to cite Holy Scripture as basis for the legal justification of segregation. Just how free would the free market be in 1964 Selma, Alabama, were it not for the government stepping in and compelling business owners to desegregate? How long would it have taken?
Well, here we are again. Only this time social conservatives in Indiana and far too many other states are claiming victim status as religious people, being forced to serve gays against their faith. If your religion compels you to be homophobic (and yes, you are homophobic if you refuse service to a person simply because they are gay) then your interpretation of your religion is full of shit. You are praying to no god I ever want to know.
How we got here is the endless drumbeat from the far right that Christians in the U.S. are under the gun and on the run for their beliefs. This works great for cable news ratings and filling the coffers of predatory evangelists and shady politicians, but it’s also completely untrue.
People in this country of all faiths already enjoy broad freedom of religion. You can enter and exit any church, mosque or temple in America without fear of recrimination. Why? Because our Constitution guarantees you that right. With that in mind, Indiana Republicans decided the First Amendment needed more protection; at least, that’s their (completely erroneous) story and they’re sticking to it.
There is no reason to create new legislation reiterating the tenets of the First Amendment; especially when said measure can be weaponized to discriminate against all sorts of people in all sorts of situations. Whether or not that was the intent (and I have my own views on that), that is the reality.
This bill now gives cover to the devout Catholic pharmacist who refuses to fill a woman’s birth control prescription because it goes against his religion. Or a gay couple gets kicked out of a restaurant because the owner claims it goes against his religion. Or a cop refuses to answer a call to a strip club or a casino or an unmarried couple’s home because they all conflict with his religion.
Anyone who says that’s not the intent but goes ahead and supports the bill anyway doesn’t care about the bigotry and proselytizing that will happen in the business sector as a result of it. The bottom line: this bill not only protects bigots, it allows them to inflict their views on others.
Many of the examples I’ve cited have already happened. The difference is now in Indiana, they have been given legal cover by a band of Republicans who are refusing to see the forest for the trees, all in the name of placating fear and intolerance.
Your religion is your business and I would never take away your right to worship as you choose. But you don’t get to play god with your business because you don’t like gays or whatever other subjective interpretation of religion you come up with. The bible you claim to believe in, cover to cover, says a lot of kooky things.
On this issue, the Indiana State Chamber is right. Gen Con is right. Eli Lilly is right. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is right. SB 101 is problematic, unnecessary and is going to be trouble for the entire state.
The only course of action remaining for Hoosiers is one I truly hope that use: vote. All the talk in the world apparently isn’t going to sway the incessantly hardheaded and un-pragmatic governor of Indiana. But you know what you can do that will get his attention: VOTE. HIM. OUT.
You have less than two years, but the people have the power to fix this. Vote Pence out and vote out any statehouse legislator who signed onto this measure. It’s time to tilt the balance of power back to the people of Indiana. Otherwise, if you maintain this status quo, you might as well change the state motto to: “Welcome to Indiana…liberty and justice for some.”