Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Back Home Again in Indiana

I have to wonder what Jim Nabors thinks of Indiana's new "religious freedom" law?  He's been singing Back Home Again in Indiana at the annual Indy 500 Race at least since 1972.  He sang his final verse last year and will be replaced by the a cappella group, Straight No Chaser, this year, ending a run of over 40 years.

If the federal courts don't step in and declare this law unconstitutional, you can expect to see more states adopt similar legislation.  Texas already has such a law, but was more careful in its language to not allow religious fundamentals to skirt anti-discrimination laws.  There are no such provisions in the law Governor Pence signed.  However, given the current religious fervor sweeping conservative states you can expect Texas legislators to update that law.

So much for "compassionate conservatism," which George W. Bush extolled on the campaign trail in 2000.  This is a far more orthodox group of religious fundamentals who believe in an Old Testatment Christianity, as you would be hard pressed to find any mention in the New Testament regarding homosexuality.  Jesus is nothing more than a standard bearer for these guys, who have also embraced Israel as their ancestral homeland, with Presidential hopefuls Mike Huckabee and Ben Carson making pilgrimages to the Holy Lands.

Virtually every Republican presidential prospect supports this legislation, including Jeb Bush, who should know better.  Florida too adopted a "religious freedom" law in the wake of the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed by Congress, and signed into law by Bill Clinton.  This federal law allowed persons to claim religious exceptions to laws that they felt "burdened" their faith, within reasonable limits of course.  I guess states felt the need the need to further "clarify" this law, so now we see legislation that will place the burden on others, by allowing private businesses to choose who they wish to serve.  Under Indiana's new law, if Aunt Harriet's Cake Shop doesn't want to make a cake for a gay wedding, the gay couple can't press poor old Aunt Harriett to do so, as these notorious individuals have done so in other states.

This right to serve who you want was exactly the same type of laws that existed in the Cotton States during the Jim Crow era, but Gov. Pence would tell us that we are overreacting.  Yet, Indiana legislators and mayors are starting to squirm.  The Mayor of Indianapolis took time out to ensure that everyone will be welcome in his city, as fears the NCAA would pull the Final Four set a shock wave through the state.  Already, many big tech companies are pulling out of the Indy Big Data conference in response to the law.  It seems state legislators are starting to calculate the revenue lost over this law and seeing if it is worth it.  But, not Governor Pence.

Mike Pence is an Irish Catholic turned Evangelical Christian -- a hard-nosed governor that religious conservatives have come to embrace.  He doesn't mince words, he stands by his convictions, and will not bow down to the federal government, certainly not with Obama in the White House.  He has toyed around with the idea of running for President himself.  He has even pushed legislation enabling him to run concurrent campaigns in 2016.  However, it seems he will sit out this election cycle, as the potential GOP field is stacked with religious conservatives, each claiming to be closer to God than the other.

Indiana has always been a conservative state, but it hadn't been a particularly intolerant one.  Pence is making the rounds on television trying to soft pedal the legislation, but for a change the mainstream media isn't making it easy for him.  Laws like this one strike to the core of our civil liberties and undermine the very notion of religious freedom.