Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)

The Impossible Successor

#PresidentRyan | ¿#WhatTheyVotedFor?

Republican U.S. vice presidential nominee Mike Pence speaks at a campaign rally, Oct. 22, 2016, in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

Amid everything else over the last week or so, we ought not forget this:

We’re left with an unsettling picture. Flynn told the transition team he’s the subject of an ongoing federal investigation, and either that information either reached Pence or it didn’t. If Pence was out of the loop, he was dangerously incompetent at his job. If Pence knew, and Flynn became National Security Advisor anyway, that’s worse.

Remember, as the turmoil surrounding Flynn grew more serious, the vice president said he was completely unaware of Flynn’s alleged misdeeds. In March, when Fox News asked Pence about Flynn having to register as a foreign agent, Pence said he was hearing the story for the first time.

Except, as Rachel has explained on the show, that’s literally unbelievable. Not only were there multiple news reports for months about Flynn’s foreign work, but Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) wrote to Pence’s transition team to make sure Team Trump was aware of this.

(Benen)

Because, quite frankly, it still cracks me up that once upon a time, when Rubio was fumbling for water, Paul was drowning in plagiarism, and Christie apparently had nothing to do with that bridge, we might have heard Mike Pence’s name whispered as the cyclical dark horse. The Indiana governor, by Republican accounts, was politically savvy and a dedicated conservative. And while others might disagree about the savvy, it seemed for naught when he signed a RFRA and failed to comprehend what happened next. Except, of course, his dramatic revitalization as Donald Trump’s vice presidential candidate, and then vice president. It was easy enough to joke that we might yet see a President Pence.

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One of Those Important Things

Ninamori eats a popsicle.  (Detail of FLCL episode 5, 'Brittle Bullet')

So this is how it goes: Ms. Thomas’ right to expression of conscience is at least as protected as the bigots demanding “religious freedom” in order to discriminate. Still, though, look at the outcome. Religious supremacism and the right to bully people? Apparently we need a Religious Freedom Restoration Act to protect supremacism as if it was equality. But, hey, being gay? Offensive. The idea of human rights for women? Offensive. These things, apparently, need to be suppressed. You know, as a matter of freedom and equality.

When 8th grader Sophie Thomas got her class picture this year, she was shocked to see that her t-shirt had been photoshopped. The actual shirt has one hand-lettered word on it: ‘Feminist.’ The picture shows her wearing a plain black shirt.

Sophie wasn’t about to take that lying down. She posted a picture on Instagram of herself in the t-shirt, along with this message:

“HELLO EVERYBODY! I UNDERSTAND THAT THIS PICTURE ISN’T GREAT, BUT THERE IS AN ISSUE AT HAND. I WORE A SHIRT WITH THE WORD “FEMINIST” ON IT. OUR SCHOOL TOOK A PICTURE OF OUR GRADE TO HANG UP IN THE SCHOOL. TODAY, I FOUND OUT THEY BLACKED OUT MY SHIRT. I WENT TO OUR PRINCIPAL AND SHE CLAIMED IT WAS “OFFENSIVE” AND SHE “DIDN’T WANT IT IN THE PHOTO”

THIS FRIDAY, APRIL 17TH 2015, IS THE DAY MY PROTEST TAKES PLACE. EVERYONE PARTICIPATING WILL BE WEARING A SHIRT WITH A PHRASE LIKE “I DESERVE FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION” OR “FEMINISM ISN’T OFFENSIVE” OR ANYTHING THAT YOU BELIEVE FITS! PLEASE MAKE A SHIRT AND JOIN US AND HELP TAKE CARE OF THIS ISSUE. PLEASE REPOST AND SPREAD EVERYWHERE USING THE HASHTAG #IDESERVEFREEDOMOFEXPRESSION THANK YOU!”

That certainly got people’s attention — not only among students in this little town of Batavia, Ohio, but also in the media- nationally and internationally.

(Montesano)

And as we are wont to say, things only go downhill from there.

But this is what it’s really about. Supremacism is not equality, and we really ought to reject any sort of community standard that would suggest otherwise.

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Image note: Eri Ninamori eats a popsicle. Details of frames from FLCL episode 5, “Brittle Bullet”.

