Things aren't going too well for the Hoosier State since GOP Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the
Religious Freedom Restoration Act State Permission To Discriminate Act last week, and the backlash has been fierce. Companies ranging from gaming convention Gen Con to clomputing firm Salesforce to Apple CEO Tim Cook have blasted the law and have even threatened to pull out millions of dollars of investments in the state.
What the law doesn't have is a whole lot of defenders, as Indianapolis Star columnist Tim Evans notes.
Oddly and conspicuously missing has been a strong counter-show of public support by the law's backers, including evangelical Christians.
Polling shows Americans are divided nearly evenly on the issue of gay marriage — even down to whether wedding-related businesses should be forced to serve same-sex couples in the face of a strongly held religious objection — but you wouldn't know the split was so close based on the noise swirling around Indiana in the last few days.
The ceremony where Gov. Mike Pence's signed the bill into law Thursday was deliberately low-key and private. The event was closed to the media and, even though the governor's office issued a photograph of Pence surrounded by a clutch of backers — many in religious garb — the governor's staff refused to provide their names.
So what's the deal?
An excellent question. The law was sold as a necessary bulwark to protect Indiana Christians from secular assault, but there aren't tons of people celebrating the law in the streets. So why not?
Is it that backers don't want to appear to be gloating in the wake of a major victory in the cultural war?
Or is it something deeper, reflecting a changing attitude about the broader issue of discussing religion in public — a shift that has left many who hold deep religious beliefs leery, maybe even afraid, to speak out for fear of being marginalized, labeled as fanatics or targeted for retribution?
The answer, according to the few backers who responded to questions from The Star, appears to be a mix of the two. But it also is true that some religious groups have not backed the new law.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sent a letter to Pence this week threatening to cancel its 2017 convention in Indy if he signed the measure into law.
"Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry," Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.
Now that's interesting. A Christian church that doesn't find the law to be very Christ-like. Maybe that's the difference here in 2015.
Of course, there are those who are happily using the law for its intended purpose.
An Indiana business owner went on a local radio station and said that he had discriminated against gay or lesbian couples even before Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a law on Thursday protecting business owners who decide to discriminate for “religious liberty” reasons. He then defended the practice and suggested he would do it again.
The business owner, who would not give his name or the name of his business, said he had told some LGBT “people” that equipment was broken in his restaurant and he couldn’t serve them even though it wasn’t and other people were already eating at the tables. “So, yes, I have discriminated,” he told RadioNOW 100.9 hosts. The hosts were surprised the owner said he was okay with discriminating.
“Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it, “he said. “They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”
And the law expressly prohibits any legal penalties to be levied against this fine, upstanding pillar of the community for his ignorance, because that's exactly what the law was meant to do.
And everyone knows it.