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What Indiana’s RFRA Wrought

When I give talks about the Benedict Option, I tell people that the signal event was not Obergefell, but the Indiana RFRA debacle a couple of months earlier. That was when Big Business took sides in the culture war in a very big way — and did so against social conservatives, who lost massively.

A reader sends in this Politico piece about how the RFRA loss shattered the GOP coalition in the Hoosier State [1]. The hook? Ted Cruz’s failure to connect with locals regarding his socially conservative message. Excerpts:

It was not supposed to go this way for Cruz. Indiana seems to be, at least from 30,000 feet, a barn-red bastion of Bible-believing IndyCar social conservatives—a place where a Washington Wiseman like Senator Richard Lugar can lose a primary to a bomb-throwing conservative like Richard Mourdock 60 to 40 percent.

But over the past year, the state’s Republican landscape has shifted. Last March, when conservative Gov. Mike Pence signed the controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, the once-lockstep Republican coalition here fractured, putting daylight between the state’s social conservatives, who backed Pence, from the fiscal conservatives, who have become squeamish over divisive social issues—and who long for the days when the state was ruled by pragmatic, coalition-building Republican Mitch Daniels.

Today, vast swaths of the state’s Republican electorate, from Indianapolis to West Lafayette, have retreated from the culture wars. And like the 50s-era diner itself, Cruz’s dogged socially conservative message seems anachronistic—and perhaps a little tin-eared—to these fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republicans, the kind Cruz has to win over in the state’s crucial, populous and well-heeled “doughnut” counties surrounding Indianapolis (if you remove Marion County, the remaining surrounding counties form a doughnut-shaped ring) in order to have a shot at beating Donald Trump in the primary on Tuesday.

More:

Perhaps sensing Cruz’s weakness in Central Indiana, Trump scheduled his penultimate rally on Monday night at the The Palladium, a $126 million sweeping structure built in the Italian Renaissance style in Carmel—tellingly in the heart of the doughnut counties. There, Karen Field, 50, a registered nurse, flocked to see the billionaire real estate mogul on her day off. On her blouse, she wore no fewer than five Trump buttons. In her yard, there are four Trump signs. Still for her, Trump was her second choice—behind none other than Daniels. “He was a people person,” she said of the former governor and Eli Lilly executive. “He was a business guy. I wish he would have run for president.” Field, too, turned up her nose at Cruz’s social conservative pitch on issues such as transgender bathrooms.

“Talk to me about something that’s important,” she said.

Whole story here. [2]

Karen Field doesn’t understand why this is important, probably because Republicans haven’t been able to explain it. Then again, when you get to the point where you have to explain why it’s a bad idea to let men use the women’s restroom, you’ve already lost something big.

 

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115 Comments To "What Indiana’s RFRA Wrought"

#1 Comment By grumpy realist On May 5, 2016 @ 12:03 pm

Actually, the reason I’m grumpy about the North Carolina law is because a) the lack of due process by which it became law, and b) because it was a bait-and-switch put forth by the business community to get get rid of ALL state antidiscrimination legislation. While the religious conservatives are huffing and puffing about transsexuals in public bathrooms and jumping up and down with glee about this Great New Law, they’re totally oblivious to what’s happened to their own rights. Rod, if he were in North Carolina and discriminated against for being Orthodox, is now unable to bring suit under state law. He has to fall back on federal law, which a) has a much shorter period of time to file suit, b) is much more inconvenient because of the fewer federal court locations, and c) costs more.

Great job, you idiots. The shiny fish of transsexuality was dangled in front of you and now you’ve trashed your own protection and shot off your own feet.

#2 Comment By JonF On May 5, 2016 @ 1:26 pm

Re: They are being obtuse. Whether they know it or not, SSM will have an effect on their religious liberty

Maybe we should respect people enough not to dictate to them what their experiences and feelings must be.

#3 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On May 5, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

However, you think you would agree that a law banning the ritual burning of incense on Orthodox Good Friday would be a rather huge deal..

Do Orthodox burn incense on Good Friday? I’m pretty certain it’s a day of solemnity/lamentation, and not celebration (which is what incense is for). Never been to an Orthodox service, so I have no idea….

And yes, at a utilitarian level the fact that transgendered people are so rare should tip the deck to accommodating their needs rather than ignoring them: it’s unlikely you are going to encounter them in a bathroom and be traumatized on any significant basis, whereas for them it makes a bigger deal.

