Indiana: Jim Crowing Religious Freedom?

Indiana: the place where some Christians denounce gayness, all in the name of Jesus, a guy who hung out with twelve dudes all the time.

Indiana: the place where some Christians denounce gayness, all in the name of Jesus, a guy who hung out with twelve dudes all of the time.

What in tarnation is happening to America? It seems like everywhere you look, the gays are taking over, demanding to be treated like human beings instead of being the go-to pariahs for self-righteous, sin-selective, persecution-complex-racked, judgmental neo-Pharisees. The nerve. Take Indiana, for example, where Republican Governor Mike Pence’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act — a form of legislative red meat for holier-than-thou moral crusaders passed with the express intention to not discriminate against the LGBT community — hasn’t gone over as smoothly as the Governor expected.

Immediately after Pence signed the act in a closed-door private photo session with a bunch of pious pipers whose moral convictions were such that they weren’t publicly named (because nothing shady has ever involved clergy behind closed doors), the Indianapolis Star made a front-page call for the bill’s repeal. Moreover, critics as diverse as the NCAA and Walmart criticized the bill. When you’ve managed to earn the ire of two of the most corrupt organizations in America, you know you’ve done something wrong. In an effort to assuage critics that the Religious Freedom Bill wasn’t intended to allow Indiana businesses to discriminate against gay people, Pence approved a “fix” to the bill to protect Indiana’s LGBT community.

But this fix didn’t stop the ongoing skirmishes in America’s never-ending culture war. For example, when a Hoosier Christian pizza shop called Memories Pizza vowed to resist the rainbow tide by refusing to make gay pizzas, some idiots threatened them on the internet (because that’s how we resolve things now), and owners Crystal O’Conner and her father Kevin closed the shop. But all is well, because thanks to a guy on Glenn Beck’s Blaze network who set up a GoFundMe campaign, the pizza shop raised nearly a million bucks. In a similar but reversed kerfuffle, the owners of Cut the Cake bakery in Longwood, Florida refused a nutty ex-pastor’s demand that they make an anti-gay wedding cake. As a result, they also received threats (because that’s how we resolve things now). Cut the Cake’s troubles inspired their own GoFundMe campaign, which has raised a little over $13,000 (in contrast to Memories Pizza’s near-million), proving that hatin’ on the gays is still a more bankable stance.

And by the way, I’m sure that Indiana’s Christian business folk are also going out of their way to refuse services to other sinners, such as divorced people, fornicators, gluttons, shellfish lovers, the covetous, and others frowned upon by God. I’m sure they’re doing this. Am I right? Anyone? Bueller!

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signs the Religious Freedom Restoriation Act as a bunch of folks who are literally holier-than-thou look on.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signs the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as a bunch of folks who are literally holier-than-thou look on.

Leave it to Americans to debate basic issues of human rights through the vehicle of baked goods, but behind all of this craziness lies the very significant issue of who gets to define equality in public settings and who gets to label other Americans as second-class citizens. This struggle isn’t new; in fact, others, such as Apple CEO Tim Cook, have already compared the Indiana Religious Freedom law to Jim Crow laws of the past. This is a bold, and partially off base, comparison. Jim Crow constituted a series of racially based discriminatory laws that dominated the southern U.S. from the late-nineteenth century until roughly the Civil Rights Era of the 1960s. These laws relegated blacks to second-class citizenship via the dubious notion of “separate but equal.” Aside from disenfranchising black voters through poll taxes, literacy tests, and other shady schemes, Jim Crow laws segregated southern society according to race by mandating “whites only” and “negro” or “colored only” facilities.

After Tim Cook’s comments, a predictable host of conservative bobble-heads called foul, pointing out that Indiana’s law in no way equates to state-mandated racial segregation. National Review scribbler Rich Lowry, for example, mocked the idea that Indiana businesses are “anxiously awaiting for the opportunity to discriminate on avowed religious grounds” the first gay person they see. Moreover, Lowry’s colleague Jonah Goldberg similarly pushed back against Jim Crow comparisons and wondered, “why a gay couple would want a photographer who is morally opposed to their wedding to snap pictures of it.” The latter is a fair enough point, but it also misses the point. Lowry, Goldberg, and other critics are overlooking the bigger issue at hand with regards to “Religious Freedom” and homosexuality in Indiana. Yes, the state’s law is not the same as Jim Crow in a legal sense, but it does operate under the same spirit as Jim Crow laws by granting legitimacy to those who would invoke dubious celestial authority to publicly brand other Americans as second-class citizens.

Indeed, segregationists of the past often cited the will of God and the right to maintain their religious freedom by discriminating against allegedly “inferior” blacks. Consider the arch-segregationist and long-time U.S. senator from Mississippi, Theodore G. Bilbo. This guy was so unabashedly racist that he made the Ku Klux Klan look like a multicultural Boy Scout troop. In 1946, Bilbo published a book called Take Your Choice: Separation or Mongrelization, in which he presented a collection of comically deranged and historically illiterate defences of racial segregation.

For Bilbo, it wasn’t enough that blacks had certain rights granted to them. “They want all racial barriers abolished throughout the nation,” he wrote, and this meant the right to associate freely with whites and to receive services at white-owned businesses — in other words, blacks wanted full equality. Bilbo scoffed at black religious leaders who invoked Christianity to justify racial equality. “Anyone who would today interpret God’s Divine word and His teachings in such a manner as to destroy the blood of the race which created this Nation is a traitor to his religion, to his country, and to his race,” Bilbo wrote. In other words, he warned that racial equality threatened the Christian morals on which the U.S. was founded, and that equality-obsessed agitators were trying to destroy America. Sound familiar, Indiana?

An serious aversion to full equality once meant that certain people had to use certain facilities, because freedom.