Montesano, Deborah. “8th Grade Feminist Is The Winner In Dispute With Narrow-Minded School Officials”. Addicting Info. 17 April 2015.

When the GOP Turns Against ‘Job Creators’

Mike Huckabee, circa 2012.  (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“But let’s not miss the forest for the trees – since when do Republicans argue, in effect, ‘Let’s stop listening to private-sector business leaders’?”

Steve Benen

It’s a fair question. And it’s also an ugly, sticky mess Republicans have gotten themselves into.

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Benen, Steve. “The GOP finds itself at odds with ‘job creators'”. msnbc. 6 April 2015.

Not Exactly News

Most 2016 GOP hopefuls support original Indiana law.  (TRMS, 3 April 2015)

We should not be surprised that “most 2016 GOP hopefuls support original Indiana law”. Just, you know, remember it next year, when it’s actually important because one of them might actually last long enough to look like a real candidate.

Otherwise, of course they support the original discrimination law. I mean, really, you know?

Still, it’s a good segment, and Steve Kornacki examines the numbers: “half of GOP primary voters are religious conservatives”.

And, you know, they are Republicans, after all. Some of them probably actually believe in this sort of thing.

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3 April 2015. “GOP candidates back religious freedom policy”. The Rachel Maddow Show. msnbc. 3 April 2015.

Something Approaching Sanity in Georgia

The Seal of the State of Georgia.

As answers go, this counts:

Georgia’s “religious liberty” legislation succumbed to a quiet death on Thursday, but it will surely return in January just in time for election-year politicking.

(Bluestein)

Gov. Nathan Deal (R) advised supporters of the measure to follow the 1993 model in order to avoid unintended consequences. It is an interesting outlook:

“As close as a state can stay to the original federal language, the safer you are,” said Deal, who voted for the federal legislation while a member of Congress in the 1990s. “It has been interpreted in the courts, so by having that model you narrow some of the arguments about what it does or does not do.”

He called the anti-discrimination clause “the most important” addition.

“And that is a delicate thing to do,” he said. “There’s been so much hyperbole. It’s hard to identify what can you say without saying too much, what can you say without saying too little, and what will people read into either version.”

Another benefit from the bill’s failure, Deal said, is a year’s distance from the uproar over similar bills in Arkansas and Indiana, which led to threats of boycotts, travel bans and international criticism.

As Laura Clawson suggests:

That’s not exactly a strong “don’t discriminate because discrimination is bad” statement, but if the threat of lost business and reputation is what it takes to keep more states from passing laws allowing anti-gay discrimination in the name of religion, so be it.

Additionally, the tabling of this bill provides us an answer of sorts. It is important keep two points close at hand when watching these situations play out:

Unintended consequences: There is nothing “unintended” about it; this is not a matter of “hyperbole”. The whole point of these laws is to create a context in which this sort of discrimination is acceptable. Deal is saying what he must, and exactly nothing more.

This bill is even worse: While the situation in Indiana and its fallout in Arkansas has made the point pretty clearly about anti-gay discrimination, this was an especially awful bill, and here we might wonder about unintended consequences, because while the whole point is to empower discrimination, we also know that such zealotry does not often pause to consider the implications of its pursuits. More directly, even with the discrimination issue being resolved by force of basic sanity, this bill might well have implications in domestic violence and child abuse cases when the accused cites religion as part of the legal defense. And that part, well, apparently Nathan Deal is just fine with that.

And to think they’re going to try again next year.

Last month, Jay Michaelson wondered at the silence around the rest of the country:

Oddly, the most effective forces in killing Arizona’s “Turn The Gays Away” bill—corporations and the Chamber of Commerce—seem to be sitting this battle out. Maybe it’s because Arizona was bidding on a Super Bowl and Georgia isn’t. Or maybe it’s because no one is paying attention. But for whatever reason, the corporate silence is deafening ....

.... If big business, national media, and national LGBT organizations continue to sit on the sidelines, the bill’s fate may be a matter of vote-counting. The House bill had 59 cosponsors, out of 180 total members. But Graham pointed out that a pending non-discrimination bill has 78, including 19 Republicans. So it is up for grabs.