#4 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On May 5, 2016 @ 2:22 pm

There are of course applications (e.g. adding velocities near the speed of light) where 1 + 1 = 2 starts to no longer apply…..

#5 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On May 5, 2016 @ 2:28 pm

[NFR: The bathroom issue is not simply about who gets to pee where. It is ultimately about redefining gender.

I disagree: it’s about a legal fiction. Government is full of legal fictions, all the time. Tomatoes are “vegetables” whereas apples are “fruits”; people from India are “Asian” whereas people from Iran are “white”; someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 is “drunk” whereas someone at 0.07 is “sober”, OJ Simpson is in the eyes of the law as innocent of murder as driven snow, etc.. I doubt anyone thinks any of this stuff changes factual reality. Someone with an XY chromosomal set is and always will be a man in a biological, ontological sense, but if they want to be treated as a woman in the social sphere, legally considered as a woman, use a women’s restroom, etc., I don’t have any issues with constructing that legal fiction.

#6 Comment By Eamus Catuli On May 5, 2016 @ 2:57 pm

@redfish:

People are willing to accommodate transgenders, but laws like the one in Charlotte offer no authority to businesses to to investigate and deal with complaints about men in the wrong bathroom without threats of anti-discrimination lawsuits. In a novel interpretation of the law, the Obama DoJ is now saying North Carolina’s law is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Right’s Act.

This is insane. The DoJ is misusing the law, and cities like Charlotte want to tie businesses in red tape for allowing customers the privacy they want.

When you say “People are willing to accommodate transgenders,” you yourself are disagreeing with the North Carolina law and pointing up why the DOJ intervened. As I’ve noted on the “anti-culture” thread, the law does not accommodate them at all; it wishes them out of existence, insisting that there is no such thing as a sex or gender identity acquired later than birth.

If the civil-rights laws mean anything, they mean that the federal government can’t let a state deny some citizens their rights on the grounds that those citizens don’t exist, when in fact — as you acknowledge — they do exist. Surely that’s the position of sanity and common sense.

#7 Comment By Athanasius On May 5, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

As I understand it, capital O Orthodox Churches have membership of maybe 1% of all Americans, and nowhere (outside Alaska?) are they a large or politicaly powerful constituency. Their effect on American life is therefore rather negligible. However, you think you would agree that a law banning the ritual burning of incense on Orthodox Good Friday would be a rather huge deal..

Funny you should say that, Orthodox Good Friday is recognized virtually nowhere in the USA, and I’ve had to endure dirty looks every time I’ve ever taken a day off of school or work. I NEVER get to celebrate Holy Week properly, or days like Kathara Deutera.

Moreover, I live in a state with blue laws that forbid the sale of alcohol on Sundays, which is a direct finger in the eye to Orthodox Christians and Catholics for whom Sunday is the day that they DO drink (if they do), and Friday is the day when it is not permitted.

Yet somehow, Orthodox Christians have managed to not make a federal case out of this.

#8 Comment By Brendan from Oz On May 6, 2016 @ 1:15 am

“There are of course applications (e.g. adding velocities near the speed of light) where 1 + 1 = 2 starts to no longer apply…..”

Arithmetic changes near light speed – or “velocity” is not a simple number ala arithmetic once we move from mathematics to physics? There are not a lot of 1s and 2s (abstract concepts) that move at all, while 1 or 2 photons can.

#9 Comment By EngineerScotty On May 6, 2016 @ 3:21 am

I disagree: it’s about a legal fiction. Government is full of legal fictions, all the time. Tomatoes are “vegetables” whereas apples are “fruits”; people from India are “Asian” whereas people from Iran are “white”; someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 is “drunk” whereas someone at 0.07 is “sober”, OJ Simpson is in the eyes of the law as innocent of murder as driven snow, etc.. I doubt anyone thinks any of this stuff changes factual reality. Someone with an XY chromosomal set is and always will be a man in a biological, ontological sense, but if they want to be treated as a woman in the social sphere, legally considered as a woman, use a women’s restroom, etc., I don’t have any issues with constructing that legal fiction.

None of the examples you cite are examples of what is meant by legal fiction. To a chef, a tomato is a vegetable whereas to a biologist it’s a fruit; whether the law takes any notice is often context-dependent.

