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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

“Indiana And Federal Statutes Not Wholly Identical”: Three Factors That Make Indiana’s Religion Law Different From Other States’

The Indiana statute is the culmination of a long, murky legal history that reaches back to the 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division v. Smith, which significantly changed the standard interpretation of the First Amendment’s free exercise clause. At issue was whether a Native American group could use peyote in religious rituals in violation of an Oregon law. The court ruled that it could not — because the state law was “neutral,” in that it was not motivated by a desire to curtail religious rights, and because it applied to everyone in the state.

Legal precedent prior to 1990 dictated that the government could substantially burden a person’s practice of his or her religion only if its action was necessary to achieve a compelling government purpose. But in Smith, the court established that the free exercise clause could not be used to challenge a neutral law of general applicability no matter how much the law burdened religion.

So, before Smith, a priest in a dry county who wanted to use wine in communion surely would have prevailed in court. After Smith, he would have lost because the law prohibiting consumption of alcohol was a neutral law of general applicability.

In 1993, Congress, with strong bipartisan support, passed and President Clinton signed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Its stated goal was to restore religious freedom by statute to what it previously had been under the Constitution. The law provides that whenever the government substantially burdens religion, even with a neutral law of general applicability, its action is illegal unless proven to be necessary to achieve a compelling government interest.

The next development came in 1997, when the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional as applied to state and local governments because it exceeded the scope of Congress’ power. But the law remained constitutional as applied to the federal government, and was the basis for the court’s decision last June in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby. In that case, the court held, 5 to 4, that it violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to require a closely held corporation to provide contraceptive coverage if that contradicted its owners’ religious beliefs.

The new Indiana law has the same title and contains the same language as the federal statute. Like the federal law, the Indiana version provides: “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.”

But the Indiana and federal statutes are not wholly identical. The Indiana law, unlike the federal RFRA, builds on Hobby Lobby by expressly providing protection to corporations and other business entities. That’s one reason to worry that the purpose of the Indiana law is to allow discrimination against same-sex couples based on business owners’ religious beliefs.

Another reason for concern is timing. Why is Indiana adopting the law now, 25 years after Employment Division v. Smith and 22 years after the enactment of the federal statute? There is a widespread consensus across the political spectrum that the Supreme Court is about to recognize a right to marriage equality for gays and lesbians and hold that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage violate the Constitution. This law appears to be a reaction to that development.

The rhetoric surrounding the Indiana law is also troubling. In fact, over and over in his interviews, Pence has refused to deny that the law would permit discrimination. He also was emphatic that there would be no expansion of rights for gays and lesbians on his “watch.”

This is why there are loud protests against the Indiana law and calls for boycotts of the state. But Indiana could easily solve this controversy by amending the law to provide that no one can discriminate against others based on sexual orientation, sex or race under the statute or on the grounds of religious beliefs.

 

By: Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, The Los Angeles Times; The National Memo, April 1, 2015

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Mike Pence, Religious Freedom Restoration Act | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Faith Ought Not Pine For The Old Days”: Thankfully, Faith Of Force And Exclusion Is Not The Only Faith There Is

“Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away.” — The Beatles

“Yesterday’s gone, yesterday’s gone.” — Fleetwood Mac

On Sunday, people all over the world will commemorate the morning an itinerant rabbi, falsely convicted and cruelly executed, stood up and walked out of his own tomb. It is the foundation act for the world’s largest faith, a touchstone of hope for over 2 billion people.

But that faith has, in turn, been a source of ongoing friction between those adherents who feel it compels them to redeem tomorrow and those who feel it obligates them to restore yesterday. Last week, the latter made headlines — again.

In Arizona, a state senator suggested a law making church mandatory as a way of arresting what she sees as America’s moral decline. When controversy erupted, Sylvia Allen said she couldn’t understand what the fuss was about.

In Indiana, meantime, the governor signed a law protecting businesses from anything that might infringe upon their “free exercise of religion.” In other words, it protects their right to discriminate against gay people. When controversy erupted, Governor Mike Pence claimed this interpretation of the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” misreads its intent.

