No Winners in the Indiana Issue

Everyone came out winners in the state of Indiana’s enactment of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, right? The state’s lawmakers got their law and the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) group got its protectional amendment. Well, not exactly. The fight was pretty ugly along the way with wagon loads of hyperbole and more than a shovelful of hypocrisy, and potentially ugly backlash.

From one view the RFRA was a reaction to instances, not in Indiana, where photographers and bakers and florist were legally required, by providing on site services, to take part in gay marriages, actions against their religious beliefs. From another viewpoint, this act was considered to be an effort to legalize discrimination against gays. The RFRA, from one viewpoint, was similar to statutes in 19 other states and the federal government. Not so, replied the other side, because “similar” wasn’t the same and there weren’t protections to prohibit discrimination. And, so the drive to boycott the state even to the point of not boarding a plane that stopped there.

Indiana should have noticed the difference and, politically at least, should have protected themselves from the outset. That’s what all those teams of lawyers who pack the halls of legislatures are for. So, they had to go back to and provide amendments. But, in the meantime, the media was all over it like you know what. The old feeding frenzy began with the usual bullying, piling on, and exaggerations and “what ifs” about an issue in a state that hadn’t any “whats”.

The boycott screed sucked in sports organizations, politicians, and even business leaders. The governor of Connecticut agreed and the mayors of Seattle and San Francisco joined in. The CEO of Apple, Tim Cook, who is gay, was outraged. Such hypocrisy.

Apple does huge business in Russia an avowedly anti-gay country and it endorses and encourages business with Middle Eastern countries whose theocratic state leaders preach death to gays. I haven’t heard a word, either, from the mayors and governor I mentioned complaining about traveling to or dealing with any of those openly “death to gays” (and Christian and Jewish and often American) entities.

It all ended up in a focus on Indiana pizzeria owners who didn’t refuse to serve, but mentioned that they wouldn’t, on religious grounds, send pizza to a gay marriage. That statement drew hate mail and calls forcing them to shut down. It gave the distinct impression that there is a drive to shut down any small business that has a difference of opinion, whatever their basis. That final thrust brought donations of $800,000 to the business and a concern from people on the left that this was all going to be construed as a liberal war against small businesses.

It’s a showdown of for or against with no grey areas. Worse, it ignores the essence of the debate: individual liberty and freedom as opposed to institutional powers. Those rights include the right to live your life your way without overt institutional prohibition against individuals or groups. Religious people and others have the right not to be forced to act against their faith or beliefs or even prejudices. These paths often cross and a rational, lawful society deals with it.

Think about it. Lawyers don’t have to take on divorce cases, girls can go to girls schools and boys to boys schools, states don’t have to print every requested speciality license plate, bakers don’t have to print curse words on their cakes, newspapers and electronic media don’t have to publish “offensive” (whatever that means) material, individuals are free to oppose mixed marriages (yes, people of all races have mixed feelings about that), doctors don’t have to perform abortions, or preachers officiate at gay marriages, and, generally, except at the liberal universities, people can associate with whom they wish.

The civil rights laws deal with institutional discrimination. Generally speaking, once in interstate commerce, discrimination based on color, gender, perceived gender, religion, is prohibited. That goes for eating, housing, transportation, retail, employment. There are exceptions and exclusions usually centered around individual distinctions. These are usually adjudicated. Civil rights are extraordinarily important and must be protected, but so should individual rights.

Along the way to this, political correctness has reached such proportions that everyone seems to be apologizing for everything. Everyone is anxious to be injured, to have a cause to do something, not to be left out. I, too, can become a victim: black, white, grey, pink, brown, light brown, yellow, red people, people with deep voices, high voices, strange voices, big people, little people, skinny people, fat people, people with big feet, small feet, big eyes, small eyes, big noses, little noses, scars, tatoos, piercings, funny or different clothes, people of belief, no belief, some belief, unusual belief, people of all sexual mixtures or proclivities…

Oh, so much opportunity.


Somethin’ on My Mind is an opinion column written by Bill Northrop. It does not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gabber publishers, staff or advertisers.

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