Tuesday, March 31, 2015
Monday, March 30, 2015
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“Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
~ Henry David Thoreau
What Makes Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Different?
By Garrett Epps
MAR 30 2015
No one, I think, would ever have denied that Maurice Bessinger was a man of faith.
And he wasn’t particularly a “still, small voice” man either; he wanted everybody in earshot to know that slavery had been God’s will, that desegregation was Satan’s work, and the federal government was the Antichrist. God wanted only whites to eat at Bessinger’s six Piggie Park barbecue joints; so His servant Maurice took that fight all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1968 decided that his religious freedom argument was “patently frivolous.”
Until the day he died, however, Bessinger insisted that he and God were right. His last fight was to preserve the Confederate flag as a symbol of South Carolina. “I want to be known as a hard-working, Christian man that loves God and wants to further (God’s) work throughout the world as I have been doing throughout the last 25 years,” he told his hometown newspaper in 2000.
Growing up in the pre-civil-rights South, I knew a lot of folks like Maurice Bessinger. I didn’t like them much, but I didn’t doubt their sincerity. Why wouldn’t they believe racism was God’s will? We white Southerners heard that message on weekends from the pulpit, on school days from our segregated schools, and every day from our governments. When Richard and Mildred Loving left Virginia to be married, a state trial judge convicted them of violating the Racial Integrity Act. That judge wrote that “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents … The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.”
That’s a good background against which to measure the uproar about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence last week. I don’t question the religious sincerity of anyone involved in drafting and passing this law. But sincere and faithful people, when they feel the imprimatur of both the law and the Lord, can do very ugly things.
There’s a factual dispute about the new Indiana law. It is called a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” like the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed in 1993.* Thus a number of its defenders have claimed it is really the same law. Here, for example, is the Weekly Standard’s John McCormack: “Is there any difference between Indiana's law and the federal law? Nothing significant.” I am not sure what McCormack was thinking; but even my old employer, The Washington Post, seems to believe that if a law has a similar title as another law, they must be identical. “Indiana is actually soon to be just one of 20 states with a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA,” the Post’s Hunter Schwarz wrote, linking to this map created by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
The problem with this statement is that, well, it’s false. That becomes clear when you read and compare those tedious state statutes. If you do that, you will find that the Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs.
The new Indiana statute also contains this odd language: “A person whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.” (My italics.) Neither the federal RFRA, nor 18 of the 19 state statutes cited by the Post,says anything like this; only the Texas RFRA, passed in 1999, contains similar language.
What these words mean is, first, that the Indiana statute explicitly recognizes that a for-profit corporation has “free exercise” rights matching those of individuals or churches. A lot of legal thinkers thought that idea was outlandish until last year’s decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, in which the Court’s five conservatives interpreted the federal RFRA to give some corporate employers a religious veto over their employees’ statutory right to contraceptive coverage.
Second, the Indiana statute explicitly makes a business’s “free exercise” right a defense against a private lawsuit by another person, rather than simply against actions brought by government. Why does this matter? Well, there’s a lot of evidence that the new wave of “religious freedom” legislation was impelled, at least in part, by a panic over a New Mexico state-court decision, Elane Photography v. Willock. In that case, a same-sex couple sued a professional photography studio that refused to photograph the couple’s wedding. New Mexico law bars discrimination in “public accommodations” on the basis of sexual orientation. The studio said that New Mexico’s RFRA nonetheless barred the suit; but the state’s Supreme Court held that the RFRA did not apply “because the government is not a party.”
Remarkably enough, soon after, language found its way into the Indiana statute to make sure that no Indiana court could ever make a similar decision. Democrats also offered the Republican legislative majority a chance to amend the new act to say that it did not permit businesses to discriminate; they voted that amendment down.
So, let’s review the evidence: by the Weekly Standard’s definition, there’s “nothing significant” about this law that differs from the federal one, and other state ones—except that it has been carefully written to make clear that 1) businesses can use it against 2) civil-rights suits brought by individuals.
