RFRA backers are being dishonest in the name of God

Georgia-Sen.-Josh-McKoon-638x425-1

State Sen. Josh McKoon defends Senate Bill 129, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” before the House Judiciary Committee. (AP)

The strongest argument offered by advocates for a Georgia “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is that Senate Bill 129 is a virtual copy of federal legislation passed by Congress almost unanimously more than 20 years ago. They then ask a simple, disarming question:

How could a Georgia version of that non-controversial federal law be as dangerous and discriminatory as its opponents claim?

The answer — as they know quite well yet try to deny — is timing and intent.  Backers of a state RFRA are taking benign legislation that was passed more than two decades ago and “repurposing” it to a very different goal, a goal that sponsors of the 1993 legislation had never envisioned. That goal is to use religious liberty to create a legal “safe harbor” for those who want to continue to discriminate against gay Americans.

There’s really no great mystery to it. When conservative state legislators who attack anything out of Washington as the devil’s own handiwork are suddenly insistent that Georgia has to mimic a two-decade-old federal law, you know something screwy is happening. When legislators in Indiana, Arizona, Arkansas, Utah, West Virginia and other conservative states all simultaneously conclude that their states also have to pass such a law immediately, you know something’s up. Something has changed, and that “something” is of course the looming Supreme Court decision that will make gay marriage legal throughout the land.

For religious conservatives that represents a major loss, and it has come with stunning, disorienting speed. The world is transforming right before their eyes in ways that they never would have imagined, and they are understandably frightened. They look ahead and envision a nation in which it will be illegal to discriminate against gay Americans, and they don’t see themselves as part of that world. In “religious liberty,” they believe they have found a way to exempt themselves, to set up a safe zone in which they can continue to operate as they have in the past. And while I think that’s a pretty sordid cause in which to enlist religious liberty, one of our nation’s most precious principles, it is not without precedent in American history.

In testimony to the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, one Baptist minister expressed the fear that without such a law, the government might force him to marry gay couples in his Baptist church. That is never, ever going to happen for any number of reasons, the First Amendment among them, but his fear is nonetheless indicative of the irrational panic that such rapid change has engendered.

Of course, some advocates of the bill still attempt to deny or evade the charge that their efforts represent an effort to legalize anti-gay discrimination. State Sen. Josh McKoon, the sponsor of SB 129, says it “couldn’t be further from the truth” to say that the bill is a license to discriminate. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, who just signed Indiana’s version of the law, repeatedly ducked that direct question when being interviewed over the weekend on ABC News.

Put bluntly, such people are being dishonest in the name of God. If you can’t be forthright about what you’re up to, if you can’t be honest about what you’re really trying to accomplish, then maybe, just maybe, you’re up to something that you know is wrong.

If Georgia’s SB 129 isn’t meant to provide legal cover for discrimination, McKoon and his allies would accept a simple amendment stating that it does not provide legal cover for discrimination. Instead, they have fought such language bitterly, with McKoon saying it would “completely undercut the purpose of the bill.”

That is not a logically tenable proposition.  It is not possible for the bill to have nothing to do with discrimination yet be gutted with language that says so. At the very least, the debate here in Georgia and elsewhere has laid bare that contradiction, making the issues at stake crystal clear:

A vote in favor of SB 129 is a vote in favor of legalized discrimination against gay Georgians; a state that passes such a law is making a statement that it intends to give such discrimination the cover of law. That’s not a statement that Georgia ought to be making in 2015, and as it looks to the future, it’s frankly not a statement that the Republican Party ought to be championing.

 

Reader Comments 0

1845 comments
straker
straker

Lenin - "and these are mostly US allies"


Politics is politics, allies are allies, BUT business is business and MONEY TALKS.

Normd
Normd

Polygamy sheetz...thanks to religious bills...

gotalife
gotalife

Our banks caused a global collapse so it is China's turn.


Not a big deal.

straker
straker

Lenin - "it begins"


Chinese leaders have, for many years, taken a long-term view of how their country should grow and develop.


American Republican politicians, following the lead of their corporate sponsors, are strictly short-term gain leaders.


This only helps China and only hurts the US and there's no sign of this changing in the foreseeable future.

LeninTime
LeninTime

@straker 

Yes. The interesting thing here is the way that the Chinese investment bank opportunity has almost been a self-generating phenomenon. The Chinese themselves, although the sponsors, don't seem to have been all that aggressive about it. Indeed, a number of the key decisions - headquarters, veto rights, board members - remain to be determined and one has the idea that China is not being particular heavy-handed about it. The real energy behind it seems to be coming from the other nations who are eager to launch such a venture, given that that part of the world is so badly starved for investment funds (read: the US-driven World Bank and IMF have dropped the ball). 

