Governor Pence and the Grim Silence of the Evangelical Right

"The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living... as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language. Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul...Entirely absorbed in the production of wealth and in peaceful competitive struggle, it no longer remembered that the ghosts of the Roman period had watched over its cradle." Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon.

I've dwelt a lot on Karl Marx the last few years. Like many philosophers of his time, there was a recognition of the re application of past control tactics to shape the future, and I am sure we can all see this trend even now, some 150 years after Marx wrote the above quoted work. This particular analysis of revolutionizing of society really came into sharp focus while I watched news coverage of Indiana's Governor Pence sign in to law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) on March 26, 2015 (S.B. 101 https://iga.in.gov/l...ills/senate/101). He was surrounded by representatives from the American Family Association, Franciscan Monks, nuns, orthodox Jews, and lobbyists who contributed to the writing of the bill. Micah Clark, most notably, was in attendance, who is the leader of the Indiana branch of the American Family Association, as well as Curtis Smith (President of the Indiana Family Institute), who actually helped write this bill.

From the just the presentation of the situation, you get an icky feeling. Still, I held out hope that the war cries of "discrimination", "legalized hate bill", and "Jim Crow is back act", is misunderstood and overblown. It isn't uncommon for both sides of an issue to misrepresent what an impact of new legislation is, would, or just could be.

Here is the digest of this controversial bill:

"Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer."

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I'm going to call this for what this is. It's a line in the sand. It's the trench being dug in before a big battle. It's the grim determination as one is facing that fateful hour of fighting against the inevitable. And it isn't just in Indiana that the line has been drawn. In fact, these RFRA laws have been around for decades, it's just that Indiana has gotten more creative and has pushed the envelope a bit further than the rest. As everything in legislation, the devil is in the details, specifically I think it's just the last couple of lines, coupled with existing anti discrimination laws in Indiana:

"Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer."

I will try to keep this from being overly legal-ese in language, but no promises. To understand how Indiana's RFRA is different than that of, let's say the state of Maryland, you have to first look at the already anti discrimination laws that are on the books. These laws are pretty similar to legislation in every other state, except when you start looking at what classes are protected. Race? Check. Gender? Check. Disability and age? Check, check. Sexual orientation? Uh....no.

According to NOLO , these are the protected classes in the state of Indiana. You cannot discriminate against anyone in these classes.

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Disability: physical or mental (15 or more employees)
  • Age (40 to 75, applies to employers with one or more employees)
  • Ancestry
  • Off-duty tobacco use
  • Sealed or expunged arrest or conviction record

(Courtesy of NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/...tion-31981.html)

Now, compared to Maryland.

  • Race
  • Color
  • National origin
  • Religion
  • Sex (including pregnancy, childbirth, and related medical conditions)
  • Disability: physical or mental
  • Age
  • Genetic information
  • Marital status
  • Sexual orientation

(Courtesy of NOLO, http://www.nolo.com/...tion-31809.html)

This is a huge deal. Legislation like that of RFRA are always trumped by anti discrimination laws, but what happens if LGBTQ has no class protection in that state? This is where Indiana is taking things further than any other state ever has. Now, this isn't an automatic pass to just start denying service to those who are objectionable to your religious beliefs. You can, and probably will, be drug into court for denying services or showing disfavor to an employee based on sexual orientation, differing belief system, or what ever it is you didn't like about that person. Essentially, this legislation is going to test every possible instance of denying services based on religious belief since there isn't any existing class protection for LGBTQ in the state of Indiana. All in hopes of finding just that one single case, or scenario, that holds up and provides a bit of an umbrella for the evangelicals to hold onto their version of America underneath of.

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My gut says that these cases will more than likely find for the side of the one being discriminated against, though I imagine there will be some judges who will initially support the right of the believer first, and let appeals sort it out over the course of many years later. The mess from all these cases, in the meantime, will be costly, polarizing, and just plain ugly. There is no way to convince me that this isn't directly aimed at the same sex marriage cases that are winning all over the United States right now. This bill's success hinges on the fact that there isn't any class protection for sexual orientation. Indiana is trying to hedge its bets by leaving the LGBTQ community as an unprotected class and pursue preemptive legislation that they think somehow protects the rights of the religious.

