Whining about Indiana’s Retreat from Bigotry

By William K. Black
Quito: April 4, 2015

I’m dealing with the temporary expiration of our subscription to the Wall Street Journal and my resultant inability to read columns behind its paywall.  This caused me to search whether others had made the full text of the WSJ editorial “Liberal Intolerance, Round II” available on line.  I put the first sentence of the editorial in my search engine.

“The political delirium over Indiana’s law protecting minority religious beliefs doesn’t seem to be abating, and the irony is that it may be illustrating why such statutes are necessary.”

It spit out the exact same sentence – but in what appears to be (the world’s worst) web site of U.S. News and World Report in a (maybe) news article attributed to “us,” but starting with an AP credit.  The only change is that the first sentence in the WSJ has become the second sentence in the USNWR.  As the third sentence in the quotation below shows, it is in some ways a personal take on a straight news story sourced to AP, but the USNWR’s web site refers to as being authored by “us.”  I trust you are as confused as I am.  The two pieces differ, but seem clearly to have been written by the same person about the same subject.

“NEW YORK (AP) — Conservative faith leaders have made religious liberty a rallying cry as gay marriage has spread throughout the states. The political delirium over Indiana’s law protecting minority religious beliefs doesn’t seem to be abating, and the irony is that it may be illustrating why such statutes are necessary. Toward the end of covering the 2012 election, I started to tell friends about the same daydream: Mitt Romney, locked in a room for a week, just sharing opinions about things with no awareness of how events transpired outside.”

Whose “Political Delirium” Is Tearing Apart the Nation?

The repeated sentence is remarkably dishonest.  The “political delirium” was that the a Governor with presidential ambitions, Indiana’s Mike Pence, decided to demonstrate to the world that he was a dishonest lightweight.  He encouraged and signed a law designed to allow merchants to discriminate against gays (and anyone else they despised) by claiming that G-d made them do it.  The Indiana law was explicit that G-d’s direction to discriminate against gays or blacks (1) did not have to be in scripture and (2) did not have to be a direction to discriminate.  Indiana simply decreed that G-d, as divined by bigots, was a “trump” card that could allow merchants to deny service to anyone they chose to see as on the bad side of G-d.

The effort to authorize discrimination in Indiana was driven by hate for gays, but the law did not mention gays and also authorized merchants to discriminate against literally anyone on any basis that the merchant claimed arose from a belief that the merchant self-defined as “religious.”  The Governor and the Republican legislators supported the Act because they thought it was smart politics within the “political delirium” that is the modern Republican primary.  Indiana is, infamously, the state in which one of the Republican Party’s most distinguished Senators, Richard Lugar, went down to a crushing defeat by an ultra-right primary rival, Richard Mourdock.  Mourdock lost the general election after he described women impregnated by rapists as receiving a “gift” from G-d.  Mourdock successfully accused Lugar of something he was guilty of – a bipartisan approach to foreign policy.

The second sentence of the WSJ editorial accuses “liberals” of having “abandoned the American tradition of pluralism in favor of an all-or-nothing social model that brooks no dissent.”  Yes, tell Dick Lugar about the problem of political partisans that not only brook no dissent, but no political compromise to help our Nation.  But Lugar wasn’t knifed by “liberals,” he was the victim of the tea party that dominates Republican primaries in Indiana and most Red states.

The USNWR piece contains the identical language: “Much of the modern political left has abandoned the American tradition of pluralism in favor of an all-or-nothing social model that brooks no dissent.”

So, the “political delirium” is not the product of “liberals,” but the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party – and the politicians that fear it and devise their policies to pander to it.  Recall that Indiana was not the first state to adopt a law designed to allow merchants to discriminate against gays and that 2015 was not the first year such bills were passed.  The business community reacted strongly against a similar bill in Arizona in 2014 and Republican Governor Jan Brewer vetoed it in February 2014.