The senator’s ignorance and the governor’s disingenuousness offer stark illustration of what too often these days masquerades as faith.

Allen, like the Taliban before her, seems to believe faith is something you can coerce. Unfortunately for her, that’s expressly forbidden in the first words of the First Amendment to the Constitution that her oath of office requires her to support. She might want to read it sometime.

As to Pence, his claim that the law is being misread is undercut by the fact that it is being celebrated by anti-gay lobbyists. He has contended the RFRA is as innocuous as similar laws passed by other states and the federal government, a claim sharply disputed by law professor Garrett Epps, writing online for The Atlantic, who notes there is language unique to Indiana’s law that seems designed to let businesses refuse service to gay people.

But the most damning witness against Pence has been Pence himself. Five times last Sunday, ABC’s George Stephanopoulos asked him a simple yes or no question: Does the law permit discrimination against gay people? Five times, he refused to answer. By Tuesday, Pence was promising to “fix” the miserable thing. Stay tuned to see what that will mean.

Taken together, Allen and Pence exemplify a “faith” that has become all too common, a U-turn faith that seeks to return America to a mythic yesterday. Pence’s law would effectively allow businesses to give gay people the kind of mistreatment that was common 40 years ago, while Allen explicitly says she wants to go back to the way things were when she was a child. For the record: Allen turns 68 this week, according to Wikipedia.

And so it goes with this faith of force and exclusion. Thank God it’s not the only faith there is. Indeed, in the same week Allen and Pence were making fools of themselves, a pastor in Miami was pushing for socially conscious redevelopment of a blighted inner-city community, a church in Los Angeles was hosting a panel on police-involved shootings, and a preacher near Washington was recruiting men to mow lawns, clean up trash-strewn lots and mentor troubled boys.

This is the faith of sacrifice and service. Unlike the faith of force and exclusion, it gets no headlines, generates no heat. It just is.

But one is thankful it is. One is glad for its example and reminder.

This week, Christians mark the long ago dawn when the Son rose. But if that faith means anything, it means the ability and imperative to face what is without fear. So faith ought not pine for the old days.

After all, dawn is the breaking of the new.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, April 1, 2015

April 2, 2015 Posted by | Faith, Mike Pence, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Fundamentally Dishonest”: The Self-Contradictory Argument All Republicans Are Making On The Indiana Discrimination Law

Now that it’s becoming a national story, all the Republican candidates are going to have to take a position on the new Indiana law that for all intents and purposes legalizes discrimination against gay people. (If you’re in the market for a lengthy explanation of what the law does and doesn’t do and what the implications are, I wrote one yesterday.) And they all look to be coming down in the same place—one that’s fundamentally dishonest about the law and its implications. They’re essentially trying to have it both ways, supporting the establishment of a right of discrimination for religious business owners, but claiming that they are supporting no such thing. Here’s Jeb Bush talking to Hugh Hewitt yesterday:

Bush: I think if you, if they actually got briefed on the law that they wouldn’t be blasting this law. I think Governor Pence has done the right thing. Florida has a law like this. Bill Clinton signed a law like this at the federal level. This is simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs, to have, to be able to be people of conscience. I just think once the facts are established, people aren’t going to see this as discriminatory at all.

Hewitt: You know, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act was signed in 1993. It’s been the law in the District of Columbia for 22 years. I do not know of a single incidence of the sort that Tim Cook was warning about occurring in the District in the last 22 years.

Bush: But there are incidents of people who, for example, the florist in Washington State who had a business that based on her conscience, she couldn’t be participating in a gay wedding, organizing it, even though the person, one of the people was a friend of hers. And she was taken to court, and is still in court, or the photographer in New Mexico. There are many cases where people acting on their conscience have been castigated by the government. And this law simply says the government has to have a level of burden to be able to establish that there’s been some kind of discrimination. We’re going to need this. This is really an important value for our country to, in a diverse country, where you can respect and be tolerant of people’s lifestyles, but allow for people of faith to be able to exercise theirs.