And these are mostly US allies! 

So it's definitely a turning point.

LeninTime
LeninTime

The fact of the matter is that US hegemony is going to be seen as having begun its sharp decline under the watch of Barack Obama.  Rightly or wrongly.

And the right wing spinners of 'stab in back' myths are never going to let you forget it. 

---

China's new development bank, which was announced just five months ago, is becoming a massive headache for the US. 

Try as it might, the US government can't persuade its allies to stop joining the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).

The bank will be a bit like the World Bank, providing loans to developing countries in Asia for infrastructure projects.

...

Tuesday, however, brought the most embarrassing event of all. Taiwan, which has no formal relationship with mainland China, is a former enemy of China, and basically survived the 20th century with its independence only through assistance from the United States, applied to join the AIIB

The infrastructure bank isn't going to be a massive boom for the UK economy, or even for nearer nations like Japan, and the US will not retaliate. The point is that the UK is willing to take a very modest improvement in economic and political ties with China in exchange for a small deterioration in ties with the US. Pretty much every country has decided that this is the right move.

http://www.businessinsider.com/us-allies-joining-asian-infrastructure-investment-bank-aiib-embarrassment-2015-3

Kamchak
Kamchak

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence urged lawmakers in the state to pass legislation making it clear that the law "does not give businesses a right to deny service to anyone." 

Mike Pence blinked and the Georgia legislature can see the writing on the wall.

Just sayin'.

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@Kamchak oh, right, it's the race to the bottom with these folks until they get to magically reset post primary

Paul42
Paul42

@Kamchak

As I've noted, it that's the best some of these guys can do with assessing probable outcomes and taking steps early on to counter anything negative, they really ought to leave politics and see how well their lack of skills serve them in the private sector.

Doggone_GA
Doggone_GA

@Paul42 @Kamchak Are you kidding?  Then they'll come back and say "vote for me, I have BUSINESS EXPERIENCE!"

Paul42
Paul42

@Doggone_GA

LOL!  Sadly, that's probably true.

And people will fall for it.

Penses
Penses

@Kamchak 

Again, read the article I link to below. There is NOTHING wrong with RFRA laws in principle, even if they allow discrimination. THAT is where things stand now legally. And Pence would lose a lawsuit challenging this emendation as there is a substantial burden you must overcome to infringe on religious liberty.

I guess this shows that, like most politicians, Pence is 1) not very principled and 2) not a clear thinker. 

_GodlessHeathen_
_GodlessHeathen_

@Paul42 @Kamchak  

"they really ought to leave politics and see how well their lack of skills serve them in the private sector."

They are mostly lawyers so what skills would they need?

DunwoodyGranny
DunwoodyGranny

And it will work, because their opponent will be a woman with better judgment who has spent her career in academia or charity work or some such.

ALibNotToBeMessedW/
ALibNotToBeMessedW/

@Captain-Obvious @Penses @Kamchak

Never say never, KKKaptain-Shortypants.  Sometimes someone is just so dense, so mean-spirited, so short, and so much of a Cliven Bundy-loving racist, that discrimination isn't just ok, but it's a fargin' necessity for the sake of humankind.

Kamchak
Kamchak

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a34013/elizabeth-warren-ted-cruz/

The comparison is stupid and wrong, but it is quintessential Washington political journalism. The absolute refusal to look at the most fundamental truth of our politics squarely continues to be the worst episode of journalistic malpractice that I can recall. It cannot be that one of our political parties has become demented and now exists as a terrarium of retrograde fauna. It must be the the whole political and constitutional order is f*^ed to a fare-thee-well. So we must find some Democratic politicians that we can cast as being as far to the "left" as Cruz is to starboard. Next, I guess, they'll look for a Democratic equivalent for Louie Gohmert.

Paul42
Paul42

@Captain-Obvious

Okay, I'm good with Grayson as a pretty extreme case.  

At least before he was defeated.  I've read a couple articles that indicate he's turned a new leaf and left his defense-attorney attack dog personna behind.

The jury, as they say, is still out on that score - 

fedup52
fedup52

 That Romney didn't pay his taxes thing was repeated as absolute fact here time and time again.

 Like swift boating Kerry.


Nothing is kosher in politics.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Captain-Obvious @Visual_Cortex @fedup52

it is none of your effin' business

Where is that written that I, as a voter, am not entitled to know where a candidate's bread is buttered?

