Sunday, March 29, 2015

Do the critics of Indiana Gov. Pence have no shame?

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence did a thing that fewer and fewer Republicans seem willing to do any more: stand tough on a traditional values issue in the face of opposition. Last week he defied the increasingly aggressive Tolerance Police who mis-characterized and flat out lied about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act he signed into law.

The new law is almost identical with laws in other states, including Kentucky that protect people's First Amendment religious freedoms against violation by people, such as the ACLU, who while they are absolutists on the free speech part of the First Amendment are dubious about the freedom of religious exercise part.

It is ironic that the ACLU, which now is in favor of the First Amendment only so long as it doesn't get in the way of gay rights groups forcibly imposing their beliefs on other people, actually supported the same legislation when it passed the U. S. Congress in 1993 (called "RFRA").

The bill reimposes the "strict scrutiny" rule (also called the "Sherbert Test") which basically requires government to have a darn good reason to violate someone's freedom of religion rights. This was the rule in place until the Supreme Court's Employment Division v. Smith decision in 1990, which lowered the standard.

Congress passed its 1993 RFRA to reimpose the higher standard, although the Court came back and said that it only applied to federal government cases. Since then, 19 other states have reimposed the higher standard in their own states.

Does it seems strange to anyone that the very people who are always talking about the high wall between church and state don't seem to have any problems with the state breaching that wall in order to harass religious people?

In one of the funniest moments in the debate over the same bill here in Kentucky two years ago, the ACLU, after having just argued in favor of the right of Amish buggy riders to use some other safety sign than the orange triangle on the basis of this strict scrutiny standard, they turned right around and argued against the Kentucky Religious Freedom Act that proposed to bring back that standard!

The ACLU lost that debate in spectacular fashion: with the legislature passing it and then overriding the Governor Steve Beshear's veto in several bi-partisan votes.

But what was so instructive is what the ACLU and groups such as the Fairness Alliance said would happen if the bill passed: Landlords would turn away gay couples, women would lose the right to birth control, gay rights ordinances would be invalidated, and abusive priests would be able to elude legal investigation.

In one legislative hearing, the ACLU's Derek Selznick claimed that the law would allow churchgoers to challenge parking tickets given during church services. (Never mind the fact that parking is not even monitored on Sundays).

So let's get one thing clear: None of these things has happened. Not a single, solitary one. They were wrong.

These things never happened when the courts used this test before 1990, they never happened after it was reimposed at the federal level in 1993, and they haven't happened in any of the states that have passed such laws.

But instead of fessing up to their blatant distortion of such religious freedom laws, these groups have simply amped up their dishonest rhetoric, charging Pence with signing a law that will allow businesses to refuse service to gays.

What they mean of course, is that the law might not allow gay organizations to force religious business owners to force their social agenda down the throats of other peopel as they are now trying to do with a T-shirt business in Lexington, KY, where they are trying to force a Christian business owner to print T-shirts for a gay pride parade.

Well, here's for the hope that the law does apply to theses cases. Just last year, the Supreme Court recognized that Hobby Lobby did not have to comply with Obamacare's contraceptive mandate. Whether state courts will apply Religious Freedom Acts in the same way is not certain, but let's hope they do.

Religious business owners don't deserve to be bullied by people who seem to want to force everyone else to agree with them.

As soon as Pence signed the law, numerous groups began publicly hating on Indiana—and on religious freedom, threatening to boycott the state for passing the law. Pence should tell them all to take their hatred and their lies somewhere else and let Indiana alone.


Anonymous said...

its ALMOST like all the other laws, which means it is not the same. Small words can make big differences, something you probably know and Pence definitely knows.

Anonymous said...

Boycotts and lawsuits work both ways. I'm going to apply for Chris Hartmann's job and if they don't hire me I'll sue for them to prove that I didn't get the job because I'm straight. PS I have gay friends and relatives and the best boss I ever had was (still is) gay.