Of all the state “religious freedom” laws I have read, this new statute hints most strongly that it is there to be used as a means of excluding gays and same-sex couples from accessing employment, housing, and public accommodations on the same terms as other people. True, there is no actual language that says, All businesses wishing to discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of sexual orientation, please check this “religious objection” box. But, as Henry David Thoreau once wrote, “Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
So—is the fuss over the Indiana law overblown?
The statute shows every sign of having been carefully designed to put new obstacles in the path of equality; and it has been publicly sold with deceptive claims that it is “nothing new.”
Being required to serve those we dislike is a painful price to pay for the privilege of running a business; but the pain exclusion inflicts on its victims, and on society, are far worse than the discomfort the faithful may suffer at having to open their businesses to all.
As the story of Maurice Bessinger shows us, even dressed in liturgical garments, hateful discrimination is still a pig.
Should Corporations Have the Same Religious Freedoms as People?
Sunday, March 29, 2015
This is for reader Jonah who apparently likes the pictures here, believes liberals are fascists, loves Duck Dynasty, says I'm a "fucking asshole"...and who I've always suspected is notorious purveyor of prejudice (and closet case?) Jonah Goldberg...or maybe just a wannabe. This goes back a few years and still worth a read...for those who can and do...
Jonah Goldberg's 'Liberal Fascism' Fraud Is Now Right-wing Conventional Wisdom
By David Neiwert
One of the hallmarks of the American right's utter descent into complete wingnuttery is the increasing willingness of its footsoldiers to buy into palpably, provably false nonsense and embrace it as fact. This ranges from the Birthers' insistence that Barack Obama hasn't produced a birth certificate to the teabaggers' claims that health-care reform means we'll be euthanizing senior citizens.
One of the most persistent components of this is the right's ardent embrace of the fraudulent thesis of Jonah Goldberg's Liberal Fascism -- to wit, that "properly understood, fascism is not a phenomenon of the right at all. Instead, it is, and always has been, a phenomenon of the left." The embrace of this fraud as somehow truthful has produced those teabaggers' signs bearing swastikas (suggesting that health-care reform is fascist) and signs showing Barack Obama as Hitler and, moreover, the claims that Obama is marching the nation down the road to fascism.
It's been particularly embraced by movement conservatives in their efforts to whitewash from public view the existence of right-wing extremists among their ranks.
The impact of this embrace on our national discourse has been deeper than probably anyone suspected when the book was first published last year. Not only is Goldberg's thesis now taken as an article of faith by such right-wing talkers as Rush Limbaugh (who probably helped inspire Goldberg's thesis in any event), Glenn Beck, Michael Savage,, but also among the teabagging protesters whose ranks are increasingly filled by real right-wing extremists.
What's most noteworthy, perhaps, is that Goldberg's thesis is being used to attack anyone who points out the frequently violent and intimidating behavior of these extremists. It's not the right-wing protesters carrying open weapons, Obama=Hitler signs, and openly disrupting the discussion of health-care reform at town-hall sessions who are behaving like Brownshirts, they insist -- it's the liberals who show enough nerve to stand up to them!
We saw this a couple of weeks ago here in western Washington, where Rep. Brian Baird -- who had decried the ugly nature of the town-hall disruptions by in fact comparing some of these extremists to "Brownshirts," and then appearing on the Rachel Maddow show, where he compared them to Timothy McVeigh -- was attacked at his town-hall meeting on health care by a former Marine named David Hedrick who accused Baird and House Speaker of Nancy Pelosi of being the real Nazis.
Of course, this ensured him a guest slot on Fox News, and so Hedrick shortly thereafter appeared on Sean Hannity's program to explain his thinking. As you can see, he has absorbed and swallowed Goldberg's thesis whole:
Hannity: I read that one of the main reasons that you wanted to be there is because Congressman Baird had used the term "Brownshirts" to describe people showing up at the town halls. You confronted him on that. What happened?
Hedrick: I did confront him on that, and I don't think it's acceptable language that he is, you know, comparing us to Nazis. And it's -- Pelosi did this, he did this, now he's compared us to McVeigh, and talked about bombings there. And, uh, basically I called him on it, I said, 'You know what? If you want to call us Nazis, let's look at the Nazi doctrine. Let's look at National Socialism. And what is National Socialism? Since you let the cat out of the bag, we'll talk about it.
