After sixteen years, it is time for the Bloomington City Council to end the annual farce of funding Bloomington's Planned Parenthood, which operates an abortion "clinic" on South College Avenue, just a few blocks south of the county courthouse. It is time for the councilors to show they are serious about the purpose of this fund.
When the councilors vote to distribute grants from the John Hopkins Social Services Fund in June, they will be giving away $270,000. That is far below the total amount requested, which is $472,004.38. This means the council will be forced to deny over $200,000 in requests be organizations that do not have the backing of a national organization with over one billion dollars in annual revenue.
Following is my letter to the City Council.
-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Please do not fund Planned Parenthood
From: Scott Tibbs <email@example.com>
Date: Sat, April 25, 2015 11:34 am
To: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
Once again, I am asking you to reject Planned Parenthood's request for funding from the Jack Hopkins Social Services Fund. Since 1999, this body has approved $42,767.71 in requests by Planned Parenthood, including $2,440.00 in 2006 for cabinetry, files and furniture to renovate the front office.
The guidelines for agencies requesting Hopkins funding state that this should be for a one-time investment. The council reiterated that with the letter to agencies that may seek funding:
Hopkins grants are intended to be a one-time investment. This restriction is meant to encourage innovative projects and to allow the funds to address changing community circumstances. While the Committee may provide operational funding for pilot, bridge efforts, and collaborative initiatives, an agency should not expect to receive or rely on the Hopkins fund for on-going costs (e.g., personnel) from year to year.
Planned Parenthood long ago abandoned any pretense that they were seeking a one-time investment. For the last several years they have been seeking funding for operating expenses and ongoing costs.
This year is a city election year. Now is the time to end these political games and rededicate yourselves to the true mission of the social services fund, and give the money that would go to Planned Parenthood to a worthy and non-controversial organization - one that does not have the backing of a national organization that takes in over one billion dollars every year and runs a huge budget surplus in nine figures.
The man suspected in the brutal murder of an Indiana University student this past weekend has NO connection to Uber. Stop spreading this gossip. Plus, Uber conducts a criminal background check on all drivers. They have a strong incentive to protect customers' safety.
Just because a new technology exists does not mean that technology is dangerous.
The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. - Psalm 14:1
It is understandable why people of faith would want to proselytize for their faith. But why do people who allegedly have no faith proselytize for their beliefs? The answer is simple: Atheism is a religion.
First, a point of order. The point of this post is not to argue young-earth creationism vs. evolution. Nothing is going to be solved and no one is going to change his mind based on what I say here. My point is attitude and motivation.
So what does it matter than some nobody on Twitter says that he does not believe in evolution? Why would anyone be offended by that? How does that affect anyone's life in any way? In the big scheme of things, why does it matter what I think about the origins of the universe?
The answer is that there is no such thing as an atheist, as Scripture makes clear to us in Romans 1:18-25. Everyone knows that God exists, but most rebel against Him. In centuries past, those who refused to worship the living God would worship idols made of stone or wood. Today, mankind worships itself and its intellect. Scientists are the prophets of the religion of atheism, allowing us to pretend that the world was created without a Creator.
When I say I do not believe the proclamations of the prophets and priests of atheism, I am committing "blasphemy" and heresy against the false god of atheism. Therefore, those who worship atheism are offended in much the same way that Muslim terrorists are offended by people who commit "blasphemy" against the prophet Mohammed. No, I am not subject to being killed for my beliefs, but atheist regimes in the Soviet Union, North Korea and Communist China were (and are) well known for murdering and torturing Christians.
As Christians, we need to recognize the spiritual realities behind the battles over evolution, especially as politicians are ridiculed and shamed and eventually bullied into towing the line on that particular myth. This is a battle between the One True Religion and the latest fakery to lead souls astray. We must see the bigger picture if we are to be faithful.
We hear a lot from conservatives who want to protect "traditional marriage" from the prospect (now the reality) of government recognizing the union of two men or two women as a marriage. But those same conservatives are willfully blind to and sometimes even supportive of something that has done much more to destroy the institution of marriage than homosexual marriage ever will. That is the scourge of no-fault divorce.