So here we find something of an answer. The business community just thrashed Indiana hard enough that Arkansas folded and Georgia balked. And as answers go, that counts.

We’ll see if anyone cares about the rest of it. A nondiscrimination clause? Sure. Are we going to do this again next year for a nonviolence clause? Or, you know, is that part not going to be important?

(Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn ....)

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Bluestein, Greg. “Nathan Deal’s advice for ‘religious liberty’ supporters next year”. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 3 April 2015.

Clawson, Laura. “Georgia watches Indiana and Arkansas, then lets discrimination bill die quietly”. Daily Kos. 3 April 2015.

Michaelson, Jay. “Georgia Bill Helps Wife Beaters”. The Daily Beast. 13 March 2015.

What Victory Will Mean

Detail of 'Tom the Dancing Bug' #1232, by Ruben Bolling, 2 April 2015, via Daily Kos Comics.And it’s Tom the Dancing Bug for the score. And the win, really.

No, seriously, just click the damn link.

Or the picture. That works, too.

And when you do, read. Understand. Get the point.

You know it’s the only way this can go.

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Bolling, Ruben. “Lo, in the land of Indiana …”. Tom the Dancing Bug. Daily Kos Comics. 2 April 2015.

What Folks in “Middle America” Call “Family Values”

Detail of FLCL episode 3, 'Marquis de Carabas'.

Okay, so, there is certainly a lot going in Indiana, but it seems worth checking in on this small point:

An Indiana pizzeria under fire for saying it would refuse to cater a gay wedding shut down on Wednesday after its owners said they received threatening messages.

However, a GoFundMe page set up for Memories Pizza in Walkerton has raised more than $40,000 in just six hours.

The pizzeria made national headlines this week when its owners called the business a “Christian establishment” and said the state’s contentious Religious Freedom Restoration Act would allow it to refuse to make pizzas for a hypothetical gay wedding.

That led to a flood of angry reviews on Yelp as well as the threatening messages.

“I don’t know if we will re-open, or if we can, if it’s safe to re-open,” co-owner Crystal O’Connor told TheBlaze, the news network run by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck. “We’re in hiding basically, staying in the house.”

The fundraiser was set up by Dana Loesch of TheBlaze, and Lawrence B. Jones III, a contributor to the network.

“Nobody should ever have to suffer or suffer alone for their faith, for standing up for Christian principles,” Loesch said on her broadcast.

(Mazza)

So you pick a fight on behalf of bigotry, and people send you money. This is the real face of “Middle America” and its “family values”.

Then again, this is Indiana, after all.

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Full Color Hatred

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 1 April 2015.“Governor Pence swears [Senate Enrolled Act 101] was not created to allow religious conservatives to discriminate against gays. Trouble is, this bill’s most fervent backers are notorious homophobic anti-gay activists. Sheer coincidence! State sanctioned discrimination needs to stay in the 1950s, where it belongs.”

Lalo Alcaraz

Ouch.

Certes, Indiana will resent so pointed a hit, but those who might protest the basic notion of such a comparison would find themselves enlightened by certain wisdom offered nearly forty-five years ago:

Huey P. Newton, co-founder of the Black Panthers.Whatever your personal opinions and your insecurities about homosexuality and the various liberation movements among homosexuals and women (and I speak of the homosexuals and women as oppressed groups), we should try to unite with them in a revolutionary fashion. I say “whatever your insecurities are” because as we very well know, sometimes our first instinct is to want to hit a homosexual in the mouth, and want a woman to be quiet. We want to hit a homosexual in the mouth because we are afraid that we might be homosexual; and we want to hit the women or shut her up because we are afraid that she might castrate us, or take the nuts that we might not have to start with.

We must gain security in ourselves and therefore have respect and feelings for all oppressed people. We must not use the racist attitude that the White racists use against our people because they are Black and poor. Many times the poorest White person is the most racist because he is afraid that he might lose something, or discover something that he does not have. So you’re some kind of a threat to him. This kind of psychology is in operation when we view oppressed people and we are angry with them because of their particular kind of behavior, or their particular kind of deviation from the established norm.