Just to be clear, the Indiana law is not like the federal RFRA, in both the context in which it was passed and its particular provision. The Indiana law specifically applies to disputes between individuals, whereas the federal law discusses only personal conduct the government is trying to regulate. (The federal law came about because of a case where two Native Americans were denied unemployment benefits because they had used peyote in a religious ceremony.) But in any case, Republicans like Jeb are trying to pretend that we can satisfy everyone, and that the Indiana law does so. But we can’t, and it doesn’t. We have to make a choice.

What Bush is doing here (and what Indiana Governor Mike Pence and the rest of the Republicans defending this law are doing as well) is a misleading little two-step. Their argument is: 1) We must allow religious people to discriminate; and 2) This has nothing to do with discrimination. But both those things can’t simultaneously be true. You can call it “simply allowing people of faith space to be able to express their beliefs” or “people acting on their conscience,” but the whole issue is that the act of conscience that they want to undertake is also an act of discrimination. That’s because the particular acts of conscience we’re talking about are those that are not in the realm of speech or worship but in the realm of commerce, and they involve another person.

The cases in question are essentially zero-sum conflicts of claimed rights. Janet wants to have an anniversary dinner in a restaurant; Mike, the restaurant owner, doesn’t want to serve gay couples. There are only two possible outcomes: Janet and her partner get served, in which case Mike has to give; or Mike gets to refuse that service, in which case Janet has to give. You can dress up Mike’s motivations any way you want—”sincere religious beliefs,” “act of conscience,” whatever—but that doesn’t change the fact that one person is going to win and the other is going to lose.

The liberals who object to the Indiana law are making their choice clear: Janet’s right to be treated equally trumps Mike’s desire to discriminate, even though that desire is based on religious beliefs. The conservatives who support the law are taking the opposite position: If it’s based on a religious belief, Mike’s right to discriminate trumps Janet’s right to be treated equally. I happen to disagree with the conservative position, but I would respect it a lot more if they’d just come out and admit what their position really is. Instead, they’re trying to claim that there’s no conflict between Janet and Mike and they aren’t taking a side.

But they are. These kinds of conflicts are the whole point of this law, the reason why Republicans wanted to pass it and would like to see others like it. Of course, nobody wants to say they support “discrimination.” But if that florist in Washington or that photographer in New Mexico whom Bush is defending have a policy that says, “We will accept the business of straight couples but not gay couples,” then they’re discriminating. Republicans want to make sure that business owners have a legal right to discriminate against potential customers in that fashion. They ought to just admit it.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 31, 2015

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Mike Pence, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Willfully Chose To Reject Changes”: Indiana Republicans Were Warned About Their Anti-Gay Bill

Governor Mike Pence promised Tuesday to “fix” a controversial law with anti-gay undertones in an attempt to stop the constant hammering the state has received since he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law last week.

“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the general assembly to create a license to discriminate or right to deny services to gays, lesbians or anyone else in the state, and it certainly wasn’t my intent, but I can appreciate that has become the perception,” Pence said.

But advocates for changes to the law said if Pence didn’t know this would turn into a public-relations dumpster fire, he was either willfully ignorant or simply didn’t care.

Gay-rights advocates said they flagged the problem with the lack of protective language early in the process and pushed minor amendments to the bill, they say, would have largely resolved the issue.

It is unclear whether Pence himself knew about the amendments, but two people familiar with the lobbying effort behind the pro-LGBT measures said it was clear very early in the process that the governor did not want any changes to the bill.

“Pence and his party insisted that the bill not be balanced,” said Indiana Representative Ed Delaney, a Democrat and the author of an amendment that would have added the sentence “the protection of civil rights; or the prevention of discrimination; is a compelling government interest” to the bill.

Delaney said Pence’s office either didn’t know or didn’t care about the amendments.

“He’s created this problem,” Delaney said.