National Socialism is very much what we see today in this administration. It's a policy on what's line for line -- it's the same economic policy, it's the same political policy. And so if they want to talk about Nazis, then they better be careful about that conversation, because they might find that the swastika is on their own arm.
Of course, a little context for what provoked Hedrick's outrage might be useful. When Baird made his "Brownshirts" and "McVeigh" remarks, he clearly was referring to some of the tactics being used by some of the teabaggers. What he made clear shortly afterward was that in fact he and his office had been threatened by some of these teabaggers, who faxed death threats and made them by phone as well. One phone message from Aug. 10 said, "You think Timothy McVeigh was bad, there is a Ryder Truck out there with your name on it" (according to Baird’s Vancouver district director).
Those are, indeed, classically fascist attempts at political intimidation. Not only was Baird right, but Hedrick's claim about "the real Nazis" is incredibly obtuse for someone from the Pacific Northwest.
Because anyone who has lived any length of time in this region is all too familiar with "the real Nazis." For the better part of two decades, one of the nation's most prominent neo-Nazi organizations plied its white-supremacist wares and spread its vicious poison right here in our backyards.
Most of us can still remember its strange fruit: from The Order to Buford Furrow to Shawna Forde's killer Minuteman gang, the ugly scars of the murderous violence they embrace are with us even today. We remember them all too well. Indeed, it was only a few years ago they were marching on the steps of our state Capitol.
We already know who "the real Nazis" are, and they are anything but liberals. Indeed, they are precisely its opposite: they are true right-wing extremists. And they always have been.
What people like Goldberg, in responding to this point, have always claimed is that there's nothing particularly right wing about the kookery of people like the Aryan Nations or the Posse Comitatus -- they're just kooks, plain and simple. So when James von Brunn shot up the Holocaust Museum this summer, Goldberg disingenuously went on Beck's program and tried to persuade us that Von Brunn wasn't a right-wing extremist -- just a garden-variety kook. Just like Dr. George Tiller's assassin, Scott Roeder.
But this is palpable nonsense. What makes these people right-wing extremists is that they not only adopt right-wing political positions, they take them to their most extreme logical (if that's the word for it) outcome:
- They not only oppose abortion, they believe abortion providers should be killed.
- They not only believe that liberal elites control the media and financial institutions, but that a conniving cabal of Jews is at the heart of this conspiracy to destroy America.
- They not only despise Big Government, they believe it is part of a New World Order plot to enslave us all.
- They not only defend gun rights avidly, they stockpile them out of fear that President Obama plans to send in U.N. troops to take them away from citizens.
- They not only oppose homosexuality as immoral, they believe gays and lesbians deserve the death penalty.
- They not only oppose civil-rights advances for minorities, they also believe a "race war" is imminent, necessary and desirable.
Of course, that's only the tip of the iceberg for what's wrong with the whole "liberal fascism" thesis. As I explored in some detail more recently, the historical record itself unequivocally repudiates Goldberg's thesis.
Now, Goldberg has tossed some sneering bon mots my way (in his book, I'm merely the "always comically inept David Neiwart [sic] at Crooks and Liars" (ahem), but he has never addressed this point, which I've raised numerous times. Goldberg tosses all kinds of anecdotal evidence our way in support of his fraudulent thesis, but he refuses to come clean on the bottom line: The historical record is irrevocably clear that fascism, not just in Germany and Italy but also in America, has always been a phenomenon of the Far Right.
He's not only profoundly misleading large numbers of the American reading public, he is in the process misshaping our national discourse. Because when large numbers of people believe crap that is simply and provably false, not only is our resulting discourse deeply irrational, but so are the democratic outcomes.
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Saturday, March 28, 2015
Came across this dude today. Very cute! Had seen the cowboy hat pic but didn't know who he was. Lots more on his FB page...
... a few I really liked...
..and a few not on FB so I’m guessin’ there’s more somewhere. Hate the trimmed pubes but pretty impressive hose!