‘Religious Freedom Bill’ Exposes the Ugly Side of Indiana

Religious Freedom Bill Brings Darkness to the Light

MUNCIE, Indiana BLOG – None of the Indiana colleges played in the Final Four Men’s Basketball Tournament, but it was still an emotional week for Hoosiers across the state. A republican governor, with the support of a supermajority of republicans in Indianapolis, who were still feeling the sting of being told by the courts they could not disallow same-sex marriages, saw an opportunity to take advantage of a small group of citizens by passing yet another, deceptively named bill. Senate Bill 101 was called the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA), but what it exposed was the ugliness that still runs rampant in Indiana.

The name sounds innocent enough, but so does, “Right to Work” and “Right to Farm”. As is always the case, the ‘devil is in the details’. Or, in this case, Man using God to justify his hate. You see, we still have a big percentage of Americans, and a part of Indiana, who use God to rationalize their  superiority (underlying fears) over another human being. Some call it racism, classism, discrimination, hate, or any other form of fear manifesting itself in hate projected on other human beings.

Yes, we still have folks who believe this law was about religion, or their freedom to believe what they want. Feel free to stand behind Mike Pence if you’d like, but this segment of our populace is shrinking rapidly as the ‘Sunlight of the Spirit’ shines upon it. One need only feel the words spoke by Martin L. King, Jr. to know he’s right when he said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Feel free to stand behind Governor Mike Pence who was given six times to dispel the rumors about SB101, or RFRA. However, when asked by George Stephanopoulos on national television to answer a simple ‘yes/no question’ on whether RFRA was about discrimination, he failed to answer the question, not one time. Not once. Watch it for yourself.

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Personally, I don’t want this individual representing Hoosiers on national television. Not only is he a liar, but he’s a bigot. All those wanting to line up behind him, the line starts over there, to the far right. His financial supporters and those who control a large block of Evangelical votes, support him, but they’ll be standing on the wrong side of history when it’s written. There is no God, or religion, worthy of your devotion, if it can be used to justify condemnation of another human being –  walk away from it.

As H.A. Goodman wrote in his recent article for the HuffPost, “If Gov. Pence and Indiana’s state legislature had taken even a cursory look at U.S. history, they could have learned that our past is littered with moments when Americans evoked God to legislate their disdain for other human beings.”

Hoosiers, it’s already been written. What was Mr. Goodman referring to – “According to The Atlantic, “In his ‘Segregation Now’ speech, George Wallace invokes God 27 times and calls the federal government opposing him ‘a system that is the very opposite of Christ.'”

We’ve mentioned time and time again about the direction Indiana is heading by latching on to the “conservative/libertarian movement” sweeping the South and Midwest. We’ve used symbology like the confederate flag while other times being more blunt. This time we are being blunt because they are trying to invoke the kind of religious ‘liberties and rights’ which do not exist in this country. We don’t care if the Supreme Court rules on the side of discrimination or not, there is no justification for enslaving another man or refusing to serve them because of who they are married to. Period. We don’t care what color your skin is or who you marry, looking down on another human being is not justified because of some book written thousands of years ago and is still under interpretation.

We’ve pointed out how the Tea Party embraces this Southern Confederacy/Evangelical-type mentality resembling the Deep South during pre-Civil War days. Not only with their hate and disdain for our black president, but with their love of guns and how they use their religion to justify all of it. Goodman refers us to several key figures and pronouncements in his article. One is Alexander H. Stephens who was elected vice-president of the Confederacy. In his Cornerstone Address, he explained the theological differences between the U.S. and Confederate constitutions:

They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal…

The negro by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, [note: A reference to Genesis, 9:20-27, which was used as a justification for slavery] is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system.

…It is, indeed, in conformity with the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances or to question them. For His own purposes He has made one race to differ from another, as He has made “one star to differ from another in glory.”

Yes, you can substitute [gay] with [negro]. These Evangelicals honestly believe God considers gays “less than” other men, or inferior to themselves. We had a local Ball State professor who came in from the West Coast, stayed for a bit, and then moved to the East Coast. Before leaving, she told us that we were right on target with our analogies and writings, and if Indiana had any hopes for a promising future, they’d have to come to terms with this ‘backward thinking’. She completed her dissertation on the Koch brothers and how they are using their wealth to negatively influence our governing system in this country.

It’s in our history books. We’ve been down this road before and moved past it. There are many still among us who use religious beliefs to justify all kinds of sick and twisted beliefs. Claiming the Creator gave slaves to white men is a mentality that still lingers on today. We see it everywhere. We’ve heard it ourselves in our small community – the microcosm of the United States. It still permeates our culture in Indiana.

We see it in our federal government – congress recently invited a warmonger to speak to the American people about not making a pact with Iran. They still use their religion to justify war and killing other human beings who they feel threatened by. There are many of our far right conservative brothers who still promote war as a jobs plan – all they need is God to endorse it, and they’re off looking for a target.