What is most distressing is how the church - despite the very clear teaching of Jesus Christ on the subject of divorce - has utterly abandoned Biblical doctrine on the subject of divorce. Not only do you never hear sermons about the Bible's clear teaching on divorce in the vast majority of churches, but many of those churches actually endorse what Jesus Christ Himself described as adultery by performing marriage ceremonies for people who have divorced their spouses without Biblical justification. They are not just silent. They are in open rebellion against Scripture.
Is it any wonder why non-believers see this hypocrisy as a stain on Christianity itself? Is it any wonder why even some Christians become discouraged and abandon the local church due to the hypocrisy?
But aren't there some Biblical justifications for divorce?
Yes. But when the foundation of such an important truth has been destroyed, it is not appropriate or helpful to start covering the exceptions to the rule. What the church needs to do is reaffirm God's clear statement in Malachi 2:16 that He hates divorce. We need to rebuild the foundation that has been destroyed through decades of compromise with sin and open rebellion against God's word that has corrupted the church. Only after we have rebuilt the doctrinal foundation should we start talking about exceptions.
So what can individual Christians do to be faithful to God's Word on the subject of divorce? We should rebuke, exhort and encourage our pastors and elders to not compromise and take a stand against this sin. If a church will not repent, leave that church and find one that honors God's Word. Churches will be more likely to repent if their congregations hold them accountable. Most importantly, we should pray for compromisers and rebels to repent of their sin.
The police official in the video is saying that sometimes, state administration of violence is a prerequisite for peace. In other words, to obtain peace, violence is inevitable.
Of course, sometimes, we do need police officers to protect us from dangerous people. But to begin from the position that peace can come only through violence risks converting a police fear of violence into a guarantor.
When so-called "teachers" in Atlanta were found to have changed students' grades on test scores, it was a scandal that got nationwide coverage, and rightly so. Many parents wondered if this was happening in their school. As the criminal case draws to a close, though, it is unsettling that a judge has exposed these teachers to an extreme punishment. For fixing test scores, they will spend seven years in prison.
Is it really necessary to send these people to prison for seven years? Now, don't get me wrong. I do not want to see them ever working in a school again, even as a janitor. They have broken the public's trust and they have no business in the educational environment. It would be an extreme breach of the public's trust and a shameful waste of money to ever allow these people to work in a school again.
But what public good is served by sending them to prison for seven years? None. The public is not going to be better off by throwing these teachers in prison.
Now that they have been removed from their jobs, are they still a threat to the community? Will they be able to commit more crimes like this if they are not sent to prison? Again, the answers to both of those questions is no. Removed from their positions of authority, they will not be in a position to commit more crimes like they did in their jobs, and they will not be able to defraud students and parents of a good education. Putting them in prison does not protect anyone.
These people stole an education from vulnerable children in order to make themselves look good. There is no way to defend or excuse their reprehensible behavior. But sending them to prison for seven years is a huge waste of money in addition to being a wildly disproportionate reaction to the fraud they committed. It will heap more costs on the taxpayers, because housing prisoners is expensive.
Putting them in prison does some social good in that it is punishment for the offenders and serves as a deterrent to others who may be tempted to commit educational fraud. But the punishment needs to fit the crime. We execute murderers, but we do not execute jaywalkers. We can also hold these degenerates as an example with a stiff financial penalty. They should also be permanently ineligible for government benefits. The message there would be simple: If you commit fraud in your public job, you can expect to be financially ruined.
This case is an unfortunate example of the over-eager "war on crime" mentality that has filled our prisons. People who commit nonviolent crimes are subject to the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" mentality that was popular from the 1970's through the 1990's. But even conservatives are starting to recognize the staggering social costs of this mentality, and there is bipartisan support for meaningful criminal justice reform. Seven years in prison for cheating on tests is an anachronistic penalty that should not be imposed. These teachers need to be punished, but not this way.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. -- II Timothy 3:16-17
If you do not get your views on Christian doctrine from the Bible, where do you get your views from? If there is another source, what is that source? Or are you just making it up as you go along?
