State suffered greatly after passage of RFRA

I enjoy reading columnist Lori Borgman. She has a wonderful sense of humor that connects well with all of us. However, her recent column (April 14, “Despite uproar, Hoosier hospitality still prevalent,” A6) badly missed the mark.

She believes the Hoosier State was unfairly criticized concerning RFRA. She claimed we Hoosiers were hit with “falsehoods, fabrications and outright lies about who we are” and that “truth was tarred and feathered and run out of town.”

Can’t say I agree with her.

The truth was obvious that the General Assembly passed and the governor signed a bill which even the sponsors admitted would allow discrimination. Truth was not a victim here.

Ms. Borgman stated that “we’ve been portrayed as low-IQ buffoons.” No, it was only Gov. Mike Pence’s performance on national television that was deemed buffoonish.

No one claimed the entire state of Indiana is populated with bigots and (except for a pizza parlor in northwest Indiana) such implications were applied only to the governor and the General Assembly.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that I am not a fan of Gov. Pence. Ever since his radio days when he tried to be the Hoosier Rush Limbaugh, I have been turned off by his political viewpoints, especially on social issues.

It will also come as no surprise that I have no desire to defend Gov. Pence’s embarrassing defense of RFRA on national television. In fact, the governor’s claim that RFRA was not intended to allow discrimination reminded me of Tom Brady denial of having anything to do with “deflategate.”

Like Brady, who previously admitted he preferred slightly deflated footballs, Gov. Pence’s denials come across as false as he has long avowed he would not support the rights of gays, and, in the midst of the controversy, still maintained that he will not support such legislation.

It may come as surprise, however, when I say that it is not fair for Gov. Pence to bear the burden of ridicule alone.

He certainly supported the bill and signed it, but he did not write the bill. Nor was Gov. Pence responsible for defeating all amendments which would have made clear that RFRA could not be allowed to discriminate against gays.

It took the supermajority of the Republican members of the General Assembly to embarrass the entire state of Indiana. It took 40 GOP state senators and even more state representatives to create the folly known as RFRA.

There are unanswered questions that trouble me.

Doesn’t anyone else think it odd that the General Assembly had to fix the bill with amendments they had already rejected with language that would have provided protection for gays?

Did churches require additional religious freedom protections because some legislators were actually considering legislation that would attack our religious freedoms, thus requiring RFRA?

Will the “fix” undo the damage to Indiana’s economy and reputation?

I suspect it will take time before we overcome our state’s new reputation with corporate America.

Will it encourage people to seek employment here? Will it encourage conventioneers to come to Indianapolis or will RFRA end up costing us millions in revenue? What about the effect on tourism? These questions will not be answered any time soon.

Here are questions we should be asking our two local elected members of the General Assembly who voted in favor of RFRA.

Why did you cast your vote in favor of RFRA after so many corporations and even religious leaders warned you of the consequences?

For that matter, were you totally blind to the likelihood of discrimination?

Did you not hear the bill’s sponsors and its leading lobbyist who proudly proclaimed the bill would indeed allow discrimination?

Did you initially vote against amendments which would have given gays protection from RFRA? Like Gov. Pence, will you refuse to support legislation providing equal rights to gays?

In light of the embarrassment caused by RFRA, it is only right that our local legislators provide us with their justifications.

But they should know that simply stating RFRA was never intended to allow discrimination will not cut it. Very few voters will buy that argument.

But I don’t want to pick on just a couple of legislators. I want to ask basic questions of Republican voters.

Were you embarrassed? Do you think the RFRA fiasco will affect the Republican Party in 2016?

An even more basic question for you is this: why does the Republican Party struggle so mightily with social and cultural changes?

Like a once popular ad said: “We all want to know.”

Michael Adkins is the former chair of the Hancock County Democratic Party. He lives in Greenfield.