The second stage of Indiana Republican elected officials’ “delirium” was believing that the same wave of opposition and revulsion would not happen in Indiana as happened in Arizona.  The strategy of gays “coming out” has been one of the most successful social and political strategies) of the modern era.  (It is also psychologically healthy.)  It turns out that those depraved deviants were our best friends and business associates.  Who knew?  Homophobia is still a major force in America, but it is declining rapidly and young conservatives are largely embarrassed by their elders’ determination that their guns and their homophobia will have to be pried from their cold dead hands.  So, even though the reaction in Arizona occurred only slightly over a year ago it was inevitable that the opposition to Indiana’s “G-d wants me to refuse to sell pizza to gays” bill would be more even powerful than in Arizona.   (I’m sure Jesus said something about gays and pizza, or at least pita, in the Apocrypha.  His gospel, after all, was all about the fact that it would be harder for gays to enter the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle.  No, just kidding, that was wealthy.)

The third stage of “delirium” was Governor Pence deciding that if he refused to answer – six times – maybe folks wouldn’t figure out that authorizing merchants to deny service to gays (or blacks, or women not wearing sufficiently “modest” dress, including head covering) was exactly what the Act was drafted to do.  Pence came across as dishonest and brazen – using all his (very limited) talk show host “skills” to avoid answering the question by attacking the questioner.  It turned out that when he didn’t control the microphone as he did when he was a radio talk show host and instead was in front of a TV camera he froze up like a deer staring into the oncoming headlights bringing the wreckage of his presidential ambitions.

Discrimination by Merchants is Not “Dissent” 

Discriminating against people on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, or sexual orientation is not an act of brave “dissent” – it is simple bigotry.  The merchants who refused to serve blacks were not brave “dissenters” from an oppressive state – they were part of the oppressive power structure in which the business community played a particularly disgraceful role.  That system terrorized and constrained the lives of black Americans to maintain power and wealth for white elites.  The system also had a powerful religious component, with the Southern Baptist’s schism from other Baptists occurring for the explicit purpose of supporting slavery and then white domination after the Civil War.

When you choose to open a business Americans now believe that you must not discriminate against customers on the bases I’ve described.  We have a long experience with the shameful alternative approach of discriminating in the workplace.  There is a small group of “liberals” (in the European sense of that word) who want to bring back an absolute right of merchants to discriminate against blacks, women, and LGBT.  The claim is premised on the assertion that we have a natural “liberty” in the marketplace to discriminate on any basis, including the vilest hate.

Richard Epstein is a leading proponent of this claim.  He is a man who follows his logic to the bitter end.  He famously wrote that the “very hard question” for him was whether we should be able to sell ourselves into “voluntary” hereditary slavery (Forbidden Grounds: 20 n. 6).  The aspect of this issue that he said was “very hard” for him was the problem of the “externalities” – the slaves’ children who would be consigned to hereditary slavery (like any good commodity) by their parents’ decision to become “voluntary” slaves by contract.  Yes, you can’t truly have “liberty” unless you are “free” to sell yourself into slavery in order to avoid starvation once all those pesky safety net programs are destroyed.  You cannot compete with unintentional self-parody.  In my hopeful moments I console myself with the belief that Epstein may be the only American who thinks it is “a very hard question” whether we should allow “voluntary” hereditary slavery.

Oh, and remember that Epstein’s former colleague at U. Chicago “proved” (by torturing the data) that blacks were rarely tortured, so slavery is not so bad.  After all, physical torture harms the value of the commodity.  Slave owners realized the leverage they had by threatening to sell a recalcitrant slave’s spouse or children.  The market always provides a solution.

At places like the WSJ, religious “liberty” to discriminate is the stalking horse for this broader claim of an absolute right to discriminate in the marketplace against any group for any reason.  For the Wall Street Journal opinion writers, the chance to express their disdain for gays and liberals (in the U.S. use of that term) combines with their broader claim that we should return to allowing racial segregation in the workplace because that maximizes the straight, white bigoted merchant’s “liberty.”  The black or LGBT customer denied service has the consolation that he or she too can discriminate against those that they despise.  Hate begets hate.  It is important to realize how radical the WSJ is on this issue, for its readership is so overwhelmingly and strongly opposed to workplace discrimination that it has taken a lead role in opposing the laws allowing discrimination.

