By Clay Parlette
We’ve all had our share of the media hype surrounding Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act – and rightfully so. Not only was the law unnecessary in its nature, but it also presented a significant threat to a group of people that already face significant harassment and alienation as it is. I commend Indiana Governor Pence and the legislature for eventually “fixing” the law, but we must not forget what could have been, had it not been for the power of public opinion and media oversight.
However hard to do, it’s important to recognize that most people, however sinister they may seem, usually act on what they believe to be the right course of action. Much like the Confederacy believed it was divinely justified in maintaining slavery as an acceptable part of its makeup, many in today’s world feel equally justified in their opposition of and refusal to recognize LGBT people and their inherent right to legally be with their love. I would know because I grew up with this belief. No, I don’t blame Governor Pence’s intentions in the signing of this law. In fact, I believe him to be an upstanding citizen who is doing what he believes to be the best thing for the people he serves.
As we know, though, intentions are worth about as much as a Confederate dollar in today’s market. And, just because something was intended to be good, doesn’t mean that it is. In this case, we see a state trying to replicate a right that is already protected in our country – both constitutionally and by law. Of course, “religious freedom” sounds great on paper and into a microphone. Too bad we already have it. So, we reach the point where we must pull away the curtain guise and see the law for what it really is.
Why would a state legislature seek to pass a bill that is simply unnecessary? Well, the only answer could be to aid one group in having the upper hand over another. Just as our Constitution protects our freedom of religion, it equally protects our lifestyles and cultures, regardless of if they align with the majority. In an era where gay marriage has made extraordinary gains in acceptance, many are still of the traditional belief that the lifestyle is forbidden by several of the world’s major religious teachings – and that’s fin, as long as it’s kept to belief. When it becomes problematic is when these people begin to try to change the law to favor one side or another.
I could hardly keep a straight (no pun intended) face when watching Governor Pence attempt to answer questions on why he originally signed the legislation into law. After all, we all know that no one, especially the governor of a state, should sign anything that they don’t agree with or may hold reservations about. And common sense tells us that, even though the governor eventually asked for “clarification” on the bill, he really didn’t have any problem with it until the public backlash struck him in the head like a bat. Between the pausing, deep breaths, and non-answers, I conclude that this case is a pretty good example of someone being caught with their hand in the cookie jar.
Since the US Supreme Court’s ruling in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that corporations may enjoy the same religious rights that individuals do, the opportunity was ripe for Indiana’s leaders to close the final gap in “protecting” the state’s businesses from the menacing LGBT community (sarcasm intended). Surely, while I maintain that the intentions were probably good and there really is nothing wrong with privately objecting to gay marriage and such, one must surely recognize that the “burden” of having to serve those in the LGBT community dwarfs significantly to the obvious burden that a gay person would experience from being refused service by a business. And, come on, people, operating a business inevitably has its headaches – if you can call serving a normal human being that. Certainly we can agree that, although its owners may, a business itself doesn’t and cannot pray or worship or discriminate.
So, Indiana has felt the consequential burn of trying to discreetly allow for the discrimination of people, who some believe are destined for hell. The issue seems fixed, at least for now, but we can all remember one thing from it all: whether it be slavery, Nazism, or the objection to living as an LGBT individual, good intentions and “religion,” no matter how beautifully cloaked on the outside, may still be genuinely as ugly as a rat, rotten as a 100-year-old trout, and menacing as a wolf who eats grandmothers. I appreciate your passion, Governor Pence, but perhaps it has a better place in an America of the past, much like a phone booth is best kept in the ‘80s.