By Doug Porter
For a while there I thought Republicans of the sane persuasion (a vanishing species) might prevail on matters relating to the legal status of gay and transgender people. One state after another was giving up on fighting same-sex marriage.
What with “New Republicans” like Carl DeMaio emerging and the Log Cabin GOP caucus gaining legitimacy, I figured the party brass would leave it the hardcore to draw inspiration from the Obama Derangement Syndrome for the next year or so..
Then along came Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, signing a bill shepherded by lobbyists representing anti-gay rights organizations conflating freedom of religion with the right to discriminate. Voila! Now the Guns and God wing of the party has an issue to rally behind.
Despite what conservative apologists are saying, Indiana’s newly-enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is more narrowly focused than nearly all similarly named legislation. Even cranky ol’ Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer knew enough to veto a cloned version of this bill.
People tried to warn the Indiana Governor about this bill. On February 27th, thirty legal scholars sent the governor a letter pointing out the differences between Indiana’s SB101 and the 1993 federal law.
The definition of “person” under the proposed RFRA differs substantially from that contained in the federal RFRA, affording standing to assert religious liberty rights to a much broader class of entities than that currently recognized by federal law.
As Garrett Epps at the Atlantic explains:
“First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.”
“The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” …the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. “
Lest there be any doubt as to the intent of the Indiana RFRA sponsors, consider this celebratory language from the anti-gay rights group, Advance America:
Churches, Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages and those who support government recognition and approval of gender identity (men who dress as women). SB 101 will help provide the protection!
Then there’s the picture taken at the private signing ceremony:
The Indiana Firestorm
Aside from the celebration of the religious righties, there was/is an overwhelmingly negative reaction. Apple CEO Tim Cook, the NCAA and even Eli Lily (an economic powerhouse in the state) were among those denouncing Indiana’s SB101.
Governor Pence was dispatched to the Sunday morning talk show circuit to explain how this hubbub was really just some liberal media hype.
From the story at UT-San Diego:
Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Sunday defended the religious freedom bill that he signed last week, saying the growing outrage over the legislation stems from “a tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding.”
Critics of the new law say it gives businesses a license to discriminate against gays by citing religious views as a reason to deny them service. They have called for a boycott of the NCAA’s Final Four basketball tournament in Indianapolis as a response to the measure.
Asked on ABC’s “This Week” about whether businesses could refuse service to gay people under the new law, Pence repeatedly said the question was beside the point.
“This isn’t about disputes between individuals,” he said. “It’s about government overreach, and I’m proud that Indiana stepped forward, and I’m working hard to clarify this.”
Here’s an excellent montage of Gov. Pence refusing to answer a “yes or no” question about whether the bill allows discrimination against gay people: (h//t Daily Kos)
Climate Change as a Freedom of Religion Issue
This invocation of religion is apparently becoming a trend.
Having worn out the “I’m Not a Scientist” excuse for refusing to respond to questions about climate change, Republicans are now waving the bible, as Rebecca Leber at New Republic explains:
The climate-as-a-religion accusation is hardly a new invention. It continues to cycle in and out of political rhetoric. The late sci-fi writer Michael Crichton (Senator James Inhofe’s favorite climate change expert) elevated it in a 2003 speech the Wall Street Journal reprinted on March 15. He declared that “one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism.” Inhofe, who uses the Bible to refute climate change science, repeated these words in 2005 remarks on the Senate floor. He said, “Put simply, man-induced global warming is an article of religious faith.” Countless others have picked it up since then.
Conservatives have long tried to discredit the scientific consensus on climate change by arguing, for instance, that there’s a global warming “hiatus” and by attacking climate scientists. But they’re increasingly aware that they can’t win a debate in the realm of science. So rather than try to discredit the scientific consensus, they’re reframing a discussion about hard data into one of faith—just as they’ve done in their war on evolution. If climate change is merely a faith—something one choose to “believe” in—then climate change deniers can claim they are the ones motivated by reason.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy gave a blunt answer to Republicans arguing this at a congressional hearing earlier in March. “Climate change is not a religion,” she said. “It is not a belief system. It’s a science fact.” Taking action to mitigate and adapt to global warming isn’t a faith-based task. It is a response to reality. Obama is responding to an issue that affects the businesses, the weather, infrastructure, agriculture, insurance market, GDP, medical care, and more. This isn’t about his personal “belief” about coal. Republicans can disagree with Democrats about the best solutions to pursue, but they can’t reasonably argue that not responding at all is an option.
Fiorina: Do Gov’t Employees Watch Porn All Day Long?
Failed Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina is being touted as the GOP answer to the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign in some quarters.
Fiorina let it be known this weekend on Fox News that there was a better than 90% chance she’ll be a candidate.
From Raw Story:
Fiorina said that she had two prong plan for boosting the economy by reforming the federal government.
“One, zero-based budgeting so we actually know where money is being spent, and we’re talking about the whole budget and not just the rate of increase,” she remarked. “And two, pay for performance in our civil service.”
“We have — how many Inspector General reports do we need to read that say, you know, you can watch porn all day long and get paid exactly the same way as somebody who’s trying to do their job?”
Fighting Terror with Flipper and Friends
The Los Angeles Times has an article introducing us to Puanani, a nearly 8 foot long bottlenose dolphin and Kingfish, an 11 foot long underwater drone (UUV).
The U.S. has submarines, advanced sonar aboard surface ships and high-tech scanning capability aboard aircraft — as well as listening devices beneath the waves and an untold number of technological and intelligence-gathering assets that are classified.
In San Diego, with a budget of $28 million a year, the Navy has 90 dolphins and 50 California sea lions in a program run by the Space and Naval Warfare System Pacific. Nearly every day the animals train in San Diego Bay or in the ocean beyond Point Loma. There are also several UUVs.
The dolphins and the sea lions, using their keen eyesight and “biological sonar,” are expert at finding mines.
Passover Protest Set for Mission Valley Hilton
The Interfaith Center for Worker Justice has announced a “Holy Week Bitter Herbs Vigil and Delegation” at the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel on Wednesday, April 1st (Noon-1:30pm) in support of workers at the facility.
This promises to be a unique event:
Using meaningful symbolism from the Passover tradition, we will lift up the plight of courageous Double Tree hotel workers who have entered into a campaign for just wages, benefits and a voice in the job. In the spirit of our Holy Week traditions, we will present bitter herbs to management.
According to the ICWJ Facebook page:
These workers just went public to their management asking for better wages and a voice of the job. The working conditions are like that of a sweat shop and at this time, they are at great risk of retaliation and intimidation. Our timing is critical to demonstrate to management that the faith community is closely watching how they respond to their workers’ pleas for justice.
San Diego’s Overhead Light Brigade Strikes at Indyfest
On This Day: 1930 – 35,000 unemployed march in New York’s Union Square. Police beat many demonstrators, injuring 100. 1950 – President Truman denounced Senator Joe McCarthy as a saboteur of U.S. foreign policy. 1967 – The cover of the Beatles’ “Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was staged and photographed.
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