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“Voice Of Reason”: Non-Insane Republicans Have To Stand Up And Denounce The Folks Who Kidnapped Their Party

Good on former Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) for giving the back of his hand to Gov. George Wallace, er, Mike Pence over the latter’s invitation to intolerance:

“I would not have passed this to begin with,” Richard G. Lugar, a former longtime Republican senator from Indiana, said in an interview. He added that he and three former Indianapolis mayors as well as the current mayor, Greg Ballard, also a Republican, intended to convey their concerns to Mr. Pence. Asked whether repeal would be preferable to some revision, Mr. Lugar, who was also once the mayor of Indianapolis, noted the complications.

“That’d be the cleanest way of remedying a mistake,” Mr. Lugar said, “but my guess is that a good number of the people who voted for this do not believe it is a mistake. The problem is pacifying them.”

Lugar, of course, represented one of the last vestiges of non-insane conservatism in the GOP–and, for his alleged ideological sins, he was crucified by the Tea Party in 2012, losing a Senate primary to a Pence-style wingnut named Richard Mourdock, who of course went on to lose the general election to Democrat Joe Donnelly.

I have more respect for Lugar than I have for the allegedly rational Republicans who keep their mouths shut whenever prominent members of their party do something nutty. For example, where were the pro-carbon-tax Republican economists such as Irwin Stelzer and Henry Paulson when Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO) recently put forward a budget amendment scorning the idea? The St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial page went after Sen. Blunt the way Stelzer and Paulson should have:

Coal is very dirty fuel. Some of its pollutants can be scrubbed out, though the energy industry is fighting those regulations, too. The carbon dioxide in coal plant emissions can’t be scrubbed out. It goes into the atmosphere. The cost of that is socialized, passed on to society at large in the form of a hotter planet.

A carbon tax would require consumers to pay the social cost of fossil fuels — coal, gasoline, natural gas, methane, etc. When the social costs of private investments (say in a tank of gas) are included in the price, economists called it a “Pigovian” tax (after British economist Arthur Pigou).

Already the price of a tank of gas includes Pigovian taxes for wear and tear on federal and state highways. Your electric and gas bills have Pigovian fees built in for utility company infrastructure. A carbon tax would be a fee to cover the cost of damage you’re doing to the atmosphere…

Conservative economists like Gregory Mankiw of Harvard, who worked for President George W. Bush and for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, have proposed replacing payroll taxes with a carbon tax. Instead of taxing income, you’d tax the consumption of a damaging substance.

Other nations have adopted carbon taxes without disastrous results, offsetting them with tax deductions and rebates. This December, when the nations of the world meet in Paris to establish new goals for addressing climate change, it would be good if our exceptional nation wasn’t an exception. Right now all we bring to the carbon tax discussion is a firm belief in the concept of a free lunch.

If non-insane Republicans want their party back, they’re going to have to stand up and denounce the folks who kidnapped it in the first place. Lugar has done so. Stelzer and Paulson, among others, have not—and why not? Do they have laryngitis?

 

By: D.R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, April 4, 2015

April 5, 2015 Posted by | Indiana, Mike Pence, Tea Party | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Bigotry, The Bible And The Lessons Of Indiana”: The View Of Gays, Lesbians And Bisexuals As Sinners Is A Decision, Not A Choice

The drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision.

They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.

And homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.

That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.

But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing.

It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras.

It ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable.

And it elevates unthinking obeisance above intelligent observance, above the evidence in front of you, because to look honestly at gay, lesbian and bisexual people is to see that we’re the same magnificent riddles as everyone else: no more or less flawed, no more or less dignified.

Most parents of gay children realize this. So do most children of gay parents. It’s a truth less ambiguous than any Scripture, less complicated than any creed.

So our debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.

“Human understanding of what is sinful has changed over time,” said David Gushee, an evangelical Christian who teaches Christian ethics at Mercer University. He openly challenges his faith’s censure of same-sex relationships, to which he no longer subscribes.

