RFRA in Indiana: A Last Gasp of Bigotry in a Lost Culture War

Pence

From what I can tell, no one really wants the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to be signed into law, with the exception of the lawmakers who passed it. To be honest, I think at this point even they probably just wish they’d left well enough alone and not bothered.

Here’s what I think has happened. I think our representatives in state government are predominantly old, white men who are angry that the world is changing. They see their privilege and status being upended by a society that is changing the rules quickly, largely due to the democratizing power of the internet. They don’t understand this new world, they don’t see how they will be useful in it, and this frightens them.

Their response is to try to mandate the perpetuation of their culture by codifying their world as they understand it into law.┬áRemember, it was only 2004 that George Bush’s re-election was largely attributed to ‘values voters’. Their primary value, of course, being opposition to recognizing the dignity of our LGBT friends, family, and neighbors.

Indiana’s state legislators still live in this world. In their minds, they must protect our children from being ‘turned gay’ by the homosexual agenda. They must defend those ‘Christians’ who are sure that God despises homosexuals. No, enough is enough. Somehow, these brave state legislators are all that stands between us and the wrath of God and they will not let society be destroyed by these Godless liberals, not on their watch.

What these legislators have failed to realize is that in the decade or so since that election, the world changed. Many gay people stopped hiding in the shadows. They decided to stop apologizing, stop pretending to be someone they are not.

A funny thing then happened in American culture. Almost all at once, it seemed that everyone actually knew a gay person. More surprisingly for many, that gay person was an aunt, a cousin, a coworker, a friend, an old college roommate. It was someone they absolutely knew to be a good, moral, and kind person. And in short order, a very large number of Americans began to question the narrative of gay people as evil fornicators intent on recruiting your children to the homosexual lifestyle. Scientific studies began to debunk much of what we had been told about the nature of homosexuality.

And that brings us to today. Most Americans have ‘evolved’ on the issue of same-gender marriage, to use President Obama’s terminology. Most Americans believe that LGBT people should have the right to visit their spouse or partner in the hospital, receive death benefits, and be treated equally under the law. Most Americans now see members of the LGBT community as *gasp* actual people.

Indiana state legislators, apparently, are not like most Americans. They see our gay neighbors, family, and friends as ‘other’. Gay people are not worthy of the same treatment afforded to other Americans, or even other humans. They are fundamentally different in a way that renders them subhuman. Our legislators have made it clear that their view is this: “If you want to live with gay people, fine. But no one is going to tell me that I have to serve them a meal, treat their illness, or sell them a truck.”

If I believe my religion says gay people are viewed by my God as an abomination, then I should not have to recognize them as anything but that. To treat them the same as I treat anyone else is to bestow a recognition of their humanity that violates my conscience, angers my God, and places my eternal soul in jeopardy, according to these arguments.

Of course these same arguments have been used to justify prejudice and bigotry throughout history. Listen to the slave-owner in 12 Years A Slave reciting biblical scripture to explain their subjugation. It was disgusting then and it’s every bit as disgusting now.

Governor Mike Pence and our Indiana legislators who voted to pass SB 101 know they have lost. They know that our society has already accepted things they cannot conceive. It’s the reason they were desperate to get a state constitutional amendment banning same-gender marriage before the tide turned completely against them. That attempt failed and it’s not been mentioned since, I assume because they know it will never again have a chance of passing.

The failure of that law to make it to a ballot measure enraged many conservatives. As a result, I think legislators felt a need to demonstrate that they were still fighting on this issue. The Hobby Lobby decision opened up an avenue for them to save face on the basis of advocating for ‘religious freedom’. Who doesn’t love religious freedom?

I think they thought they would pass this bill and it would give them a badge of honor they could wear when visiting their bigoted constituents with lots of money. Unfortunately, they underestimated public sentiment, the new voice of progressive faith communities, and the economic impact of this decision on our state. The probable loss of GenCon is just one example of the millions of dollars of lost business we will see because of this publicity stunt.

The sad thing is, this law is completely unnecessary in every respect. Don’t believe me? Ask 111 Cakery if they were ever forced to make that cake for a gay commitment ceremony they felt violated their beliefs. Spoiler: They weren’t.

Now Indiana, which has worked so hard to shed the image of a cultural backwater, is back to being portrayed as a bunch of bigoted rednecks. That’s not who Hoosiers are, despite our troubled past with racism.