The Incoherence of the USNWR Article and WSJ Editorial

Recall that the anonymous author’s claim that the Red State “delirium” exemplified by the dysfunctional nature of Indiana politics in which at the state level the ultra-right wing of the Republican Party has absolute power – but every Republican official is terrified at the prospect of being “Lugared” in the primary by someone even further to the right – somehow establishes that the original law authorizing merchants to discriminate was “necessary.”  So how does the author attempt to prove his thesis that it is “necessary” to adopt laws allowing merchants to discriminate against gays, blacks, “immodestly” dressed women, etc.?”

He (I use the male pronoun for brevity for the anonymous author) begins by complaining that laws similar to Indiana’s original bill authorizing merchants to discriminate are now doomed due to public outrage.

“After a week-long firestorm of criticism for Indiana’s and Arkansas’ new religious freedom laws, similar legislation pending across the country may now be doomed. Much of the modern political left has abandoned the American tradition of pluralism in favor of an all-or-nothing social model that brooks no dissent. In at least five states — Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, and Texas — religious freedom proposals that opponents warn would sanction discrimination against LGBT people have either died outright, or look to have little chance of becoming law this legislative session.”

This “argument” is simply a label – those who discriminate have a right to do so, and are worthy of special praise, because they “dissent” from the view that merchants should not be allowed to discriminate on the bases I have discussed.  The bills do not authorize merchants to discriminate against only LGBT – they allow discrimination on any basis the merchant asserts to be “religious.”  Under the bills’ language, the merchant’s “religious” precepts need not arise from any scriptural basis, much less a religious command to discriminate against gays, blacks, or “immodest” women.   Substitute the words “black,” “Jew,” or “‘immodest’ woman” for “LGBT” and evaluate the author’s effort to label refusing to serve a customer as “dissent” and to claim that those that oppose discrimination by merchants are fascists.  The “American tradition of pluralism” includes the equal protection clause – and the ever shrinking concept of “the other” who is treated as not deserving of society’s protection against discrimination.

Virtually all Americans have ancestors who were treated as “the other” and openly discriminated against because women were excluded from many societal rights in the U.S. until recent times.  Blacks, the Irish, Latinos, Native Americans, Jews, Asians, and Italians were often treated as “the other” in the U.S.  Even for those who ignore gender, most Americans have ancestors who were discriminated against in the U.S.  Ending or at least reducing each of these forms of discrimination was essential to developing American “pluralism.”  The people who were discriminating were virulent opponents of American pluralism.   So, the author is actually celebrating the anti-pluralists – the “right” of bigoted merchants to discriminate against “the other.”  The author is upset that the Republican politicians in the Reddest states that have no political pluralism are not able to impose their homophobic will with impunity on the minorities within their states.  But at least the author is clear in his conclusion if not his (missing) reasoning – he asserts that it is “necessary” to pass laws that “would sanction discrimination against LGBT people.”  And by “sanction,” in this context he means “authorize.”  So why is it “necessary” to reverse America’s historic and growing opposition to discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender, etc.?”  Later in the article he admits that the Indiana law was designed to allow merchants to discriminate against LGBT:  “most observers agree [that the Indiana Act] would have allowed businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers.”  The author admits that critics of the Indiana Act read it – and its proponents’ desires to allow merchants to discriminate – correctly.  Opponents of discrimination, therefore, were not the ones engaged in “delirium” – they were correct about the original Indiana Act having as at its purpose allowing merchants to discriminate against LGBT with impunity.  None of this begins to meet the author’s burden of showing why it is “necessary” to pass laws allowing merchants to discriminate against those they despise, but it does limit the number of things to be debated.

The author implicitly admits that Governor Pence was lying when he claimed that the Act was not intended to permit merchants to discriminate and that his refusal to answer the question as to whether the Act would protect discrimination – six times – was a deliberate effort to avoid admitting that fact to the public.  As I wrote – the Indiana Act was based on a bigotry that dared not speak its purpose.  But, hey, if it is “necessary” to allow merchants to discriminate against groups they despise, and Governor Pence knows that he cannot admit that fact publicly because most Americans consider such discrimination reprehensible, then I guess it is “necessary” to lie to prevent the public from learning the facts.  Governor Pence knew that if the public learned the truth it would respond by expressing its opposition to “restoring” a legal right for merchants to discriminate against groups they despise.
Notice that we’re still hunting for a remotely coherent explanation from the author as to why it is “necessary” to restore merchants’ “right” to discriminate against groups they despise.  Alas, the author embraces chaos.