I have often been accused of being a Bibliolater - that I worship the Bible itself as opposed to the God who provided the Bible to us. I have been accused of not understanding (or even opposing) "the message of Jesus the Nazarene" because I take the Bible too literally. (Because some alleged "adults" are immature children, I do not believe and have never said that every single thing in the Bible should be interpreted literally.)
For these people, I have a question: How and where did you discover "the message of Jesus the Nazarene" if not in the pages of Scripture? What is your source for this phantom message and where can I find it? No one has ever answered that question, because there is no answer to that question. It does not exist.
Let's be brutally honest here. People who reject the authority of the Bible reject the authority God the Father, the deity of Jesus Christ and His divine authority. They have created a fake "jesus" that is no different than an idol of stone or wood that is sitting on a pagan's fireplace or somewhere in his yard. If we are serious about discussing Christian doctrine, if we are serious about knowing what God wants to tell us, the only logical place to go is His Word recorded in the pages of Holy Scripture.
This is basic logic, people. If you want to understand Christian doctrine, the only logical place to go is the Bible. There are many helpful commentaries on Scripture, but they are all inferior to and under the authority of the original source. "Christians" who reject the Bible are not worshiping Jesus Christ at all, and non-Christians who reject Scripture are not speaking of the real Jesus when discussing His supposed "message." They have created a fake "jesus" out of thin air who has nothing to do with the Jesus presented to us in Scripture.
Since the space for letters to the editor is limited by the nature of the format, no issue can be covered exhaustively in a LTTE. Of course, no issue can ever truly be fully covered, no matter how much space is given to the topic. That is why some issues will be debated forever. But the LTTE format is inherently more limited than a blog post or an opinion column. With that said, here are some follow-up thoughts on my letter to the editor last week concerning the danger of flash-bang grenades.
It is true that police jurisdictions in these United States (local, state and federal) cover a massive swath of land with over three hundred million people. It is estimated that there are over 900,000 law enforcement officers currently serving at various levels of government. With numbers that big, there are bound to be mistakes, bad choices and bad actors. The job of a police officer can be extraordinarily difficult.
That, however, is not the issue. The issue is policy. The policies governing the use of dangerous flash-bang grenades are too lax, and have resulted in people being maimed and killed. Those policies need to be examined, and government at all levels needs to be fully transparent in the use of these explosives. That is the issue.
The use of a flash-bang grenade to subdue and apprehend a violent suspect is one thing. Active shooters, barricaded and heavily armed suspects and other such scenarios cannot be solved by a knock and a search warrant, so the use of these grenades may be justified in some scenarios.
The issue is the over deployment of the weapons, especially in simply serving a search warrant on drug offenders. In many cases, the policy of deploying flash-bangs (or deploying SWAT at all) is questionable at best and overkill at worst. For example, the drug dealer in the Bounkham Phonesavanh case was later apprehended at a separate location, without incident and without the use of a SWAT raid.
It is good that police have a variety of tools to use on a continuum of force. American law enforcement is not (and must not be) like a dystopian movie where lethal force is the first option, especially on an unarmed person running away at a below-average pace. That person should be tackled and subdued, not shot to death.
For example, a Taser is technically a "less lethal" weapon that can (and has) caused fatalities, but is certainly a big step down from bullets. But even the less lethal tools and techniques must be closely examined and good policy must be in place governing their use. Police are not soldiers and criminals are not enemy combatants in a war zone. We need to stop treating law enforcement as a military engagement.
This, of course, brings me back to the primary point of my letter: It is simply factually incorrect to call flash-bang grenades "non-lethal" weapons. A non-lethal weapon does not kill and maim people when used as designed. It is not an example of media bias to use the correct terminology. It is good reporting.
