On ABC’s This Week host George Stephanopoulus was unsuccessful at getting Indiana Governor Mike Pence to answer simple yes or no questions. Pence offered four arguments:
- That the bill has been “shamelessly” misrepresented in the media.
- That the bill is the same thing as the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
- That the bill is the same as the one that Barack Obama voted for as an Illinois state senator.
- That tolerance is a two-way street.
Taking these in reverse, the logical extension to Pence’s rhetoric is that, as a Jew, I must be tolerant of the Christian beliefs of the Klan and allow them to deny me service. As a society we have no obligation to be tolerant of discrimination. We have clearly defined what a public accommodation is and we have reached that definition in order to disallow discrimination in everyday commerce. This is nothing more than cognitive dissonance.
Pence knows perfectly well that, in Illinois, gays are a protected class. Pence was clear that neither he nor Indianans are in favor of that. Presumably Governor Pence knows that the whole idea of anti-discrimination laws is to protect minorities that the majority of citizens might not approve of.
The federal version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not interfere with state and local anti-discrimination laws. Nor does it intend to do so. Indiana’s version has made any local anti-discrimination ordinances unenforceable. That is its primary purpose.
According to Pence; “There’s been shameless rhetoric about my state and this law and its intention all over the internet,” Pence said. “People are trying to make it about one particular issue, and now you’re doing that as well.” If that is the case, then Pence did not do a very good job of clarifying what the bill is all about.
We can pretend that this bill is not specifically aimed at allowing people to deny goods and services to gays — especially those who are getting married. We can pretend that baking a cake or arranging flowers is some sort of holy sacrament. That’s all that it is — pretense. The purpose of this bill is to allow the Christian majority to discriminate against the gay minority because they disapprove of gays. I know it, you know it and Pence knows it.
In the 1920s Indiana had the largest Klan organization in the country. About one-third of native-born white Christian men were members under the leadership of a pervert by the name of D.C. Stephenson (he was a rapist). The governor and most of the legislators were members of the Klan. The Indiana Klan became that widespread and powerful because of the active participation of Protestant pastors and congregations.
It is a sad history yet Indiana has now enshrined bigotry into its legal code. Doing so is indefensible.