What these politicians fail to comprehend is that the right to to your beliefs is already protected to some degree. Religion is a protected class. I can't deny a job to a Christian. I can't give promotions to atheists over Christians just because of a shared common lack of belief. I can't deny a loan to a pastor because I think it is bullshit that he won't have to pay taxes on the church he is getting a loan to build. I certainly can't be hired on as a mail carrier and then turn around and selectively choose to not deliver mail to the Christians on my route simply because I find their beliefs offensive. This is what class protection is all about. Not to give protection to your personal efforts to make every aspect of a person's individual freedom fit neatly in the square peg hole that you personally find palatable.

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What has been even more disturbing is the almost stoic behavior of the larger evangelical associations since the bill was signed this past week. While there were a few enthusiastic social media posts about the bill's passing, there weren't too many shared thoughts on the act being signed from the larger advocate groups. There wasn't any major chest pounding incidents by the local churches, AFA branches, or even by Pro Life Indiana. It has seemed oddly quiet, other than the general public doing the gloating or decrying of SB 101.

This silence isn't from fear of being bullied or turning the other cheek. No longer willing to stamp their feet and throw tantrums to get their way, conservative evangelical power players are settling in for the long haul. It's a grim determination you can see and feel in their posturing, these politicians, lobbyists, and followers, see the looming storm of change coming at them. They are going to find themselves on a peg board with different sizes all around them. This isn't good for their constituency. You see, It isn't enough to just fit in the life style that is so desired to be lived in by these people. Their surrounding scenery has to match what they envision for their lives. The old meme about making donuts illegal since one is on a diet always comes to my mind when I see this kind of demand for accommodation.

That's all this bill, and other similarly motivated legislation which are claimed to "protect religious liberty" really are designed to do. It is an extra accommodation to keep the pot kind of sweetened when other classes start to reach the same level of benefit. It's outright indulgence in special interest pandering, which is exactly what a protected class is not about. Protecting a class of people means ensuring their constitutional rights are equal to that of everyone else, not enhanced to allow rights that circumvent the laws or offer exclusive perks. It gives the opportunity for the public to start segregating legally, no matter how misguided their intention to buffer their world to only one type of peg hole truly is.

It is a stubborn irrationality that is determined to keep itself entrenched in government legislation in a last ditch effort to save their pristine beach front view of divine living. May their God forbid having to actually agree to disagree and carry on with an unsightly difference in lifestyle living next door.

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So, in a nutshell, Indiana Senate Bill 101 does not automatically allow shop owners to put up "No Gays Allowed" signs in their windows. It does open the door for easier legal challenges, though victories are certainly far from guaranteed for the religious trying to escape the rules of the proverbial playground sandbox. The move to keep one of the core values of a religious person's sanctity has moved from the public referendum to the majority rule of right wing dominated congressional buildings. The reality that there isn't a majority of public support has motivated this change in field of play.

I don't know if the rationale has to do with the idea that somehow just getting the law on the books will unite the rest of the nation and turn it into the perfect representation of what our founders intended. Or maybe it is the idea that they can unite the rest of the splintered religious groups under one party and then more conservative politics can rule the land. I think it all has a ring of truth to it. I do know it has little to do with being closer to God. This is simply because the long run goal to being religious is Heaven, and one doesn't need to legislate religious law in order to get into the blissful graces of divine companionship.

A simple prayer and heart felt talk to those you love would fulfill the demand of sharing the "good news". A propaganda laced call to unify isn't the answer, and I really think they are missing the clear disconnect that is going on between the general public and their efforts. Propaganda is scary, and the younger generation has picked up on this quite clearly thanks to the access of information out there. Mom and Dad's Fox News channel isn't going to be enough anymore.