In the middle of the sex-abuse hysteria of the 1980's, Bernard Baran was accused of rape. The accusations were false; he committed no such crime. Baran was convicted anyway and sent to prison for decades, where he was violently raped more than 30 times. When Zerlina Maxwell says "the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist," does she mean that the emotional trauma from disbelieving someone who was actually raped is worse than sending an innocent man to prison for 25 years? Is it worse than condemning that innocent man to be violently raped 30 times?
By now, it is obvious to almost everyone that the "rape" recounted last fall in Rolling Stone was a complete fabrication. The account was so dramatic - that "Jackie" was thrown onto a glass table that shattered, then gang raped on the broken glass - it sounded like something out of a movie where a vigilante played by Charles Bronson goes on a murderous rampage against criminals.
The Rolling Stone scandal not the only false accusation given national headlines. Tawana Brawley started a national firestorm when she fabricated a story of "rape" out of whole cloth in the 1980's. Convicted murderer Crystal Gail Mangum also fabricated a story of "rape" out of thin air, leading Duke "University" to take action against the lacrosse team members who had committed no crime. We should never forget the Scottsboro Boys, a group of nine black teenagers who were falsely accused of "rape" and nearly murdered by a lynch mob.
But we do not have to look to national headlines to see false accusations of "rape."
The Herald-Times reported in September 2006 that "an 18-year-old IU freshman who reported she was the victim of a sexual assault on Sept. 3, and the victim of a battery on Aug. 29, admitted Friday that she fabricated both reports."
I have no doubt that the vast majority of accusations of rape are true. It is also true that a large number of rapes are not reported to law enforcement for various reasons. But the fact that false allegations do exist makes it critical that we meticulously follow due process to ensure that the accused gets a fair trial. No one should ever suffer as Bernard Baran suffered. No one should ever be sent to prison for decades for a horrific crime committed by someone else, as was the case with the Central Park Five. We must never compromise on due process and civil liberties, and we must never forget the principle of "innocent until proven guilty."
The national controversy over rape on college campuses has provided an example of overreach by feminists, but conservatives need to be careful not to overreach themselves. Ann Coulter overreached badly in her editorial on the subject last week, in which she wrote:
From the Duke lacrosse team, the Columbia mattress girl and the University of Virginia, the left has not been able to produce one actual rape on a college campus.
Not one actual rape? Really? Come on, now. Not one?
The often-cited statistic that "one in five" women on college campuses has been sexually assaulted has been widely debunked, based on a combination of FBI crime statistics, the poor methodology of the study, and common sense. Women are now a majority of students on most campuses. If female students had a 20% chance of being sexually assaulted, why would anyone send their daughters to such a dangerous place?
But conservatives do ourselves no favors when we engage in the sort of ridiculous hyperbole that Coulter uses. Perhaps she was being sarcastic, or perhaps she is being intentionally inflammatory in order to get attention. (It is most likely the latter.) But the fact that some women have been assaulted at college has been well-researched and well documented, including by FBI crime statistics. The number is not one in five, but it is not zero.
Yes, false accusations do exist. But it is simply illogical to conclude that the existence of false accusations means there are no true accusations - especially given the presence of FBI crime statistics documenting a specific number of reported crimes. By making such an outrageous claim, Coulter damages no only herself, but damages other conservative commentators by proxy because we are associated with her. She would be well served to needs to town down the hyperbole and be more serious.
Sadly, it appears that many Republicans have a near insatiable appetite for war. Paul, however, has shown a more restrained and reasonable attitude toward foreign policy, similar to the approach our Founding Fathers took.
One day, Republican politicians and voters will wake up and realize that you can't prowl around the world starting armed conflicts with every dictator and militant cell you find.
Certainly, we have engaged in some just wars. But those just wars cannot be used to justify our overly hawkish attitude toward foreign policy. Just because some wars are just does not make all wars just. We have, overall, become far too willing to engage in war - especially without the needed authorization from Congress. As much as Republicans love to complain about President Obama in this regard, the problem of expanding executive authority in matters of armed conflict has been a bipartisan problem going back to the nation's founding.