“On Thursday the Indiana legislature passed and Governor Mike Pence signed an amendment to the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act emphasizing that the law is not the license to discriminate that it never was. And they underscored that fact two weeks ago, immediately after Pence (R) signed the measure into law. “VICTORY AT THE STATEHOUSE!” proclaimed a news release from Advance America, a conservative group whose leader, Eric Miller, was invited to join Pence at a private signing ceremony at the statehouse. ‘Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!’”

Just try to track this paragraph.  First, the original law, which the author admitted only a few sentences earlier was drafted and adopted to assist merchants who wished to discriminate, is now “not the license to discriminate that it never was.”  Huh?  The author now tells us the original Act was “never” intended to allow merchants to discriminate.  He “proves” this point by quoting someone who openly proclaimed that that the original law was intended to allow “Christian” merchants to discriminate against LGBT customers – and cheered that result, standing next to Pence at “the private signing ceremony.”  The reality is that Pence and the legislature, in response to enormous public opposition to authorizing discrimination by merchants against groups they despise, amended the law to deny its original purpose.

Hoosiers Don’t Need to Look to Selma for Historical Warnings of Bigotry

OK, we’re still tracking this self-contradictory USNWR article to try to find where the author offers his proof that it is “necessary” to adopt laws to authorize merchants to discriminate against groups of people they hate.  What comes next is another swerve into fiction posing as a lament that “the basic facts” are being ignored.  The author describes the revised Indiana law barring use of the law by merchants as a basis for discrimination as a “concession.”

“This concession is unlikely to temper the media portrait of Indianapolis as the new Selma, circa 1965, because this rumpus long ago kicked free of the legal merits or even the basic facts.”

Except that if you recall the earlier passages in the story, the opponents of legalized discrimination got “the basic facts” about the original Indiana law correct.  The law was designed to authorize merchants to discriminate against any group (as long as they called their discrimination against the groups they despised “religious”) and was drafted in a manner that would have authorized such discrimination.  Pence lied about “the basic facts” to attempt to deceive and defuse the opposition to legalized discrimination, but his effort failed because we had the facts and “the legal merits” of the original Act correct when we wrote and spoke in opposition to it.  The author’s real pain is the recognition that as soon as the “the legal merits” and “the basic facts” emerged – that the Act authorized discrimination – it was immediately seen by the vast majority of Americans and business leaders (not famously “liberal”) as indefensible and repugnant to everything that Americans believe in.  Almost no one wants a return to Selma – where merchants discriminated against blacks, Latinos, and others with impunity.  The business community, as a whole, was appalled that Indiana would want to return to the days when such discrimination was legal.

But why is the author talking about Selma?  Indiana is no stranger to bigotry and merchants refusing to serve groups they despised – or the KKK despised.  Indiana was, per capita, the KKK’s strongest bastion in the Nation in the 1920s when the Klan reached national prominence in response to anti-immigrant hate, often along religious lines.

“Klan membership in the early 1920’s was stronger per capita in Indiana than anywhere else in the nation, said Allen Safianow, a history professor at Indiana University at Kokomo.

‘There was a new wave of Klan activity in the North after 1915, focusing largely on Catholics, Jews and anyone foreign-born,’ Professor Safianow added, noting that it came on the heels of massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe and at the height of public hysteria over the ‘Red Menace’ posed by the Bolshevik revolution.

The rise of the Klan reflected national anxieties about the new immigrants and exacerbated those fears, scholars said. In May 1924, Congress passed the National Origins Act, which established a quota plan in which only 2 percent of the nationality that was in the United States in 1890 would be admitted. The quotas, which sharply restricted the number of Roman Catholic and Jewish immigrants, were abolished in 1965.

The induction of D. C. Stephenson as the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, at a ceremony held in Kokomo on July 4, 1923, drew tens of thousands of supporters; it is considered by many scholars to be the largest single Klan gathering in the nation’s history.

At the time, the Klan had close ties with many politicians in the Midwest, including Gov. Ed Jackson of Indiana. But after Mr. Stephenson was convicted of murder in 1925, the Klan was widely discredited, and its membership dropped sharply.

