As a Christian and a Hoosier, I am totally appalled with and angered by our governor and our General Assembly. The signing into law of the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act is an embarrassment to the state of Indiana.
Gov. Mike Pence made it clear that he and his staff did not see the overwhelming public backlash coming.
Are they deaf and blind? Have they not been listening to anyone outside their own little political circle?
Have they paid no attention to business and religious leaders who warned of a backlash and the potential dangers of this law?
Did Pence not know that former Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a rigid conservative, vetoed similar legislation because she foresaw the divisive damage it would do to her state?
The law was so poorly written that Pence later called for legislation to “clarify” the law. The governor maintains that it has nothing to do with gays or same-sex marriages. That is a disingenuous statement at the very least.
Hoosiers aren’t stupid. We are very aware of the adage that when they say it’s not about the money, you know it’s about the money.
Gov. Pence lays the blame for the backlash at the feet of the media, saying there is a great deal of misunderstanding about the bill. I disagree.
It is no coincidence that in the 22 years since Congress passed a Religious Freedom Act, there has been no call for such legislation in Indiana. Not, that is, until the GOP-driven same-sex marriage ban was dealt a damning blow by the courts.
Then the three leading proponents of that bill thrust the RFRA upon the Hoosier state.
The bill’s sponsors and leading supporters made their intent crystal clear. State Senate sponsor Scott Schneider, a Republican, admits the law could exempt Christians from providing services to gays.
Pence refused on national television to answer at least six yes-or-no questions as to whether or not the law will allow discrimination against gays. He also has said he will not push for legislation to protect gay rights.
Business owners who are in support of this law, and they are clearly in the minority among Hoosier businessmen and women, have made it clear that they see the legislation as a means to deny services to gays.
Gov. Pence and others defend this bill by stating that the federal government and 19 other states have passed similar laws. The problem is none of those laws are truly similar. All of them give gays protection against discrimination, while Indiana’s legislation purposely omits such protections.
Some supporters claim the results will not be as destructive as many think, and that is probably correct.
However, such does not justify legislation clearly designed to legalize discrimination. The argument that no lawsuits have yet succeeded in upholding such discrimination is no excuse for the bill’s passage.
In fact, I find that a somewhat persuasive argument against the bill.
It is very telling that the massive outrage against this law comes from Republicans as well as Democrats; from conservatives as well as liberals; from Christians as well as atheists.
For me to be in agreement with an obnoxiously proud atheist goes against my very nature, but I must admit Ron Reagan is right about this issue in his commercial.
One conservative Republican friend of mine was sharing his feelings on the subject in such a manner that I warned him he was sounding more and more like a Democrat every day.
Another friend said, “I’m still a Republican, but it’s a stupid law.”
We all are aware that this is not the first time politicians have used religion as a foil in an attempt to legislate bigotry. Of course, they never personally viewed it as defending bigotry; rather, they always identified such action as a means to fight social change, as if that made bigotry acceptable under the eyes of God.
I was asked if his action would not hurt Pence’s odds of winning the presidency. I replied yes, but it will likely improve his chances of winning presidential primaries.
That, my friends, is a discouragingly sad statement about American politics in the 21st century.
Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.