While it is sometimes necessary and unavoidable, armed conflict should always be the last resort to dealing with foreign policy conflicts and should only be used to protect a vital national security interest. How many of our armed conflicts since World War II meet that criteria? When you consider all of the little wars we have engaged in - a drone strike here, a short-term invasion and occupation there - that percentage is not very big at all. And let's be honest here: You cannot be a little bit at war. You are either at war or you are not. If Canada or Mexico fired some missiles across our border, we would rightly consider it an act of war.
Plus, we cannot and should not be the world's police force. We only create resentment and hatred by sticking our nose in where we do not belong and projecting military power everywhere around the world. Not all of the hatred for us is because of our imperialist or pseudo-imperialist actions, of course. Foreign relations, like all human interactions, are very complicated with many layers and both contributing and competing factors to consider. But there is no doubt that someone who has seen a wedding party blown to smithereens by an errant American missile is more likely to hate us than someone who has been left alone.
This is why Rand Paul's candidacy is good news for the Republican Party, whether he wins the nomination or not. Paul is going to force a conversation about American foreign policy that has long been needed in the GOP, and I think he is going to find a surprising number of people who are weary of never-ending military conflict and are skeptical of hawkish politicians who keep pushing us to get involved militarily in more and more places.
The Democrats have had and will continue to have that debate in their presidential primaries, and it's long past time for the Republicans to have it too - especially since the War on Terror has rapidly expanded the surveillance state and restricted civil liberties.
There was a factual error in the March 11, 2015 Herald-Times article (http://bit.ly/1HEAtjP) regarding a standoff with Bloomington police. The flash-bang grenade used by police, an explosive designed to produce a blinding flash of light and a deafening sound to disorient and confuse suspects, is NOT a "non-lethal" weapon. It should have been identified as a "less lethal" weapon, because flash-bang grenades can (and have) caused fatalities and serious injuries.
The most well-known case is the horrific burns suffered by 18-month-old Bounkham Phonesavanh, who was maimed last summer when a flash-bang grenade was tossed into his crib during a SWAT raid in Georgia. Tragically, a SWAT officer was killed by a "less lethal" flash-bang grenade in 2011. A woman in Minneapolis "suffered third- and fourth-degree burns" in 2010 when a flash-bang grenade exploded next to her legs.
Because of the dangerous nature of these explosives, it is imperative that we have a full accounting of the use of flash-bang grenades by local law enforcement. I call on both the Bloomington Police Department and the Monroe County Sheriff's Department to detail all use of flash-bang grenades and the justification for their deployment.
A columnist for National Review reports on the feminist "believe the victim" mentality:
The answer, sadly, is the latter. In the Washington Post, Zerlina Maxwell argued that "we should believe, as a matter of default, what an accuser [of rape] says," for "the costs of wrongly disbelieving a survivor far outweigh the costs of calling someone a rapist."
Apparently this woman has never heard of Bernard Baran, who was falsely accused of rape, sent to prison and violently raped more than thirty times.
When Alliance Defending Freedom recently complained about the Obama Administration's abortion-related regulations on aid organizations, they missed something important: With government money comes government strings. Once you accept the government's money, the government can tell you how to run your operation as a condition of continuing to get that money.
This is why I am opposed to vouchers for private schools and why I opposed President Bush's plan to give federal aid to faith-based charities when he announced it in 2001. There is too much potential for a conflict of interest, and too much potential for Christians to be forced to choose between getting their money and compromising their principles. We are seeing that play out here.
If the aid organizations were not dependent on federal grants to do their work, they could take the administration's request they provide abortion services (or refer refugees to abortion providers) and say, "thanks, but no thanks." But because they are publicly funded, they now must make a decision that will have no good outcome. Getting entangled with government is almost never a good idea.
Christian schools that take vouchers, even in Republican states like Indiana, need to look at this controversy and consider how much they are willing to risk government telling them what to do as a condition of getting money from the government. Are they willing and able to immediately stop taking vouchers if forced to choose between vouchers and their faith? If the answer to either question is "no" they need to wean themselves from of this program before they forced to make that choice.