To the rest of America, I ask you not to judge our state by the actions of our representatives. Get to know us as individuals and you will find that we are not the monsters you might imagine. That approach helped America see the LGBT community as people worthy of dignity and respect, despite their reputation; maybe it will work for Hoosiers as well.


Update: Think I’m wrong about this being a consolation prize to advocates of banning gay marriage? Guess who these groups represent:

Short Term 12: A Movie About Superheroes You Probably Won’t Watch (But Should)

short-term-12

We’re in the age of the superhero movie. Batman, Superman, Batman vs. Superman, Wonder Woman, The Avengers, Deadpool, Fantastic Four, Thor, Spiderman, Guardians of the Galaxy, Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, the list goes on and on… and on.

Short Term 12 is also a movie about superheroes but they don’t wear capes or tights. The group home staff in Short Term 12 are true heroes, seeking neither fame nor fortune. They work with those who have been discarded by society, those who have been rejected by their own families or maybe even never had a family in the first place.

While this story doesn’t feature explosions or aliens, it is nevertheless a story worthy of your attention. It does have villains. Some might even say it has monsters, who are the all more terrifying because they are real.

I’ve worked in a group home like this in the past. I served a role very similar to the staff in this movie. Not as a trained counselor or therapist, but someone there to spend positive time with the kids and be sure they are safe. My experiences were similar to those depicted in the movie, although not as severe. In fact, the moments that resonated most with me were the quieter moments, the conversations where you try to convince someone to do their homework or get out of bed.

There were also the conversations I still remember clearly today, the ones where the kids were ready to give up, where they saw no way out. I can remember the pain in a young boy’s voice as he opened up about being abandoned and how alone he felt. I remember the desperate attempts to connect from one girl who craved positive attention of any kind. I remember the physical destruction from growing young men who struggled to cope with the collision of their situation and the anger of adolescence.

Short Term 12 demonstrates all of this and more without a false note. We are so quick to identify teachers and veterans as heroes in society (even if we’re not willing to actually support them with adequate resources). However, it’s important to remember that there are other heroes, too. Some of them are young people barely holding it together themselves, but who get up every day and try to connect with those who make it almost impossible no matter how desperately they desire or need it. They are every bit as worthy of appreciation and respect as teachers, veterans, firefighters, and police.

You can watch Short Term 12 on Netflix now. It’s terrific and you should give it a chance even if you have to imagine the superhero costumes.

Music is kicking ass in 2015!

Sleater-Kinney

I found a lot of music to like in 2013. In fact, I found so much good music, I was able to put together a great top 10 list, with several honorable mentions. 2014, however, was not a good music year. That’s not to say there wasn’t some good stuff but at the end of the year, very little stood out to me as music I’d be listening to much after the new year. I loved the Future Islands album and I liked Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas a lot, but that was about it.

Enter 2015, which kicked open the doors in January and has proceeded to continue wrecking the place with a vengeance ever since. I don’t see how we can possibly keep up this pace, but I’m willing to ride it as long as it lasts. Here are just a few of the very early releases this year that are already better than almost anything we saw in 2014:

Sleater-Kinney: No Cities To Love

Oh my, now THIS is how you start a kick-ass year in music. After a seven-year hiatus, Sleater-Kinney has returned with a terrific album that’s about as accessible as it can be while still melting your face off. As my wife said when I played this recently for the thousandth time already: “Wow, they really play loud, don’t they?” Yes, they do.


JD McPherson: Let The Good Times Roll

This one is quickly becoming one of my most-listened to albums of the year. It sounds like music you’ve known forever. It has a very warm sound; perfect.


Father John Misty: I Love You, Honeybear


Natalie Prass

I’m not usually much of a country music fan, but this is really great. Admittedly, I don’t like every song, but some of the songs here are as good as anything I’ve heard in a long time.


Viet Cong


From The Vaults:

Don’t forget about terrific music being re-issued. 2015 has already seen two incredibly important, vibrant releases. The Staples Singers album is particularly timely right now while the Lead Belly recordings are amazing at any time. Both are so much fun to listen to, in addition to being important in a historical context.

The Staples Singers: Freedom Highway Complete – Recorded Live at Chicago’s New Nazareth Church


Lead Belly: The Smithsonian Folkways Collection


This is the music landscape for 2015 so far and we’re barely into March. If we keep up this pace with this quality, this will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest years in music in a long time. I’m not sure we can maintain this pace but I’m willing to see how long it lasts. Anything I’ve missed so far that is required listening for you?