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Long term, bills like RFRA will require a lot of clarification and trial by fire in the courts. They won't hold water for very long either as the discriminatory days of the past being revisited will be too obvious to deny. As Martin Luther put on the mask of the apostle Paul, eventually, politicians like Governor Pence will not be able to look in the mirror without seeing the likes of Ross Barnett or George Wallace smiling back at him. A daunting visage of times past being used to justify the repression of the future rights of America's billions.

All in the name of religious pandering.

***Want to read more? Check out my short compilation with an additional nine new essays not published anywhere else. http://www.amazon.co...dge of survival ***

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Comment by sk8eycat on April 6, 2015 at 5:58pm

I forgot to mention that President Lincoln was either an atheist, or a deist; he was certainly not religious.  The religious words in his speeches were to pacify the rabid believers in the party (and his cabinet) because he was a canny politician. But he never went to church, as far as anyone knows.

"American Infidel" Robert Ingersoll wasn't fond of Lincoln because of his suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War, but he was a Colonel in the Union Army, and later campaigned vigorously for other Republicans for most of the rest of his life....when he wasn't lecturing about "Some Mistakes of Moses,"  women's suffrage, and civil rights.

Comment by Michael Penn on April 6, 2015 at 12:35pm

Stephen King has recently said:

Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration act is gay discrimination, pure and simple. You can frost a dog turd, but it's still a dog turd."

Comment by Frankie Dapper on April 2, 2015 at 9:19am

Peyote rituals were expanded to non-using tribes after genocide and confinement to reservations so it could be argued that the ritual is not a genuine religious practice. Just a refuge from the here and now, a form of escapism...

But at its essence this law is an attempt to disguise the institutionalizing of hatred as the protection of liberty.

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on April 1, 2015 at 9:48pm

I tell you sk8eycat, it's amazing how much power the southern politicians regained during the Reformation period after the Civil War. They were fucking terrorists!

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on April 1, 2015 at 9:45pm

My whole kick in the head with Republican rationale is if they are so damn Constitutional about how they want to live, why do they think there is a one size fits all attitude for pursing life, liberty and happiness???? One party wants to control the masses with fear, the other with sugar. I'll take the sugar. Better to be bought off and comfortable than poor and scared.

Comment by sk8eycat on April 1, 2015 at 6:21pm

The Republcons have changed dramatically in the last 60 years: the southern states used to be Democratic, or Dixiecrats because of their hatred for Lincoln.  Things started to change when the Democratic Party supported and passed the Civil Rights laws in the 1960s, and bigots switched parties.  The kicker was when Raygun and his cronies invited bottom-feeders like Jerry Falwell to the White House, and let them sit in on cabinet meetings, and just generally kissed ass and pretended to be fundamentalist xians.  (Never telling anyone that their son, Ron Reagan, Jr., had been an atheist since he was about 10 years old.....or that Nancy was getting advice from astrologers. Or that the Prez was showing definite signs of Alzheimer's almost from the day he was sworn in.)  Then the Bush family took over.   Poppy Bush was a failure (always was), and Drunkya began his campaign at Bob Jones University....but needed brother Jeb's help to screw up the Florida vote count,  and on and on....

Eisenhower, Goldwater, Nixon would all have been too "liberal" to satisfy the Evangelistas and the Toilet Party.

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on April 1, 2015 at 6:56am
Seeing all the homophobes surrounding the gov as he signed definitely confirmed intent in my mind too, Loren. It's a pointless exercise in losing though. Can you hear the tax payer money tinkling away as they will lawyer up for long legal challenges?
Comment by Loren Miller on April 1, 2015 at 6:36am

Different time, same intent.

Comment by Bluegrass Skeptic on April 1, 2015 at 6:07am
I agree, this will end up trying to.be used as a restriction against others. Ultimately, it will fail in the courts though.
Comment by sk8eycat on March 31, 2015 at 2:53am

IMO "RFRA" stands for "Religious Freedom Restriction Act," which is definitely unconstitutional.

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