logo-cropped

Noting exceptional about these religious freedom laws
Written by  // Monday, 06 April 2015 12:02 //

nfl-gayby Tom Aswell, Publisher of LouisianaVoice.com

Before going any further, let’s establish a few facts:

I am straight, white, happily-married (for 46-plus years) male, a recovering Republican (40 years was more than long enough), in fairly good health. And while far from wealthy, my home is paid for and we live in reasonable comfort. My children are successful professionals and my grandchildren do well in school.

 

I am not a malcontent who bemoans every misfortune that comes my way. Linda Ronstadt’s Poor, Poor Pitiful Me is simply not my theme song.

Nor am I one of those oblivious optimists unable—or unwilling—to see or acknowledge the injustices meted out on those less fortunate. I will not allow myself to become blind to the suffering and hardships of others. Just as I do not want others judging me, I am likewise acutely aware that it is not for me to judge others.

I cannot, in good conscience, turn my back on someone because of gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or skin color. To do so would go against everything that the smartest man I ever knew taught me: my grandfather who had only a sixth-grade education but was smarter than any Ph.D. I ever met.

That is why my blood boils when I see those in positions of power deny the creature comforts to the less fortunate, or judge the lifestyles of those who do not think and act the way they do, or reject equal gender pay, or deny adequate medical care for the indigent or to even refuse to raise the minimum wage of the struggling working poor.

Bobby Jindal insists that those coming to live in this country should subscribe to his idea of “American Exceptionalism.”

But for someone who preaches freedom of choice, doesn’t such a requirement necessarily restrict that same freedom?

He even manages somehow to link his opposition to Common Core to the teaching of American Exceptionalism in our schools even though the Common Core curriculum is limited to English and math, not history. http://www.foxnews.com/transcript/2015/03/19/bobby-jindal-responds-to-criticism-from-muslim-activists/

But Bobby, you need to answer this question: where is your ideal of American Exceptionalism when you deny health care to 250,000 Louisianans or when your lap dogs in the Legislature vote to block an increase in the minimum wage so the single mom having to work two jobs can make a decent salary?

HB 645 VOTE

Talk is cheap and you, Bobby, are even cheaper. You’ve been bought and packaged by the Koch brothers, Grover Norquist and their ilk. And you know what, Bobby? When they’re through with you, they’ll toss you away like a disposable diaper, which somehow is a uniquely appropriate metaphor.

And lest anyone think that I am singling out Bobby Jindal for verbal abuse, let me assure you there is plenty blame to go around, beginning in Indiana and moving on to Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee and to every coward who brandishes a Bible and wraps himself in the American flag in the name or religious freedom.

These are the people who, secure in their own insulated cocoons, insist that others less fortunate should be happy to live on minimum wage, go without health insurance, receive sub-par educations from deteriorating public schools while their own kids go to charter schools and all the while, expect the working poor and middle class to bear the burden of higher tax rates, thanks to generous exemptions and incentives written for—and by—the wealthiest of the wealthy, the membership of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).

Indiana unbelievably, has passed a law removing the protection from discrimination by private entities against gay and lesbian citizens of that state—and Arkansas followed in short order.

Are you kidding me? Indiana and Arkansas seriously want to deny basic human rights and protection under the law for people simply because they are gay or lesbian? What’s next, burning witches at the stake?

The act does not restore religious freedom; we already have that. Instead, it rejects other basic freedoms for a class of people. That is discrimination by anyone’s definition.

Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence is trying to say the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was not intended to enable discrimination, but try telling that to the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton. http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2015/04/01/3641622/indiana-pizza-discrimination/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=tptop3

Crystal O’Connor, one of the owners of Memories Pizza, in defending the decision to refuse to provide pizzas for same-sex couples’ weddings, sniffed, “We are a Christian establishment.”

Oh, really? Well then, Ms. O’Conner, here are a few Bible verses for you to chew on:

Matthew 7:1-3: “Judge not that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you.”

Matthew 25:40: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”

John 8:7: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.”

John 13:34-35: “As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples.”