A recent article in the local newspaper, The Daily Ledger, reported: “During the 1920’s in Noblesville, virtually everyone was a Klansman. If you didn’t belong to the Ku Klux Klan, you essentially weren’t part of the community.”

There was a lynching in Marion, Ind., in 1930, when two blacks, jailed on charges of murder, were dragged from their cells by a mob and hanged from a tree. But the Klan’s role in the hangings remains uncertain.

The mob had planned to lynch a third young black man, James Cameron, that day, but at the last moment decided against it. Mr. Cameron, who now runs the Black Holocaust Museum in Milwaukee, recalls seeing thousands of people in the mob, ‘acting like it was a picnic.’ He said robed members of the Klan were monitoring the crowd.

Growing up in Noblesville as one of the few blacks in town, Murphy White, now 72 and a member of the City Council, recalled some of the accepted bigotries of the day: blacks were required to sit in the balcony at movies, they were not allowed to sit at the drug store fountain and they were forbidden to swim in the public pool.”

The New York Times aptly characterized The Dragon and the Cross as detailing “How the Klan Captured Indiana.   Richard Tucker’s book describes a Hoosier who was one of the vilest Americans ever to disgrace our Nation.

“[David] Stephenson also controlled a secret, autonomous society within the Indiana Klan, the Military Machine, which had a quarter-million members. And he had pervasive influence over the state government. In 1924, Mr. Tucker writes, the Klan captured the government of Indiana by helping to elect closet Klansmen or pro-Klan candidates to office on the municipal, county and state levels, including Gov. Ed Jackson, many members of the state legislature and all but one member of the state’s Congressional delegation.

Mr. Tucker, a freelance journalist who formerly worked for The Indianapolis News, has provided a good explanation of how and why the Klan enjoyed such popularity, no matter how briefly, in the early 1920’s: hyperpatriotism, religious bigotry, racism and nativism — all of which have been part of our national character since the nation’s founding — swelled in the years after World War I. Immigration, Red scares and Jazz Age profligacy fanned anxieties in small-town Middle America. Roman Catholics, Jews, blacks and foreigners were only the most obvious targets of the Klan’s fearmongering; bootleggers and Charleston-dancing libertines were also the enemies of so-called real Americanism.”

“Everyone knows” that gays exemplify today’s “Charleston-dancing libertines.”

Indiana educators have made valiant efforts to teach Hoosiers about the State’s history as the Klan’s most powerful bastion.  Here is an example.

Historical and Methodological Context for the Lesson:

“During the 1920s, five million Americans joined the Ku Klux Klan. Hoosiers turned out in record numbers, making Indiana ‘s Klan the largest, most enthusiastic, and most politically powerful Klan in the country. Between one-fourth and one-third of native-born white Hoosier males joined the group (see document 5), and there were auxiliary organizations for women and children. At its peak in 1925, Indiana ‘s Klan could boast more members than the Methodist Church, the state’s leading denomination.

This “second” Klan was organized in 1915 in Atlanta . In 1920, the southern group began a national publicity campaign, and the first Indiana chapter opened in Evansville in the fall of that year. A few people joined, but then a huge membership drive led by D. C. Stephenson from 1922-1924 brought in 118,000 members across the state (see document 6). Stephenson moved to Indianapolis and started a newspaper, The Fiery Cross, which ran from December 1922 to February 1925. In 1924, Klan numbers overwhelmed the state’s Republican Party and elected the governor (Ed Jackson), a majority in both houses of the legislature, and nearly all of the state’s thirteen congressmen.