Proper examples of legal fictions include:
* Corporate personhood (an incorporated entity is treated as a natural person for many purposes of law, in particular the right to sue or be sued independent of any individual officers, members, or employees).
* Statutory rape (in some states, there is no explicit law against sex with minors; only laws proclaiming minors incapable of consent, with the effect that sex with minors is considered rape even in the absence of coercion).

#10 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 6, 2016 @ 6:01 am

@Hector_St_Clare, +1 to your legal fiction comment.

To avoid a rat hole within a rat hole, I’ll restrain myself about your statement about adding relativistic velocities.

#11 Comment By panda On May 6, 2016 @ 8:00 am

“Moreover, I live in a state with blue laws that forbid the sale of alcohol on Sundays, which is a direct finger in the eye to Orthodox Christians and Catholics for whom Sunday is the day that they DO drink (if they do), and Friday is the day when it is not permitted.

Yet somehow, Orthodox Christians have managed to not make a federal case out of this.”

First off, Blue Laws were indeed a federal case, judged, (wrongly in my opinion) against religious minority groups.
[3]

Second of all, as both Jew and atheist, I am pretty much in the same boat as you: not only in terms of finding it hard to celebrate holidays, but also cringing when thinking about stuff like our national motto being in God we Trust.

And yet, generally speaking, I live my live peacefully and without discrimination, and no one is pondering how to write laws that, as Senator aptly put it, necessitate me staying at home if I think might need to use the bathroom during the day. And, with all due respect to the Law of Merited Impossibility, so do you (at least for now). This is just emphatically not true when it comes to transgendered individuals.

#12 Comment By panda On May 6, 2016 @ 8:06 am

“[NFR: Religious liberty, peeing, it’s all the same, innit? — RD]

And here is the source of our disagreement: you see the problem in terms that are both cosmic (erasure of gender) and petty (peeing!). However, liberals see the issue in terms of identity and public space. To wit, again, the Cruz quote about transexuals using bathrooms in their own homes if they don’t fit either male or female bathrooms. What he means by this is simple: transexsuals can only participate in public life only to the extent to which they agree to stop being transsexuals ,and accept that their gender and their sex agree. For liberals, this is an attempt at identity erasure, no less significant than an assault on religious freedom. In other words: the transgender bathroom issue is about peeing just as much the question of Christian baking is about dessert.

#13 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On May 6, 2016 @ 12:52 pm

@Brendan from Oz, it’s not that arithmetic or velocity changes, as everything looks kosher within a frame of reference. It’s that when adding velocities from different reference frames you always need to transform coordinate systems. Humans thought we knew how to do that using the Galilean transformation, but it turns out we needed to use the [4].

We just never noticed because v^2/C^2 is close to zero most of the time.

#14 Comment By Siarlys Jenkins On May 6, 2016 @ 4:37 pm

What he means by this is simple: transexsuals can only participate in public life only to the extent to which they agree to stop being transsexuals ,and accept that their gender and their sex agree.

Arrant nonsense. Transsexuals can participate in all aspects of public life to the extent that their trans-sexuality doesn’t really impact, e.g., their ability to sit in a seat at a theater and watch a movie, or sit in a restaurant and enjoy a juicy steak. The problem comes in those quasi-private public spaces which are segregated by sex, because transsexuals are neither fish nor fowl, by definition. So, they need a private space to be ambiguous for the few minutes of the day when they are partially or full unclothed.

Funny you should say that, Orthodox Good Friday is recognized virtually nowhere in the USA, and I’ve had to endure dirty looks every time I’ve ever taken a day off of school or work.

Have you volunteered to work on Catholic Good Friday so your fellow-workers can have the day off for their devotions? There are ways to work these things out.

#15 Comment By Paul Emmons On May 8, 2016 @ 1:32 am

Why keep forlornly swatting individual mosquitos like the unisex bathroom issue while ignoring the fetid swamp in which the whole swarm is spawned?

Trump points out the swamp: the cult of political correctness, especially its stranglehold in the educational establishment at all levels. He has called this a serious threat to the well-being of our nation.

I don’t know whether this call makes him more perceptive than most in politics, or more courageous, or simply more businesslike. But I applaud him for it.

The pity is that only an apparent loose cannon has the guts anymore to articulate the correct diagnosis.