Remember, we have not established a revolutionary value system; we are only in the process of establishing it. I do not remember our ever constituting any value that said that a revolutionary must say offensive things towards homosexuals, or that a revolutionary should make sure that women do not speak out about their own particular kind of oppression. As a matter of fact, it is just the opposite: we say that we recognize the women’s right to be free. We have not said much about the homosexual at all, but we must relate to the homosexual movement because it is a real thing. And I know through reading, and through my life experience and observations that homosexuals are not given freedom and liberty by anyone in the society. They might be the most oppresed people in the society.

And what made them homosexual? Perhaps it’s a phenomenon that I don’t understand entirely. Some people say that it is the decadence of capitalism. I don’t know if that is the case; I rather doubt it. But whatever the case is, we know that homosexuality is a fact that exists, and we must understand it in its purest form: that is, a person should have the freedom to use his body in whatever way he wants.

That is not endorsing things in homosexuality that we wouldn’t view as revolutionary. But there is nothing to say that a homosexual cannot also be a revolutionary. And maybe I’m now injecting some of my prejudice by saying that “even a homosexual can be a revolutionary.” Quite the contrary, maybe a homosexual could be the most revolutionary.

Huey Newton

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Alcaraz, Lalo. “Indiana, coloreds not served”. Daily Kos Comics. 1 April 2015.

Newton, Huey. “The Women’s Liberation and Gay Liberation Movements”. 15 August 2015.

The Shadow over Indiana

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'.  Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March.  (Image credit: FOX News)

“Indiana businesses can now discriminate against gay people because of the ACA’s contraception policy?”

Steve Benen

Perhaps it seems an odd question, but there is a reason, after all:

The Republican governor, and possible presidential candidate, published a Wall Street Journal op-ed overnight in which Pence outlined his plan to address businesses that exploit his new law to discriminate against gay consumers: “If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore.”msnbc

As Rachel joked on the show last night, “So, if you were worried that gay people might be refused service by a business in Indiana now, don’t worry. That could never happen because the state has decided to wield the grave threat of depriving businesses of Mike Pence’s personal patronage.”

In the same piece, the Hoosier State governor suggested this whole mess can be traced back to Obamacare.

Many states have enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Acts] of their own … but Indiana never passed such a law. Then in 2010 came the Affordable Care Act, which renewed concerns about government infringement on deeply held religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby and the University of Notre Dame both filed lawsuits challenging provisions that required the institutions to offer certain types of insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.

Last year the Supreme Court upheld religious liberty in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, based on the federal RFRA. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, the need for a RFRA at the state level became more important, as the federal law does not apply to states. To ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year the General Assembly enshrined these principles in Indiana law. I fully supported that action.

Hmm. Indiana businesses can now discriminate against gay people because of the ACA’s contraception policy?

This apparently wasn’t persuasive, either, leading Pence to announce this morning his support for a legislative “fix.”

The question persists: How did Pence not see this coming?

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Inevitable (¡Phleorg! Mix)

Detail of framegrab from FLCL episode 2, 'Firestarter'.

“It has nothing to do with God; I don’t have the balls to describe a god to anybody.”

Bill Levin

File under … um … you know … er … ah … dude, where’s the filing cabinet, again?

Indiana’s new “religious freedom” law has been widely criticized and condemned by many, but an innovative marijuana activist in the state is using the bill’s legal protections as a means to set up a new religious sect — the First Church of Cannabis, where members would aim to use marijuana freely as a sacrament in a state where the substance remains banned.

“It’s a new religion for people who happen to live in our day and age,” Bill Levin, the church’s founder, told The Huffington Post in an interview Monday. “All these old religions, guys walking across the desert without Dr. Scholls inserts, drinking wine out of goat bladders, no compass, speaking Latin and Hebrew — I cannot relate to that shit. I drive by Burger Kings, bars and corn fields. I cannot relate to an antique magic book.”

Just say 'No' to the War on Drugs.It’s, uh … you know, like somebody would have thought of it already, you know, like, in yo’ mama’s piehole! … I mean, er, right.

Sorry.

Couldn’t fuckin’ see that one comin’, eh?

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Ferner, Matt. “Church Of Marijuana Gets Boost From Indiana’s Anti-Gay ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill”. The Huffington Post. 30 March 2015.