As a political influence, the Klan faded quickly in Indiana, but its social and cultural influence dovetailed more subtly into Hoosier life. Klan literature capitalized on American racism, nativism, patriotism, and traditional moral and family values. Klan members targeted blacks, Catholics, and Jews, but also immigrants, political radicals, feminists, intellectuals, gamblers, bootleggers, thrill-seeking teenagers, and motion picture producers (see document 7). In one sense, Indiana’s Klan was a populist organization: it engaged community interests, presented a program of action, and promised political changes. The Klan’s message of patriotism, American superiority, and Protestant Christianity united native-born Hoosiers across many lines—gender, geography (north and south), class (white and blue collar), religious (many denominations of Protestants), and residential (urban and rural). But this populist club also propagated a negative and wicked influence. Historians have found no documentary evidence to directly link Hoosier Klan members to lynchings in Indiana, but their marches, burned crosses, brazen publications, and boycotts of community businesses evoked fear, intimidation, and lifelong trauma (see documents 2-4). Historian James Madison has observed that Indiana’s Klan ‘cannot be dismissed as either an aberration or as simply the insidious appeal of a fanatical few. Nor should the Klan be seen as thoroughly dominating the state and accurately reflecting racist, violent, or provincial beliefs shared for all time by all Hoosiers’ ( The Indiana Way, 291). Somewhere in the middle we find the meaning of the Klan in Indiana history.”

In a wondrous irony, when the historical society of a small Indiana town was given the membership list of the KKK from the 1920s the key basis for the society refusing to make the list public (even though everyone on it is dead) is that the KKK organized merchants to refuse service not simply to all the lengthy list of groups of Americans the KKK hated, but also anyone who opposed the Klan.  (The Indiana history lesson also mentions the Klan’s policy of discriminating against merchants who refused to discriminate.)  This was the real face of the tradition of American pluralism that is championed by bigoted merchants when they discriminate.  To call it “liberty” is obscene.

“The historical society, after some debate, voted to accept the Klan list, but to restrict access to it.

‘It would be embarrassing to some families’ to publish the list, Mr. Heighway said, adding that threats of boycotts of merchants by the Klan also had to be considered. ‘There’s an ethical question here, too, since we don’t know how many people were forced to join the Klan.’

The last living person on the list died several months ago, but the roster will still be made available only for scholastic or genealogical purposes. The Historical Society said it would require researchers to gain the consent of all descendants before publishing the name of any Klansman, a requirement that would seem virtually impossible to meet.”

The educational effort to teach the people of Indiana about the State’s disgraceful history of discrimination and extreme hostility against immigrants was so successful that it was not until 2011 that Indiana’s Republican state senators voted for the most draconian anti-Latino bill in the Nation – authorizing the police to demand proof of citizenship of anyone they suspected of being an alien, i.e., Latinos.  Indiana has experienced a major increase in its Latino population in recent years.  The dominant reaction of Indiana politicians and the media has been to treat Latinos as a threat.

“While some people welcome this increased diversity, the most prevalent reactions, as reflected in the media (local newspapers, TV, radio and the Internet), tend to be negative – including outright rejection of immigrants from Latin America, concerns about losing their cultural identity (depicting the immigrants as ‘‘colonizing the US way of Life’’ and ‘‘destroying our heritage’’), fear that immigrants are taking jobs from US citizens and draining government budgets by reaping public benefits, and the portrayal of immigrants as carriers of diseases, or as criminals. In fact, reproducing a discourse that seems to prevail with differing degrees of intensity in many other places described in what Chavez (2008, 21) describes as the ‘Latino threat narrative’ espoused by anti-immigrant intellectuals, politicians, and most of the mainstream media.”

Hoosiers have no need to look to Selma.  Any Hoosier with the slightest knowledge of Indiana history or who listens to the media in Indiana (and Pence was an important part of that pathology), knows all about discrimination against “the other.”  The point is not that Hoosiers are uniquely bigoted.  The point is that Selma’s bigotry was not unique, and Hoosiers know it.

Then the USNWR Article Gets Really Weird

The anonymous author of the article I have been discussing still has not tried at this juncture in his piece to explain why it is “necessary” to pass a law allowing merchants to discriminate against groups they despise.  The author is furious with Pence for backing down on the Act.

“And nothing’s thrown [the citizens of Indiana] into the spotlight quite like Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence’s chickenshit volte-face on his own economic smear-the-queers bill.”

Combining “chickenshit” and “volte-face” in the same sentence is something I never expected to see in my life.  At this juncture I confess to having been mystified as to two points about the author’s thesis that the opposition to Indiana Republicans’ effort to pass a “smear-the-queers bill” could prove (a) that it was “necessary” to “smear-the-queers” and that “liberals” were the perfidious villains of the piece who proved they were “intolerant” because they opposed the “smear-the-queers bill.”  I confess to having believed that if you opposed a “smear” of a minority group that has frequently faced discrimination and imprisonment due to bigotry you were demonstrating tolerance.  Actually, I think “tolerance” is the wrong concept, for it suggests that it is an act of grace by the majority not to jail the minority.  I think “mutual respect” is the appropriate aim.