So, when our state becomes the focal point of a national dispute about discrimination and religion, you better inform yourself, and you better dig deep, or you’ll risk getting caught on the wrong side of history. History shows us, even with a tremendous amount of white-washing, that falling on the wrong side of this argument doesn’t produce good results. We’ve seen it with our treatment of Native Americans, African Slaves and Japanese citizens during WWII. Our disdain for our fellow-man runs deep. Give that hatred to a righteous man, and you’ve got conviction and passion which can fuel all kinds of absurdities about God’s will.

Our governor got sucked back into the roots of his core religious beliefs. He forgot he was governor of a state full of diverse people. He knew gays and lesbians weren’t protected under Indiana’s Civil Rights codes. His Bible-thumping, on-air preacher personality, was tapped by Eric Miller, Curt Smith and Micah Clark. Those hard-core Evangelicals still justify enslaving inferior human beings and they also want to dismiss the LGBT community. When George asked Pence about protecting members of the LGBT community, to make sure they wouldn’t be discriminated against, Mike was quick to say, “No, that’s not on my agenda, nor is it on Indiana’s agenda.”

Why not? The Mayor of Muncie and our County Commissioners in Delaware County quickly took action to make sure Pence’s religious folks couldn’t discriminate in Muncie or Delaware County.

I’m glad to call Muncie, Indiana my home. It’s community leaders swiftly took action by stepping forward to say, “You don’t speak for us, Governor Pence. We will protect our fellow Hoosiers from discrimination.”

Does that mean our community is free of prejudice or bigotry? Of course not. We’re not naive.

A fellow Democratic governor called Pence out directly this past week, “When you see a bigot, you have to call him on it,” Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

From the Politico article:

Malloy, the incoming chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, on Monday signed an executive order banning state-funded travel to Indiana in response to a “religious freedom” law signed last week by Pence. Critics say the law, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, would allow businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians; Pence insists it’s meant only to protect religious communities from government encroachment on their civil rights.

“The reality is, the governor’s not a stupid man — but he’s done stupid things,” Malloy said. “Signing this law and, quite frankly, promoting this law knowing exactly what it was going to do was an incredibly stupid thing for him to do.”

Indiana needs a governor like Dannel Malloy, and a few thousand more in Indianapolis, to squash the hate and bigotry which still exist and taints our reputation of having “Hoosier Hospitality”. We have to make better decisions at the polls. We’ve been told that RFRA has caused a rush of voter registrations, so we’ll know soon enough what this means.

The IndyStar was very angry for being left out of the private signing of RFRA, and showed signs of holding Pence accountable, but earlier this week, they began to back pedal, making excuses for Pence.

Tom LoBianco with the IndyStar called it a “perception problem”, trying to polish up the public relations disaster for Mike Pence, but our beloved horror story creator, Stephen King called it like it is:

Unfortunately, that is our reality, Tom LoBianco. We’ll let you guys/gals at Gannett work on polishing up Mike Pence’s image, we’re not paid well enough to shine up this turd.

For those who are still teetering on the edge about this, here is one of the photos taken during the private signing with captions under a couple attendees. The notes were added by the folks at Glaad, and one of them was called out by George Stephanopoulos:

mike pence rfra #2

The three stand-out bigots are Micah Clark, Curt Smith and Eric Miller. According to their website, Glaad contributes the following factoid to Micah Clark, Head of the American Family Association of Indiana:

Compared a license plate benefitting an LGBT youth center to a plate promoting smoking; claimed the youth center “recruits” gays: “You have to question what the BMV was thinking when they approved a license plate for a group which recruits teens into the homosexual lifestyle. Since health risks do not seem to matter, what is to prevent a cigar club from now getting a license plate from the BMV?”

We’re very familiar with this incident since we covered a story about the Yorktown Senator, Doug Eckerty, who cowardly signed his name to the letter (not printed out), with other republican senators, written to our BMV, requesting they cancel the fundraising license plate for the Indiana Youth Group, a support group for young people with questions about LGBT lifestyles.

The next highlighted member is Curt Smith, the President of Indiana Family Institute. Here is just one of his personal beliefs:

Equates homosexuality with bestiality and adultery: “The Judeo-Christian worldview at the heart of Western culture and so our legal and governmental systems (Ten Commandments, an “eye for an eye,” the very concepts of mercy, justice and rehabilitation) promotes marriage and family while decrying other modes of sexuality — homosexuality, bestiality, adultery, etc”

By the way, we’ve heard, but haven’t confirmed, that Mr. Smith and the law firm he has been employed with many years has severed ties. Like we said, you can tolerate some wacky ideas, but bigotry is a tough one to overlook. We’re sure he’ll get plenty of support from Pence and his fellow bigots at the Indiana Family Institute.