Discrimination is not a bad thing, but it is not a good thing either. Discrimination, like any tool, is morally neutral. What matters is how that tool is used, and against whom. Only in that context can we truly determine if discrimination is good and justifiable or bad and indefensible. Saying that discrimination is inherently bad is a willfully myopic, absolutist statement. Even the people who say that do not really believe it when push comes to shove. First, let's review Merriam-Webster's definitions of the word:
The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people.
The ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not.
The ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing.
Clearly, discrimination is not universally wrong. Let me use an example. Someone owns a donut shop. A customer shows up a few times, and in his visits he is belligerent to the staff, rude to the other customers and litters his speech with obscenities. He wears clothing with obscene messages and is prone to flying off the handle and screaming at other customers or staff for the slightest provocation, real or imagined. Is the donut shop justified in "discriminating" against him and banning him from the store?
Do I even need to ask that question?
We as a society discriminate against sex offenders all the time. (I am not addressing the wisdom of those restrictions here. That is an entirely different subject.) They cannot live or work within a certain distance of schools or parks, their employment options are limited, and they are monitored by the government. And yet this is done for the sake of public safety and preventing these folks from being a danger to others - especially children. Is this discrimination a good or bad thing? In some cases, the answer is clearly that discrimination can be a good and helpful thing.
There are more examples. Employers discriminate in the hiring process, in order to find the applicant who most closely meets the needs they have for the position. Employers will discriminate against unqualified applicants, and in many cases they will even discriminate against the most qualified applicants for fear they are "overqualified" and will leave for a higher paying job after a short time. We all discriminate in our shopping, for which products or services best meet what we want for the price we are willing to pay.
Obviously, discrimination can be a bad thing, and can even be evil. But what we need to do is get beyond our simple-minded mentality on the subject, and apply a little bit of discernment in our arguments. Shouting slogans that have little thought behind them does no one any good and does not advance our arguments.
I posted the amended language for the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on the Facebook page. Just like the original RFRA, the new language changes nothing. This is because sexual orientation is not a protected class under Indiana law, was not a protected class before RFRA was passed, and was not a protected class between the signing of RFRA and the new language. It is all symbolism over substance.
On HeraldTimesOnline comments, someone claimed RFRA "does allow discrimination against gay Hoosiers and it has already happened in Walkerton."
The hysteria over Memories Pizza is absurd. No one can show me even one homosexual couple that has not been able to have their wedding catered by this pizza joint. What happened is that the owners said they would not cater a same-sex wedding, which means literally nothing because no one is going to have a small-time pizza joint cater their wedding. In fact, the owners told Breitbart.com that they have never catered any wedding.
All we have to back up the fraudulent "discrimination" claim against Memories Pizza are words said to a so-called "reporter" who was trolling for something inflammatory to write about. Then the "news" website smeared the business with an inflammatory trolling headline saying they would not serve homosexuals at all. It was a shameful and despicable lie that nearly destroyed (and may yet destroy) a family business.
Finally, Indiana's RFRA does not even take effect until July 1, 2015. So even if RFRA critics were right that RFRA would explicitly allow businesses to not serve homosexuals, they could not use that law before it takes effect a little less than three months from now.
A commenter left a long response to my editorial last week supporting the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana. Here is my response to that comment.
This was never intended to ensure that the majority can use religious pretext as an excuse to discriminate against disfavored minorities.
The issue in the RFRA (which has since been clarified) is not discrimination against any minority. The issue is that Christian business owners do not want to be forced to participate in a same-sex wedding - whether by taking photographs of the wedding or providing food or flowers. You do not see broad-based discrimination right now, and you would not have seen it even if the original version of RFRA had become law in July. By expanding it far beyond the real issue, RFRA opponents are intentionally distorting the facts.
Further, it has since been perverted by the Hobby Lobby decision to, somehow, encompass a corporation's religious conscience.