The author’s real concern, however, turns out to be not harming the Republican effort to win the presidency.

“Here’s the problem: Almost all the 2016 GOP presidential candidates ran onto the bridge to defend Pence and Indiana Republicans loud enough to be heard in Iowa — then Pence dynamited the thing, sending them crashing to the canyon floor like Wile E. Coyote.”

Note that the author’s “problem” is not that “almost all the 2016 GOP presidential candidates” rushed to endorse discrimination by merchants – it’s that Pence abandoned that position.  This concern doesn’t show that it is “necessary” to pass laws restoring Jim Crow in America, but we can all understand that Pence exposed himself, his Party, and his Party’s leading candidates for the nomination to ridicule for their embrace of discrimination, followed by their refusal to admit that they were embracing discrimination by urging passage of “smear-the-queers” bills, followed by their rout and headlong retreat.  Republicans, understandably, prefer to blame “liberals” for their decision to ignite the dynamite they placed under the bridge they rushed to stand on – after they set the dynamite where it would destroy the bridge.

Recall that it was only last month that Republican strategists were putting out the word that the Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality that they were anticipating would take the Republican Party off the hook for opposing equal rights for LGBT citizens.  The Party could say that the Supreme Court had decided the issue and it was time to move on to other issues.  But because of their fears of being Lugared, elected Republican officials in Indiana decided instead to reignite the “smear-the-queers” strategy.  They are now shocked, shocked that this led most Americans (including Indiana’s none too liberal business community) to rise up in opposition and that Pence had to abandon his “smear-the-queers bill” that sought to reintroduce legalized discrimination in America.

The author proceeds to spin further out of control.

“Rick Santorum’s granddad or dad or some ancestor came to this country to literally dig coal 23 hours a day except for an hour break to eat coal and be beaten and gnawed on by Wendigos just so his descendent could one day consider someone like Mike Pence a homosymp pansy. This good for them and immaterial for us, because none of them stands a fucking chance unless Foster Freiss starts dropping eight figure donations on Rick again.”

OK, this is obviously further strong proof that America’s paramount problem is intolerant “liberals” like Rick Santorum.  Except that the author seems to side with Santorum in deriding Pence as “a homosymp pansy.”

“But when gay marriage increasingly became recognized by courts instead of legislatures, religious conservatives needed another means to seek conscience protections. Meanwhile, everyone else is stuck holding the bag for Mike Pence, while he scampers off and a fellow traveler like Republican Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson knuckles under to Wal-Mart, pins his change of heart on his son’s activism and refuses to sign an RFRA like Indiana’s.”

Instead of supporting his claim that it was “necessary” to pass Indiana’s “smear-the-queers bill” with logic, the author supplies circular conclusions.  The bill is “necessary” because “religious conservatives” “need” the right to discriminate as merchants.  The author disdains Pence and Hutchinson’s cowardice in failing to continue to support the bills authorizing merchants to discriminate against any group they despise.

Discrimination is a “No Harm, No Foul” Situation

At this juncture, the author abandons even the pretense of trying to prove that a “smear-the-queers” bill was “necessary” and switches to arguing that discrimination is really not harmful.

“Fining or otherwise coercing any small number of private citizens [for discrimination as merchants]—who aren’t doing anyone real harm but entertain politically unacceptable thoughts—is thuggish stuff.”

Discrimination doesn’t do “anyone real harm” – and governments that ban discrimination by merchants are “thuggish.”  Note the additional false claim that merchants are fined not for their discriminatory actions, but because they hold “politically unacceptable thoughts.”  The author is enraged that Americans (not simply “liberals”) are appalled at the embrace of legalized discrimination by nearly every Republican candidate for the presidential nomination.  Remember when the Republican Party admitted it had a problem with its hostility to many minorities and promised to end its “Southern strategy?”  Well, the Republican Party’s Big New Idea is that merchants should be able to discriminate against those minorities with legal impunity.  Americans are nostalgic for many things, but not for the return of Jim Crow.

