Saturday, March 28, 2015

RFRA Fallout Stronger Than Expected

The passage of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has continued ever since Governor Mike Pence signed it into law. Proponents continue to push that is is modeled after the federal and previous states RFRAs but that goes up against reality, where an analyses shows there are three areas where Indiana's RFRA is significantly different.

The review from the business and political community has been mixed. A State Senator referred to Eric Miller, Republican activist and founder of the socially conservative group Advance America, as some misinformed activist with an opinion "from the right". But that misinformed activist somehow got a spot standing behind Governor Pence as the law was being signed. Miller took to his group's website to brag that the law will in part prohibit "a man [from using] the women's restroom".

Despite the overwhelming majorities that this law passed by, only a handful of state legislatures have taken to social media to defend this law. And none of the well paid lobbyists and activists are really doing themselves any favors.

In an column from The Indianapolis Star's Tim Swarens, Swarens says that based on his conversation with Pence, Pence's team didn't see any of the backlash coming. Some companies, such as GenCon, have walked back their economic threats in recent days. Others, such as Angie's List, have stepped up their game and called off a headquarters expansion that was receiving assistance from the State of Indiana. Pence also conversed with the Salesforce CEO who recently suspended all employee travel to Indiana but admitted that it did not change the policy.

Just like the JustIN boondoggle, Pence seems to have surrounded himself by a bunch of Yes-Men that have created a sort of tunnel vision where Planet Pence can do no wrong and that it is really only a problem with messaging.

How can a former radio host, who was well liked by Beltway media for how well they were treated by him and his staff, have so many scandals and fumbles that almost all seem completely self inflicted?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Religion and Freedom: What's the Fuss?

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) has been in the news lately. The legislation, which proponents say is modeled on the federal RFRA and the 20+ states that have passed similar laws, has sailed through the Indiana General Assembly and will soon be on Governor Mike Pence's desk for him to sign, veto, or do nothing (where it automatically becomes law).

Proponents say that RFRA in Indiana is necessary so that religious organizations and organizations and businesses owned and operated by people of faith won't be forced to do something against their truly held tenants. Pundits have criticized the opponents of RFRA saying that the stories of hardship are exaggerated.

Just like the marriage amendment that was debated last year, there is a whole host of businesses and organizations that have come out against RFRA. The latest is Gen Con, who produced an open letter to Governor Pence saying that signing this into law may cause them to reconsider holding the annual convention in Indianapolis. Several faith based organizations have protested against it as well.

I think the debate surrounding RFRA (which I'm against because I think it does nothing in terms of legislation or restoring rights) is missing one thing from the proponents.

To their credit, proponents of RFRA have been very careful to not use examples of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. They've been using religious universities that can still obtain state and federal grants and other situations.

The question that I haven't heard proponents answer is that RFRA has been a known quantity on the federal and state level for around two decades. Why is this law necessary now when it hasn't been in the previously several years? Why now in the first legislative session after same-sex marriage is legal in Indiana?

To me, that is a concern that this specific proposal has something more sinister inside.