A corporation is a legal entity, but a corporation is made up of people. Jut because people organize their business under a corporation (which is necessary for a wide variety of legal reasons) does not mean the owners' free exercise of religion is any less burdened by being forced to provide objectionable drugs - or being forced to participate in a same sex-wedding.
With respect to the law that Barack Obama voted for in IL, remember that IL indeed has sexual orientation listed in its civil rights laws as a protected class.
It is factually correct that Illinois currently includes sexual orientation as a protected class. However, that claim is extremely misleading because that was not the case when Obama voted for it as a state senator. Sexual orientation was not added to the civil rights code in Illinois until 2005, almost a full decade later and after Obama was serving in the United States Senate.
You are indeed correct that IN RFRA changes nothing. It doesn't matter.
It does matter, because appearances are not facts and the legal reality is what it is. By admitting the RFRA changes nothing, you are admitting that the national firestorm and economic boycotts over the "discrimination" supposedly allowed by RFRA were based on misinformation, whether intentional or not.
Let me put this clearly to you: If you're in the business of selling flowers, you have to sell them to all comers. If you're in the business of catering weddings, you have to cater to all comers. Period.
Why? That is a serious question. Why must a business be forced to facilitate all events, even ones the owners find morally objectionable? Just because something is a tradition does mean it is right. If we are going to substantially burden someone's free exercise of religion, there needs to be a compelling state interest to do so. Is it a compelling state interest to force one baker or florist to endorse homosexuality when a couple could easily go to a different business where the owners would be more than happy to take their money?
At its core, this is not about equal protection under the law. It is not about tolerance. It is about mandatory acceptance of homosexuality. It is not a compelling state interest to force Christians (or Muslims, Jews or anyone else) to accept and endorse homosexual behavior. If we are interested in tolerance, then that tolerance needs to go both ways. Otherwise it is not tolerance at all. It is tyranny.
And yes - If government forces a Christian-owned business to provide flowers or a cake to a homosexual wedding, that is forced endorsement and acceptance of homosexual behavior. It is not up to you or anyone else to determine whether an individual's conscience on this matter is reasonable or not, especially given Christian submission to Scriptures that predate these United States by thousands of years.
I have been using the same alarm clock since I got it as a present for my high school graduation in May 1992. It is still working after almost 23 years, multiple moves and countless wake-up calls. That's saying something for the thing's reliability and durability.
I made a provocative statement last week on Twitter, addressed to the Indiana legislature: If you support banning powdered alcohol, then you support the kind of brutal violence committed by vice cops in Virginia against an underage man denied entry to a bar. Because of the limitations of the platform, I could not explain this position in detail, but intended it to be a jumping-off point for a longer argument.
Here is that longer argument.
When government passes laws, especially laws that will be enforced by police, it is inevitable that those laws will be enforced with violent force. In some cases, that is a good and necessary thing: Force is completely justifiable in dealing with murderers, rapists, carjackers, terrorists and so forth.The civil magistrate wields the sword for a reason, and a primary responsibility is to protect the innocent from the guilty.
For other crimes, especially nonviolent crimes involving consenting adults, we need to be very careful about what we criminalize. If we allowed a 20 year old man - who could fight, kill and die in a foreign war right now - to enter an establishment and consume a legal product then we would not need police to violently arrest him if he is turned away because he has not hit the magical age of 21. Criminalizing powdered alcohol will inevitably result in the use of force (though hopefully not police brutality) in the enforcement of that ban.
What I find disturbing about this ban is that the state legislature wants to pre-emptively criminalize a product that can be used responsibly by consenting adults. Can it be abused? Yes. But canned air can also be abused, and we do not make it illegal for people to use it as a tool to clean dust (and other things) from their keyboards. Well, we have not made it illegal yet, anyway. But some legislators are afraid of a new invention, and (as is often the case with new things) the Luddite mentality prevails and someone wants to ban it.
