Thursday, March 26, 2015

"Religious Freedom Restoration" or: Religious and Civil Discrimination Reintroduced in Indiana

Every now and again I am embarrassed to be living in Indiana. This is one of those times.

SB 101, known as "Religious Freedom Restoration," recently ratified by the Indiana House and Senate, and to be signed in private ceremony by our self-professed Christian governor, Mike Pence proves something I've long said. When Indiana finally moved into the 20th century in 2006, I joked that we may be in sync timewise with the rest of the Eastern time zone, but it was still 1973 here.

I was wrong.  More like 1963. Which is especially ironic on this 50th anniversary observance of the events of Selma. This is an irony lost on the state legislators who approved this act and on our governor who is set to sign it -- in a private ceremony.  Gosh. One would hate to have a public ceremony where, gasp, somebody whose religion (or no religion) might be there to protest that their faith (or non-faith) needed no such restoration.  After all, though Pence, et al, may not be aware of it, that matter was supposed to be settled in 1792, in amendment one of the constitution -- "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."  Freedom of (or from) religion has been long established.

This new bill, repackaged old discrimination, especially concerns me because of my religious freedom and the beliefs I hold.  I'm a Quaker. I believe in the equality of all people.  I believe that at a variety of levels. The equality of all people to worship as they will, to work where they will, to live where they want, to vote, to shop where they want.

Well, everywhere but Indiana, I guess. Though this bill is aimed, not even subtly, against Indiana's gay citizens, there's no reason it couldn't be used against its agnostic citizens, mixed race couple citizens, Hispanic citizens, Jewish citizens, Buddhist citizens, Black citizens, ...  "My faith says that Muslims are infidels and so I don't have to serve them."

What happens when a Muslim taxi driver refuses to take on of our good Christian legislators to the airport based on the driver's understanding of the commands of the Koran?

As I said, I'm a Quaker. We Quaker have faced discrimination before -- but not much openly in the past 300 years.  But in the name of "Religious Freedom" for themselves, in 1659 and 1660 the Puritans of Boston not only refused service to three Quakers but decided to hang them for ... gasp ... being Quakers.  William Robinson, Marmaduke Stephenson, and Mary Dyer were hanged on Boston Common.

That couldn't happen today, I guess. But not long enough ago, on August 7, 1930,two African American teenagers charged with murder —Tom Shipp and Abe Smith -- were dragged from their cell in Marion, Indiana and lynched on the courthouse lawn. No one was convicted of this crime.

Nor will anyone be convicted -- either legally or spiritually -- I fear of the discriminatory, hateful crime that the legislators and governor are foisting upon the citizens of Indiana. I had hoped that Gov. Pence would live up to his promise to serve all the people of Indiana.  Alas, this does not seem to be true.  He is serving you if you are white, conservative politically, and conservative Christian.  So much for holding in high regard Jesus and his commands -- "Love your neighbor as yourself." 

While I cannot, alone overturn this monumentally evil piece of legislation, I will stand against it.  I stand against it a person of faith. A person of faith who takes seriously the words of scripture that say "...what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." SB101, and the legislators who enacted it, and Govenor Pence who is going to sign it into law, are not loving mercy nor walking humbly with God. They are acting as gods who place the value of some of our state's citizens about countless others. So much for honoring their oaths of office.


Bill said...

In the early nineteenth century many Friends dealt with the monumental evil of slavery by moving.
To get away from the monumental evil of RFRA I could move to Illinois -- except Illinois passed a RFRA law in 1998.
How about Florida, a nice place to live -- oops, they passed it in 1998 also.
How about New England -- Rhode Island and Connecticut adopted RFRA in 1993.
Pennsylvania is a good place for Quakers to retreat to -- but they passed it in 2002.

If you want to avoid the apocalypse being wrought by RFRA you are limited to 31 states. But then there is the federal RFRA law -- I guess I need to head back to my great grandfather's Ireland.

Sorry, Brent. I don't see monumental evil at work here.

Brent Bill said...

Such discrimination, especially under the guise of "religious freedom restoration" (which we already have) is a monumentally evil in my book. Especially when it is thinly disguised conservative Christian religion -- not all religion. Separation of church and state. Not in Indiana. Discrimination and a new Jim Crow welcomed. Beginning to look like the Nuremberg laws of 1930s Germany.

Brent Bill said...

This law is fundamentally opposed to anything I consider essential to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

David H. Finke said...

I'm with Brent on the Evil designation. And to the other Bill, I would point out that in the several days since his posting, a number of legal analyses have shown how this particular alleged "religious freedom restoration" law differs from the ones he mentions, no matter how many times Gov. Pence said it was the same. Pence couldn't, however, answer the very plain question put to him about whether or not it would be legal to discriminate against LGBTQ people, though I am convinced that such was the clear intent of many (most?) of the bill's sponsors... certainly those gathered around to celebrate in the private signing ceremony, the wing of his party that Pence thought he could win over with this act (which at other times he said wouldn't mean or do anything.)

I call attention to the following analysis which may cut through some of the obfuscation:

I note with sadness that the blogosphere is rife with the equation of Christianity with intolerance, hatred, and deprivation of rights to those with whom one differs on religious grounds. I'll say once more that my understanding of Christ's Gospel is diametrically opposed to such obscenity.

Thank you, Brent, for quickly and clearly and forcefully saying what needed to be said, and which may or may not make you better liked in Central Indiana. Yours, once more, is a prophetic voice, and one of reason and compassion.

With Love, —DHF

David H. Finke said...

A footnote, for those who want to dig into the legal-scholarship end of this:

The following open letter was drafted prior to the signing of the offensive statute into law. Maybe Gov. Pence can haul out some law professors who would support his interpretation of what he just signed, but to me it looks like a predominant and impressive consensus in that profession have cut this misguided legislation to shreds. Pence can't say that he didn't know; to me it appears that he just didn't care.