For a very long time, he noted, “Many Christians thought slavery wasn’t sinful, until we finally concluded that it was. People thought contraception was sinful when it began to be developed, and now very few Protestants and not that many Catholics would say that.” They hold an evolved sense of right and wrong, even though, he added, “You could find scriptural support for the idea that all sex should be procreative.”

Christians have also moved far beyond Scripture when it comes to gender roles.

“In the United States, we have abandoned the idea that women are second-class, inferior and subordinate to men, but the Bible clearly teaches that,” said Jimmy Creech, a former United Methodist pastor who was removed from ministry in the church after he performed a same-sex marriage ceremony in 1999. “We have said: That’s a part of the culture and history of the Bible. That is not appropriate for us today.”

And we could say the same about the idea that men and women in loving same-sex relationships are doing something wrong. In fact the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have said that. So have most American Catholics, in defiance of their church’s teaching.

And it’s a vital message because of something that Indiana demonstrated anew: Religion is going to be the final holdout and most stubborn refuge for homophobia. It will give license to discrimination. It will cause gay and lesbian teenagers in fundamentalist households to agonize needlessly: Am I broken? Am I damned?

“Conservative Christian religion is the last bulwark against full acceptance of L.G.B.T. people,” Gushee said.

Polls back him up. A majority of Americans support marriage equality, including a majority of Catholics and most Jews. But a 2014 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while 62 percent of white mainline Protestants favor same-sex marriages, only 38 percent of black Protestants, 35 percent of Hispanic Protestants and 28 percent of white evangelical Protestants do.

And as I’ve written before, these evangelical Protestants wield considerable power in the Republican primaries, thus speaking in a loud voice on the political stage. It’s no accident that none of the most prominent Republicans believed to be contending for the presidency favor same-sex marriage and that none of them joined the broad chorus of outrage over Indiana’s discriminatory religious freedom law. They had the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary to worry about.

Could this change? There’s a rapidly growing body of impressive, persuasive literature that looks at the very traditions and texts that inform many Christians’ denunciation of same-sex relationships and demonstrates how easily those points of reference can be understood in a different way.

Gushee’s take on the topic, “Changing Our Mind,” was published late last year. It joined Jeff Chu’s “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” published in 2013, and “Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships,” by James Brownson, which was published in 2013.

Then there’s the 2014 book “God and the Gay Christian,” by Matthew Vines, who has garnered significant attention and drawn large audiences for his eloquent take on what the New Testament — which is what evangelicals draw on and point to — really communicates.

Evaluating its sparse invocations of homosexuality, he notes that there wasn’t any awareness back then that same-sex attraction could be a fundamental part of a person’s identity, or that same-sex intimacy could be an expression of love within the context of a nurturing relationship.

“It was understood as a kind of excess, like drunkenness, that a person might engage in if they lost all control, not as a unique identity,” Vines told me, adding that Paul’s rejection of same-sex relations in Romans I was “akin to his rejection of drunkenness or his rejection of gluttony.”

And Vines said that the New Testament, like the Old Testament, outlines bad and good behaviors that almost everyone deems archaic and irrelevant today. Why deem the descriptions of homosexual behavior any differently?

Creech and Mitchell Gold, a prominent furniture maker and gay philanthropist, founded an advocacy group, Faith in America, which aims to mitigate the damage done to L.G.B.T. people by what it calls “religion-based bigotry.”

Gold told me that church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.”

His commandment is worthy — and warranted. All of us, no matter our religious traditions, should know better than to tell gay people that they’re an offense. And that’s precisely what the florists and bakers who want to turn them away are saying to them.

 

By: Frank Bruni, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, April 3, 2015

April 4, 2015 Posted by | Homophobia, Indiana, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Anarchy Of ‘Religious Liberty'”: We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone Not Like Us

It’s a good thing Americans have no serious problems, because the time and energy we expend fighting over symbolic issues could become a problem. Sure, symbols can be important. The swastika is a symbol, also the U.S. flag. But this week’s farcical casus belli involves a couple of spectacularly ill-conceived “religious freedom” statutes in Indiana and Arkansas.