I have a better solution. Allow powdered alcohol to be sold, just like liquid alcohol. If it becomes a problem, then look at further regulations of the product or at laws designed to mitigate the damage done by people who abuse the product. A pre-emptive ban is a big-government, nanny-state solution. Banning a product should always be the last resort, not the first thing the legislature wants to do.
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed at the federal level by a Democratic Congress and signed into law by President Clinton. A nearly identical law was passed in Illinois a few years later, and state senator Barack Obama voted for it. Yet we are now having a national freak-out because Indiana passed a law that is virtually identical to the ones supported by Clinton and Obama.
The premise behind the law supported by Obama, Clinton and Mike Pence is astonishingly simple. Government cannot force you to do something that violates your religion (even if it is a rule that applies to everyone) unless there is a "compelling state interest" to do so. Then, government needs to demonstrate that the law or regulation is the least burdensome way to accomplish that compelling state interest.
This means that laws against racial discrimination are not in danger, because it meets both the "compelling state interest" test and the least burdensome method test. Despite some Internettrolling, marijuana prohibition is not in danger either. That is because you have something that is either legal to use or not, and so there is no middle ground between the two.
What the state RFRA - like the federal RFRA - does is protect against government regulations that can be burdensome. A church, for example, cannot build in violation of building codes or zoning regulations that apply evenly. But that church would not be forced to provide birth control to its employees if there is a less burdensome way to establish the state's policy goals of covering birth control.
Does this law allow for discrimination against homosexuals? Here is the dirty little secret behind the hysteria over this issue: Sexual preference is not included as a protected class under Indiana's civil rights laws. This means the RFRA literally changes nothing regarding whether discrimination is legal under the Indiana Code. And despite this, you have not seen widespread discrimination against homosexuals in Indiana and you will not see it once RFRA becomes law. The outrage over RFRA cannot even be said to be making a mountain out of a molehill. It is making a mountain over a level plain.
Where the "discrimination" angle comes in is whether government can use a civil rights statute (that, again, does not exist in Indiana) to force a business owner to participate in a homosexual wedding by providing a cake or flowers. That same Christian baker or florist would not turn down that same person coming in to buy a birthday cake or flowers for Mother's Day - and he would be violating both good business sense and Scripture to do so. After all, the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:9-11 that we should not go out of the world.
But providing a general service to someone who you know to be openly, unapologetically and unrepentantly engaged in a sin is very different from endorsing that sin by providing a service to support that sin - whether it be a same-sex wedding or a wedding of a man who has abandoned his wife and children to marry a woman half his age. In order to force someone to do that against his religious convictions, the government would have to prove that there is a compelling state interest at stake and that there is no less burdensome way to accomplish the goal of letting someone buy the product for the wedding the business owner finds objectionable.
In fact, business discriminates every day based on behavior, from "no shirt, no shoes, no service" rules to airlines that will not allow someone wearing an obscene shirt to board an airplane. But this is not and was never about tolerance for militant homosexuals and their supporters. This is about mandatory acceptance. Tolerating the behavior is not enough; you must endorse it, or face punishment by government. That attitude is completely opposed to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment, which is why laws like the RFRA are needed.
So, at the end of the day, this is a very simple law that changes absolutely nothing regarding anti-discrimination law, though it does provide an extra layer of protection by mandating strict scrutiny for claims that a law violates freedom of religion. It is a law that should have been passed fifteen years ago.
I posted a series of links on Facebook last week to blog posts and editorials I have written on freedom of association and why freedom of association must necessarily include the freedom to not associate.
For all of the sound and fury over SB101, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it would be helpful for people to actually read the legislation. The relevant section reads as follows:
Sec. 8. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
(b) A governmental entity may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person:
(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and
(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.
Basically, the idea that businesses will be permitted to turn away any customer for any reason is false.
The real issue is that militant homosexuals have no interest in tolerance. They demand acceptance, so they demand that a florist or baker or photographer must be forced by government to participate in a same-sex wedding by government.
The RFRA protects against this, but would not allow racial discrimination. Nor does it endorse a blanket license to deny all service (such as buying gasoline) to homosexuals. Check your facts!