The Indiana law comes with a potential high cost. All four coaches of the Final Four NCAA Basketball Tournament, scheduled to be held in Indianapolis April 4-6, have endorsed the NCAA’s position that discrimination should never be tolerated under any circumstances. Joining them are NASCAR, the Big Ten Conference, the NBA Indiana Pacers, the WNBA Indiana Fever, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, UConn Coach Kevin Ollie and USC Athletic Director Pat Haden. http://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/ncaabk/final-four-coaches-release-statement-on-indianas-new-law/ar-AAajTKT?ocid=iehp

You’d think that would be sufficient but even as Arkansas legislators were passing their own version of RFRA, major corporations, including Apple, Angie’s List, Cummins, Inc., Eli Lilly, Salesforce Marketing Cloud, and Arkansas-based Wal-Mart have called on Pence to repeal the Indiana law and for Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto the law. Hutchinson first said he intended to sign the bill into law though he has since buckled to pressure to send the bill back to lawmakers for tweaking. http://www.cnn.com/2015/03/31/politics/arkansas-religious-freedom-anti-lgbt-bill/

Even Republicans in Indiana have seen the light and are beginning to backtrack on their support of the law. http://www.thenation.com/blog/203001/even-indiana-republicans-are-telling-mike-pence-his-discrimination-law-wrong#

But even as they do so, lawmakers in North Carolina and Georgia have similar bills under consideration and former Florida governor and potential GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush has expressed his support for the Indiana law. http://www.sfgate.com/nation/article/Jeb-Bush-defends-Indiana-law-as-he-seeks-Bay-Area-6171335.php

All of which begs the question: Have we as a nation gone stark raving mad? What happened to the great melting pot that was once America? This is what Jindal calls American exceptionalism? If so, stop the bus and let me off. I want no part of it.

I have worked with gay people find found them to be exceptionally intelligent and talented at what they do. As a newspaper editor, I once had a lesbian reporter working for me. She never hid her sexual orientation but neither did she flaunt it or let it interfere with her work as a professional reporter and we have remained friends for more than 35 years and continue to communicate by email on occasion. If I were a newspaper editor today, I would not hesitate to hire her. In fact, I would be proud to have her on my team again.

(I would be less than honest if I claimed I always felt this way. The truth is, in high school I joined with others in making life miserable for a gay classmate. He eventually dropped out of school because of our cruelty. I will carry the regret and shame for my act to my grave. That was most definitely not what my grandfather taught me.)

And even as I write this, State Rep. Mike Johnson (R-Bossier City) is considering introducing his own RFRA bill (the “Marriage and Religious Freedom Act”) for consideration during this year’s legislative session. http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/04/lgbt_louisiana_religious_freed.html

And then there is that arrogant Republican State Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Tennessee.

After his committee voted to deny 280,000 state residents access to health care by rejecting a plan to expand Medicaid, a-la Jindal, a play by the way that would have cost the state nothing, Gardenhire, who works as a wealth manager for Morgan Stanley, was confronted by an advocate for expansion.

Asked by one supporter of the expansion, Damien Crisp, if he would be willing to give up his own state-subsidized health insurance, Gardenhire responded by calling Crisp an “a**hole.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/01/todd-gardenhire_n_6986582.html

I believe it was President Truman who suggested if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen. Gardenhire obviously can’t take a little heat, especially after being caught lying when he earlier denied he received state-sponsored coverage.

The bottom line is this, just in case Jindal, Hutchinson, Pence, Bush, Gardenhire and Family Forum’s Gene Mills may have forgotten: Gays, lesbians, Mexicans, blacks, women, and the poor (along with others I may have missed) all belong to a group known collectively as human beings and as such, they have feelings, emotions, needs, families, dignity and rights.

They are American citizens and for anyone to try through legislation to deprive them of their rights and their dignity is nothing short of evil and even criminal—especially when it’s done so that some corporate CEO can get a bigger bonus and a better golden parachute that allows him to retire with a monthly pension many times more than the annual salaries of his employees.

If the Koch brothers, and their fellow CEOs from the corporate membership of ALEC would throw their combined talents and the money they spend on lobbying and dark money they funnel to super PACs behind a concerted effort to lift up those less fortunate, what a remarkable difference—for the betterment of all mankind—they could make.

As an alternative to pouring ever larger sums of cash into the lobbyist money pit that is K Street and into the pockets of self-serving, sanctimonious, out-of-touch politicians, work instead to bring jobs from overseas back into this country and make America the proud nation it once was, a title you long ago forfeited to influence and avarice.

The last time I went to church (which was last Sunday), I believe the lesson was that Christ was humble and that he aided the sick and afflicted. Perhaps if those among us with the resources and a true desire to help make this a better world would, instead of plotting how to gain even more wealth at the expense of the poor and the middle class, reach out to the weak and downtrodden, the experience might become a self-fulfilling prophecy of peace, hope and understanding.

Then and only then can we talk of exceptionalism.

latter-blum2

Dead Pelican

Optimized-DeadPelican2 1 1