As originally written, these laws would give every private business in both states — every butcher, baker, and wedding cake maker — powers and privileges equivalent to the Pope of Rome. But is that what their authors actually intended? Moreover, even if the laws stand, which looks unlikely at this writing, would anything important really change in actual practice?

As a longtime Arkansas resident, I very much doubt it. Political posturing aside, person to person, are people here really so self-righteous and mean-spirited as to treat their LGBT neighbors like lepers? Or, more to the point, like blacks in the bad old days before the civil rights revolution of the 1960s? Would we revert to open discrimination in broad daylight?

No, no, and no. Those days are gone forever. Nobody really wants them back. What’s happened here is that the Chicken Little right has worked itself into yet another existential panic over the U.S. Supreme Court’s expected ruling legalizing gay marriage, badly overplayed its hand, and set itself up for yet another humiliating defeat.

Anyway, here’s what I meant about the Pope of Rome. A while back, I got myself into hot water with old friends by failing to express indignation about a Catholic girls’ school in Little Rock firing a lesbian teacher who announced her marriage to her longtime companion.

My view was simple: as a lifelong Catholic, the teacher knew the Church’s position, and she ought to have known what would happen. It’s an authoritarian institution, the Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church. By all accounts a terrific teacher — she landed another job immediately — the newlywed had somehow persuaded herself that as her homosexuality had long been an open secret, openly defying Church doctrine wouldn’t be a problem.

Wrong.

Now, you’d think the Catholic Church’s own appalling failures would have rendered it mute on questions of sexual morality for, oh, a century or so. But that’s not how they see it. When and if the doctrine changes, it won’t start in the Mount Saint Mary’s Academy faculty lounge. Damn shame, but there it is.

Was I being smug because I’ve never faced such difficult choices? Could be. But here’s the thing: No American has to be a Roman Catholic; it’s strictly voluntary.

But the United States isn’t supposed to be an authoritarian country. And that’s precisely what’s so potentially insidious about both the Indiana and Arkansas statutes as written, and why they cannot be permitted to stand. Under the guise of “religious liberty” they would give zealous individuals and private businesses near-dictatorial powers with no legal recourse.

Under Arkansas HB1228, aka the “Conscience Protection Act,” it’s every person his own religious dogma — “person” being broadly defined as any “association, partnership, corporation, church, religious institution, estate, trust, foundation, or other legal entity.”

Dogma would trump civil rights at every turn. What it could mean in practice is that if your landlord’s God objected to your being gay, he could evict you. Should your employer’s religious scruples cause him to object to your marrying another woman, he could fire you.

And there wouldn’t be a thing you could do about it.

Advertised as preventing “government” from forcing conscience-stricken wedding photographers to document Bob and Bill’s nuptials, the Arkansas law would also make it nearly impossible for private citizens to file lawsuits against “persons” professing religious motives.

“Persons,” remember, including corporations, estates and trusts. You could end up losing your job because some dead person’s will stipulated “no faggots.” Or no Muslims, Catholics, or redheads, I suppose.

But what such laws really threaten isn’t so much tyranny, University of Arkansas-Little Rock law professor John DiPippa points out, as anarchy. “With HB 1228,” he writes “county clerks could seek exemptions from issuing marriage licenses for same-sex couples, or for interracial couples, or divorced couples. Teachers could refuse to teach the required curriculum.”

All this because certain literal-minded religionists can’t get it through their heads that marriage can be two things: both a legal contract between consenting adults, and a religious ceremony. If your church chooses not to sanction certain kinds of marriages, nobody says it must. But as a legal matter, other people’s intimate arrangements are really none of your business.

Why is that so hard to understand?

So no, these laws are not going to stand as written. Hardly anybody wants to go back to the 1950s. When Apple, the NCAA, Angie’s List, Walmart, and Charles Barkley are all lined up on the same side of a political controversy, that side is going to win.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, April 1, 2015

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Arkansas, Indiana, Religious Liberty | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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