The remaining bigot is none other than Eric Miller, Executive Director of Advance America. On his own website, he writes, “Homosexuality Is Wrong! Homosexual Marriages Are Wrong!” Glaad also found these factoids:

While attempting to defeat federal hate crimes laws protecting LGBT people, falsely claimed pedophilia is a sexual orientation on par with homosexuality; and Claims “[b]anning same-sex marriages and civil unions will prove to be the greatest moral battle of this generation.”

These are not men who are interested in ‘religious freedom’. They obviously have a deep-seated fear of gays or homosexuals. They believe it is a choice and recommend therapy to ‘fix the problem’.

Like we said, we don’t get paid public relations fees to shine up this turd – it is what it is. We’ll let those at IndyStar put shine on Mike Pence’s remaining two years since they will have to interview him occasionally. We’ve been told there are republican challengers already lining up to knock him out of the 2016 Primary. His 2016 chances for president are long gone.

Thankfully, our Mayor, Dennis Tyler, and State Representative, Sue Errington, presented to Muncie City Council, a resolution expanding our definition of civil rights to include those of sexual orientation and specific veterans, which have been unprotected citizens in Indiana, and still are in many places outside of Delaware County. The national outcry is not only that RFRA was going to be used to discriminate against LGBT community, but that we still have unprotected citizens in our state. For those who missed it, it was very emotional.

The two republican council members (Mark Conatser R-District 2, and Brad Polk R-District 4) defended the radical element of their party, by claiming RFRA was not designed for discrimination, but for religious freedom.

Sorry gentlemen, but now is not the time to show party loyalty. There is an element within the Republican Party which is unsavory. It’s rotten to the core. It’s ignorance and hatred rolled into one.

As mentioned above, this is the same mentality who believed slavery was a God-given right. There is a reason political strategists use the code word “southern strategy” when dealing with the mind-set of the Deep South. Some of these haters are vocal while others try to hide it. Everyone remembers Richard Mourdock’s comment during the senatorial debates when he justified his disapproval of abortions when he said, “If a woman is raped and gets pregnant, it must be Gods will.”

That was another “frosty turd”.

We talked about “Dog-Whistle Politics” in our article titled, “Racism, Classism, the Us vs Them Trap. Ian Haney Lopez tells us that public relations strategists have used racist coded language for decades to activate our deep-seated fears of racism and bigotry.

There are PR strategists getting paid big dollars to manipulate large segments of our population by using terms like “food-stamp president”, “lazy, dependent or entitled”. These words evoke a deep emotional response inside us. It’s a part of our cultural make-up. If you don’t believe it, watch video tapes of the republican presidential debates. When they are in the south, they speak much differently than when they are in the Northeast.

While Haney clarifies there are some who are full of hate, which we track with the help of the FBI and Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), there are others who aren’t even aware of it. This is when “dog-whistle politics” becomes so effective – he clarifies this in his interview with Bill Moyer:

They’re fully capable of generosity, of empathy, of real kindness. But because of the idea systems in which they’re reared, they’re also capable of dehumanizing others and occasionally of brutal violence. And that’s an important truth. Most people are not racist out of some sort of a sickness of the soul. They’re racist because of the society in which they operate.

In fact, as a result of cases in Ferguson, Wisconsin and New York, our neighbors are conversing about this presently at RACE: Reconciliation Achieved through Community Engagement.. You should visit this group on Facebook and get involved. They are meeting to discuss diversity issues we face daily in Muncie, Indiana. It’s a small group of our neighbors who meet regularly to speak from the heart. We watched a video about racism from in the late 30’s, but the problem still exists. Denial is not the answer.

We are fully aware that prejudice and hate are sensitive subjects, but if we aren’t self-aware of their presence within us, they’ll rule over our decisions. Denying their existence only represses them. Embracing these feelings and sharing with others is the best way to handle prejudices – forgiveness and love. As MLK said, “…only love can drive out hate.”

We’re still going to be faced with outright dog turds, so we’ll have to deal with them abruptly when they arise, as Governor Malloy suggests. But, as our friend H.A. Goodman so eloquently concluded in his piece for the Huffington Post:

However, until God comes down and tells the world that florists and pizza parlors shouldn’t serve the LGBT community, it’s best to keep bizarre religious interpretations away from refusing service to other American citizens. Religious freedom shouldn’t be a way to discriminate or justify hatred and intolerance.

It wasn’t a justification to enslave others in 1861 and it isn’t a reason to refuse service to a gay couple in 2015.

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Todd Smekens

Journalist, consultant, publisher, and servant-leader with a passion for truth-seeking. Enjoy motorcycling, meditation, and spending quality time with my daughter and rescue hound. Spiritually-centered first and foremost. Lived in multiple states within the USA and frequent traveler to the mountains.

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