Look, mister, there’s… two kinds of dumb, uh… guy that gets naked and runs out in the snow and barks at the moon, and, uh, guy who does the same thing in my living room. First one don’t matter, the second one you’re kinda forced to deal with.
No question, Mike Pence and the state legislators who voted for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) are the second kind of dumb. In my previous post, I laid out my belief about why this law was passed. Here, I’ll discuss why this law is just so stupid, unnecessary, and hurtful to everyone.
RFRA is stupid.
Republicans regularly paint themselves as the party of the job creators and of small government. Well, is this law helping or hurting job creation? Our state is losing millions of dollars in potential conventions, sporting events, business travel, and other opportunities. The damage to the hospitality industry in Indianapolis won’t be known possibly for years. It’s not irreparable (I hope), but it is an incredibly stupid self-inflicted wound that serves no real purpose.
As for Indiana Republicans’ small-government mantra, it was only a few weeks ago that Governor Pence tried to develop his own state-run news service before being shamed into abandoning it shortly after it was announced. The RFRA debacle is just another misstep for a party that continues to shoot itself in the foot.
If you truly believe in small government, there should be a compelling reason to pass a new law. After all, it only makes sense that passing unnecessary laws would not be consistent with a small-government philosophy.
Yes or no: Is there a compelling reason for RFRA?
No. (See what I did there?)
Why do I say there’s not a compelling reason for this law? Well…
RFRA is unnecessary.
This law is not seeking to address any actual, real-world problem. There are no cases in Indiana that lack a process to resolve disputes. With all the obsessive attention lavished on this law, I have yet to hear of a single case in Indiana that this law purports to address.
I do however, know of an instance very recently in Indianapolis where a company did in fact deny a gay couple service due to their religious objections. What happened?
The couple wanted to celebrate their love with a commitment ceremony in April. Mike called 111 Cakery downtown to order a cake.
“[The owner] said, ‘We don’t do that. If I can help you with anything else, but we don’t discriminate.’ That was the end of it,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”
“…We found someone that will do it for us so we’re going to focus on the good,” said Mike.
This is how Hoosiers often solve our problems. Our goal is not to bend others to our will through sheer force but to believe in the goodness of each other and trust that those who don’t exhibit these qualities won’t be around long. (Indeed, 111 Cakery is no longer in business, although the owners stress their closing is unrelated to this incident.)
As I said, this law is unnecessary. But when a law like this is passed, people no longer default to their more informal ‘live and let live’ agreements. Some feel emboldened to put their new-found ‘religious freedom’ to the test just to prove they can. These disputes now become a battle of wills instead of a burden of conscience. It becomes a question of whether or not you can discriminate instead of whether or not you should discriminate.
That means lawyers and at that point we all lose. Stupid and unnecessary (or at least it has been unnecessary to this point in history).
And that brings us to this…
RFRA is hurtful to everyone.
Most Hoosiers got along just fine before this, relatively speaking. Now, we have been forced to choose sides. As proud citizens of Indiana, we are left to explain why, if we are not intolerant people, we choose representatives who pass legislation like this.
Good people who have sincere, thoughtful objections to homosexuality have been painted as uncaring, hateful bigots. Communities that have long accepted the LGBT community as their own have been forced to explicitly proclaim they are not intolerant. They feel the need to do so to avoid being caught up in the maelstrom caused by legislators who insist on fighting culture wars at the government level instead of helping our state’s economy and letting the culture address its issues privately, individually.
Our state legislators have accomplished a rare feat. They have somehow managed to piss off nearly everyone in the country (from all sides), potentially lose millions of dollars in business, divide Hoosiers against each other, and gravely damage the meaning of ‘Hoosier Hospitality.’
And for what? To reassert something that was never an issue in the first place? To remind the LGBT community that some will always see them as second-class citizens? Oh, right. None of this is about discrimination. Except it is. The legislature was warned about this poorly written law by the legal community but they pushed it through anyway.
These legislators are the second kind of dumb and now we’re forced to deal with them. I can’t wait for Election Day.