A serious aversion to full equality once meant that certain people had to use certain facilities, because freedom.

Like Bilbo, other infamous American segregationists used Christianity to defend “Separate but Equal.” George Wallace — the Alabama Governor who ran as a Third Party presidential candidate in 1968 under an explicitly segregationist platform — invoked God in his notorious “Segregation Now, Segregation Forever” speech. Wallace railed against “psuedo-liberal spokesmen” who “play at being God” by demanding government-mandated integration. He claimed that liberals ignored “the spiritual responsibility of preserving freedom” in America. “Our founding fathers recognized those…spiritual responsibilities,” Wallace stated, “but the strong, simple faith and sane reasoning of our founding fathers has long since been forgotten” by “the so-called ‘progressives'” who failed to see how the Constitution and the Ten Commandments were nearly one-in-the-same. In other words, Wallace warned that elitist, Big Government liberals eschewed America’s allegedly Christian foundations in order to enforce mandated equality. Sound familiar, Indiana?

Bilbo and Wallace are merely two famous examples drawn from a much larger motley crew of Bible-thumping segregationists who fought a long battle to preserve Jim Crow laws and beat back attempts to expand equal rights to minority populations. Thus, while laws like Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act aren’t the same as Jim Crow laws, they are nonetheless Jim Crow’s spiritual heirs. Proponents of such laws make no attempt to hide their animosity towards full equality for LGBT Americans, and they know damn well that “Religious Freedom” laws are intended to stem the tide of full equality.

Claiming the right to bake “straights only” wedding cakes may seem trivial to those who tout “traditional values,” but those people are treading the same legal ground that once mandated things like “colored only” drinking fountains. After all, drinking fountains are no big deal, right? Why don’t those uppity negroes just go to a separate fountain and be happy with the bone that white Americans have tossed to them? And why don’t those sin-sprouting queer-o-sexuals just go to a separate baker, and be happy with the bone that “traditional” Americans have tossed to them? The issue here isn’t cakes or fountains, it’s whether or not one group of Americans have the right to make their fellow citizens feel “less than” at the most fundamental level. The state of Indiana ought to know better, and so should the rest of America.

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  1. I am from Southern Indiana. Born and raised here. The fact that you are trying to indoctrinate your readers into believing that everyone from Indiana hates or discriminates against gays only proves that you know nothing of our great state. The majority of people here are not homophobes or racists. You sir speak about how you think we are as a people all while making refrence to us being rednecks hillbillies and uneducated. You and people like you are the problem in this country. You think that your opinions and views are the only ones that matter and that they are the correct way to view people. I’m sorry but you are wrong. The debate of personal opinion is an impossible task. Each and every person on this planet is a unique individual with unique beliefs and opinions. No two are the same and as such you can not catagorize people into groups based on opinion and beliefs. I am absolutely not racist and I do not hate the LGBT community. I do not believe that homosexuality is correct in nature but I also believe that all people have the right to freedom of choice. Freedom of choice in religion, sexual preferences, or gender. Although I believe that nature created two sexual orientations for a reason. Regardless how you feel you were either born a male or born a female except some rare cases. That being said if a man wants to wear dresses and high heels that is his preference. If a woman wants to cut her hair off and wear blue jeans and work boots then that is her preference. If you are to have a sex change then the only thing that you did is change the human genitals. The person like it or not is still the same sex as they were born as. The DNA and chemical makeup of a man and woman are different. There is nothing you can do to change that. Although if it makes you a happier person changing all this stuff about you then that is your personal opinion or belief. No matter what people have to start doing what makes them happier and stop worrying about everyone else’s opinions about them. They are not in your skin and they do not can not and never will be able to feel what another person feels. Everyone has something that they do not like about theirselves. The bad thing is that with social media and the Internet today people have an overwhelming desire to get on there and post about themselves looking for some one else to positively reinforce that opinion. Although not everyone thinks as they do so they get an undesired feedback from someone that is not happy with themselves and think that being mean and hurtful to someone else will make them happier. If you put yourself out there expecting all good results then you are setting yourself up for failure. All we can do is what we think is best for us in our lives. What makes us happy and stop looking for acceptance. The only person that you should be worried about having a good opinion of you is you. If you are not happy with yourself then there are a whole list of things that people will do to themselves to try and counteract that feeling. This usually ends with you regretting what you have done to yourself and becoming even more unhappy with yourself. The world was not meant to be so connected that we forget that life is actually happening. It is your choices and opinion of yourself that matters. All the rest of the world’s opinions are just a bonus if they make us feel good or not worth wasting time over if they dont. Moral of my story is we are all here, we didn’t ask to be, so we make life as happy or sad as we want. Me I choose happiness. No one can ever take that from me because I chose it for myself. Stop spreading division. Your article is a one sided opinion that is doing nothing to help the world. There are better ways to reach people. Unless you are one of the people that is unhappy with yourself so you feel the need to put your unbiased opinion out there to further divide people. In that case you are a plague on the world. Spreading hate and too blinded by your self-righteous opinions to see that you are doing more harm then good. The goal for humanity is world peace. How are we ever going to get there if we just keep inciting hate and division. I hope to one day see an America that has finally put it’s in differences aside, created peace and together try to convince the rest of the world to do the same. Then and only then will we be able to enter the next phase in existence. Universal travel.

    • Nowhere in this piece do I claim that “everyone from Indiana hates or discriminates against gays.” In fact, I focus squarely on those people who push discriminatory policies, and since the law being discussed was passed in Indiana, the people I write about happen to be from Indiana. As for people holding different views from myself: others are fully entitled to their opinions, but if your opinions are standard redneck hillbilly bullshit, then I’m fully entitled to call you out for said opinions.

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