One of the more-disappointing parts of Indiana's recent RFRA episode was the amount of misinformation, bad behavior and ill-will by supporters of all sides.
The little pizza joint in northern Indiana that was hounded so badly they closed shop after the owner told a reporter that, while they wouldn't turn away anyone who came in to eat, they figured catering a same-sex wedding was contrary to the tenets of their faith is an example -- at least in that incident, after several days of bad reviews and threatening phone calls, a crowdfunding effort had raised nearly a million dollars to help out the business.
That illustrates just how strong opinions run on all sides of the issue. While one side behaved much better than the other in it, there's plenty of vituperation (and flashes of grace and courtesy) to go around; at roughly the same time as the Governor was proclaiming the bill was never intended to be used against LGBT Hoosiers, lobbyist Eric Miller was telling reporters that was exactly why the bill was drawn up. Meanwhile, state legislature (and a rainbow of invited speakers) hammered out a "fix" and held a crow-eating press conference. Depending on who you asked, the modified law either goes much too far or falls way short, and that's politics.
The most depressing notion I heard -- and I heard it from both sides -- was that the other side should just shut up and take their lumps, that they were on the wrong side of history or of God, and most of the mess was due to "outside agitators," the last a flaming echo of the 1960s civil rights turmoil.
It's also utter buncombe. I have worked in media in Indiana since 1973 and in Indianapolis since the early 1980s. Back then, a religious, socially conservative activist showed up in the news fairly often, and achieved minor fame protesting the antics of an over-the-top radio morning team: a guy named Eric Miller. Conversely, a gay-rights group calling itself "Justice, Inc." was organizing differently-themed protests and issuing news releases, some signed by Kathy Sarris, who was one of the invited speakers at the press conference announcing the revised RFRA. "Outside agitators," are they? They both look like Hoosiers to me. Sound like 'em, too. (IIRC, they both had issues with the radio morning team, too; not the same issues, of course.) Neither one is fighting this fight for the fun of it. This stuff matters to them.
Neither one ought to be shutting up, either. This may not be a conflict that is ever resolved. Carving out broad exemptions from civil-rights laws for churches appears to address the most egregious of government meddling in religious affairs and dates back to at least the 1960s. It didn't go far enough for some people then and, surprise, it doesn't now, either. Keeping the debate going at least reminds all of us to tread lightly, to speak politely and to seek resolutions to individual conflicts that all parties can accept. (You can get courts and lawmakers involved but unlike Solomon, they'll usually go ahead and cut the baby in half.)
Worse than silence is an echo chamber. The state legislature and Governor gave us the first version of RFRA in what appeared to be full confidence it was a non-issue. Smug morons, certain that no right-thinking person could disagree, pestered a small business (one that, f'pity's sake, is about as likely to be asked to cater a gay wedding as I am to get invited to the White House) to the brink of shutting down.
The other guy holds his crazy notions just as dear as you hold yours. You're not going to change his mind with a couple of well-crafted bumper stickers or a hundred nasty reviews on Yelp, nor will he change yours. Accept this.
Since (at least) the civil-rights laws of the 1960s, businesses open to the public have been treated differently under the law than private homes, private clubs and churches. You may feel this is wrong -- and maybe it is -- but that's the law. Fighting against it, you're going to find yourself allied with some very unsavory folks. --There's unsavory types on all sides of most freedom-type issues and that's another fact it's better to admit to than pretend it doesn't exist.
But don't come crying to me that the so-and-sos pushing this or that notion ought to just shaddup. Don't come complaining to me about "should." I'm not in charge of "should." I'm stuck here with you in "is." There are politicians and lobbyists working on "should" right now and if that's important to you, that's where your attention should be. (Me, I think we're oversupplied with government-issued "should" already, but what do I know?)
In the meantime, try to remember that 99 percent of the people around you are just people trying to get by. They are like you: all the colors of dirt, from pale dry dust to red clay to dark loam and everything in between. They are gay and straight and not-all-that-interested, religious or atheistic or doubting; they are happy and sad, angry and calm, often opinionated; they are clever and dull, amusing or scary or pitiable. Each one of them has got the same one vote you do and there are no prizes to be won in this life or any other by treating any of them badly.
6 months ago