Another amendment would have exempted civil rights laws from RFRA—a change modeled after similar laws in Missouri and Texas. (Indiana’s civil rights laws do not protect LGBT individuals—but several local municipalities, like Indianapolis, have laws on the books that extend civil rights protections to the LGBT community).

Both amendments were rejected by the Republican-led Indiana legislature.

Pence’s retreat—just Sunday he said the law would not be changed—signified that Indiana’s culture warrior had, once again, bit off more than he could chew.

As the uproar started, Pence staff thought the issue would fade, according to a source last week familiar with a conversation between Pence and his aides. So while Pence expressed surprise at the vitriol created by the law, LGBT advocates said he should have seen it coming.

“There is no surprise in this,” Dale Carpenter, a constitutional and civil liberties law professor at the University of Minnesota Law School.

“They chose to reject those changes in the committee and again on the House floor that suggests to be the legislative intent here is to allow religious freedom to impact anti-discrimination laws,” said Tyler Deaton, senior advisor at American Unity Fund, a pro-gay conservative group.

Pence insisted in an uncharacteristically defensive interview on This Week last Sunday the bill was about religious liberty, not discrimination.

“There’s been shameless rhetoric about my state and about this law and about its intention all over the Internet,” he said. “People are trying to make it about one particular issue.”

“Shameless rhetoric” aside, there are plenty of reasons to be skeptical of Pence’s explanation, starting with the actual signing of the bill.

And it had everything to do with the “particular issue.”

In a photo of the private signing ceremony, Pence is surrounded by a small group of people—including the three wise men of the anti-gay marriage movement of Indiana: Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana; Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute; and Eric Miller, executive director of Advance America.

Delaney said the presence of those individuals at the signing ceremony spoke volumes about the intent of the law.

“Is Mike Pence the only person who hasn’t read their press releases?” Delaney asked. “He knows what they wanted to do.”

Pence, himself, has a long, proud record of opposing gay rights during his tenure in Congress.

It also isn’t the first time he carried it into the governor’s mansion, where it has had some pretty embarrassing results.

A push for a constitutional ban on gay marriage in Indiana ended in failure but only after the Pence team tried to censor the opposition.

When gay-marriage proponents posted their displeasure with the measure on Facebook, Pence’s staff simply deleted the messages.

Initially, Pence and his staff said they just deleted comments that were obscene— but later fessed up to removing only the comments that disagreed with the governor’s position.

“On careful review, it appears that this was not always the case and some comments were being deleted simply because they expressed disagreement with my position. I regret that this occurred and sincerely apologize to all those who were affected,” Pence wrote in a Facebook post at the time.

Adding insult to injury the measure failed, giving Pence a black eye just a year into his governorship.

This is a slightly different response than Pence was used to during his time in Washington.

As a member of Congress he had no problem opposing rights for the LGBT community.

He voted for a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage and against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would have added LGBT as a protected group on the federal level from discrimination in the workplace.

When the federal amendment to ban gay marriage failed to pass the House in 2006, Pence proclaimed it a “successful failure.”

“We poured a little more concrete in the footings of a building that will be built,” Pence said at the time, according to the Associated Press.

He was lauded as a hero by the right for his positions on social issues—receiving multiple “True Blue” awards from the Family Research Council for “his commitment to the family and sanctity of human life.”

The Indiana Family Institute, which was instrumental in crafting the RFRA bill, has likewise awarded him the “Friend of the Family Award.”

But being a culture warrior as governor, as he has found out, has higher stakes.

“He could afford to be a culture warrior because it wasn’t impacting an entire state’s economy,” Deaton said, referring to the burgeoning “boycott Indiana” campaign. “And now he has a different burden on his shoulders and this is turning out to cost the state tens of millions of dollars on the bottom line, thousands of jobs. This is really problematic for a governor.”

 

By: Jackie Kucinich, The Daily Beast, March 31, 2015

April 1, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Mike Pence, Religious Freedom | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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