0 responses to “Whining about Indiana’s Retreat from Bigotry

  1. When the WSJ and all the others who feel they are being treated intolerantly insist on the American tradition of plurality, I agree completely. It is a virtue — a necessity in a democracy — and all manner of human thought, expression, ideals and programs ought to be freely included in public discussions about the course — the enlightened self-interest — of our lives. From the KKK to the Communist Party of America, step forward, express yourself, tell me your ideas, try to convince me, dissent. But the freedom to dissent is not an insurance policy against opprobrium, and if the ideas you argue for in the commons, in the public square, are rejected out of hand, for whatever reason, that doesn’t mean there is suddenly no pluralism or intolerance regarding dissenters. Only those who are not used to their ideas being rejected recoil in indignation, like Pence, like the WSJ, like the good Rev. Huckabee — good loving inclusive tolerant Christians all. One is perfectly free to practice one’s religion in this country, a constitutionally-guaranteed right. But like all rights, that one is not absolute. We enjoy freedom of speech, but you may not scream “Fire!” in a crowded theater. Your religion may call for or include the practices of arranged marriages with child brides, or polygamy, or animal sacrifice, but guess what? Civil Law prevails. You have a right to practice your religion but the state has no right to establish a state religion or establish the primacy of one religion over another. Practice your religion till your heart and soul are content. Just don’t break the law in the process, and discrimination against a class of people based on sexual orientation is simply not allowed. Evangelicals have been included in our pluralistic society — as have gays — and your dissent has been brooked. You simply lost the argument.

  2. Erick Borling

    The website you linked is not USNWR (US News and World Report), it is something else. Looks terrible but not any worse than Huffington Post or any of those other clickbait purgatories.

  3. Thank you for the explanation. And I’m sorry that we’ve had to deal with this ‘new normal’ of bigotry, wrapped in the cloak of religion.
    Christians in this country have been losing power and control for years and that worries them. It should be noted that what they are losing, are forms of power and control that they should never have had.
    We, who are now learning how to assert this new found power, will want to thank our Founding Fathers and the enlightenment of their era. Without their work (and some ugly compromises) we could all be citizens of just another Christian dominated country, living lives in very un-Christ like manners.

  4. Rolf Langenfussell

    This opinion piece by William Black is stunningly narrow-minded. It also seems to be driven by a peculiar animus toward people of faith who, don’t have the same faith as Mr. Black. Apparently being able to look into the hearts of all who supported the bill, Mr. Black is able to divine that “The effort to authorize discrimination in Indiana was driven by hate for gays.”

    He’s just wrong. Many of us who support this bill, and others like it around the country realize that it does something very important for a pluralistic society like the USA to continue; it offers a balancing test and procedure for sincere religious faith. Instead, what we now have is the situation where people who did not ever show any “hate for gays” like the grandmother florist in Washington State, being driven out of their lifetimes work only because she expressed her deeply held religious view that marriage is between a man and a woman and that she simply could not participate in that event because it was diametrically opposed to what she held deeply. So, the facts (William Black used to appreciate those in other writing on economics) are not that a huge, organized effort of hate of gays is going to happen. Reading Black one would think that gays were going to be rounded up and placed in ghettos in Muncie. Not the case at all. The facts are that in modern America any expression of sincere religious faith outside the walls of a church or synagogue or mosque, apparently, is not to be allowed if people are expressing a sincere religious belief contrary to the folks who, um, believe like Mr. Black. That is not protecting the First Amendment right of any of us, including Mr. Black. Think Toleration, think CoExist, think Pluralism. All of these rational motifs lead to one conclusion, and that is that we must protect freedom of religion and freedom of conscience, and attitudes like Mr. Black’s expressed in this article do nothing but to spread more ill will, and, at the end of the day, damage our liberal democracy by trying to impose a certain mind-think on all Americans who do not think or believe like Mr. Black. That is the Maoist way, not the American way.

    I have enjoyed reading Mr. Black over the years.

  5. Pingback: The Libertarian Plea to Bring Back Jim Crow: An Oxymoron by a Regular Moron - New Economic PerspectivesNew Economic Perspectives

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