It had been standard practice to release these records going back to 1984. Romney decided to break with that practice, and it probably didn't help him any... but it might well have helped Hillary, who might decide she doesn't have to bother letting anyone know about that bit of personal business either.

Happy now?

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@fedup52

Romney didn't pay his taxes thing was repeated as absolute fact here

Actually, it wasn't.

A lot of people wondered openly why he wouldn't release his tax records going back more than one year. Lots of folks wondered if he had qualified for an amnesty offered to Swiss bank accounts during that time. But as to claims that he literally did not pay taxes? period? repeated as an "absolute fact"?

nope. I was here. I remember.

breckenridge
breckenridge

 "The idea that religion and politics don't mix was invented by the Devil to keep Christians from running their own country." Jerry Falwell, Southern Baptist minister, 1984


And this, in a nutshell, is all that the stupids who constitute the religious right have to offer; some hocus-pocus voodoo hoodoo nonsense.


Invented by the Devil? Yeah, I got yer Devil right here pal.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

From below:

only one Representative from Georgia voted yes [on the Civil Rights Act of 1964].

Ok, I did a little digging. Looks like this Charles Weltner character turned out to be a stand-up guy...

from the wiki:


In 1962, Weltner was elected to represent Georgia's 5th congressional district in the House of Representatives as a Democrat. Once in office, he was the only member of the Georgia congressional delegation to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He also supported quick implementation of the United States Supreme Court decision to outlaw racial segregation in public schools, the 1954 decision Brown v. Board of Education. In 1966, Weltner refused to run for reelection when the state Democratic Party demanded that he sign a loyalty oath that would have required him to support Lester Maddox, an ardent segregationist who was running for governor against aRepublican U.S. representative, Howard Callaway. In a speech, Weltner stated "I love the Congress, but I will give up my office before I give up my principles." No other had taken the loyalty oath so literally. Weltner described Maddox as "the very symbol of violence and repression." 

Normd
Normd

@Visual_Cortex 


I can still see ol' Lester in front of his Pick Wick eatery, handing out autographed ax handles...

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

This is like the worst insult evaaaaaaaaaahhhh.


One former Democratic staffer turned financial services lobbyist compared Warren's involvement in the House to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who frequently meets with House Republicans.


“Elizabeth Warren is the mirror image of Ted Cruz, and if we aren’t careful, she’ll drive the Democrats into the same ditch Cruz is trying to drive the Republicans,” the former Democratic staffer said.

Penses
Penses

@FIGMO2 

LOL. Apparently Paul is under the delusion that Democrats aren't in bed with corporate America (just like the Republicans).

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Paul42 @FIGMO2

Didn't need a clue, Paul. The financial lobby is critical to politicians from both parties.

It's a reality you refuse to acknowledge with one party (D) but like to point to in the other party (R).

Paul42
Paul42

@Penses

There's only one word for some of your posts, Penses.

Stupid.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@honested @FIGMO2

She's not gonna get her way, honested.

Chuck Schumer and Loretta Lynch's ties to Wall Street are deep and wide.

Who did Harry suggest take his place as speaker? Who did Obama put forth as AG?

honested
honested

@FIGMO2 @honested 

Well, the Citizenry should be sufficiently outraged at the Senate and enforce our will for them to act appropriately.........

Instead of wasting time about what our imaginary friend wants to happen.

Paul42
Paul42

@FIGMO2

"Critical to both parties"?!!?

You are unaware of Warren's job and role before the Senate?  You are unaware of the legislation and the financial community's reaction to it?

Well, that explains a lot.

The point was not about how critical an industry is.  The point was the agenda of the person you cited to criticize Warren.

I'd be happy to point out legislation that Republicans advocate that Democrats oppose that is nondiscriminatory, does not occur at the expense of the middle or lower class, does not seek to weaken statutes on the environment, etc.

When you have such an example, let me know.

As I've said, George Bush couldn't get nominated today.  That's how far right the Party has sunk.

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@FIGMO2

One [1] former Democratic staffer

These must be the "Democrats" you referred to earlier.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Paul42 @FIGMO2

So YOU say, Paul.

I split with GWB for one reason and one reason only. The bailout of big banks.

I'll ask you for help if ever I need it, Paul. Until then, offer it to someone who's interested in what you have to offer.

That stopped being me a long time ago.


Paul42
Paul42

@FIGMO2

"turned financial lobbyist" didn't give you a clue regarding agenda?

Paul42
Paul42

@FIGMO2

So I say?

YOU say he could get nominated with an agenda including No Child Left Behind and HIV/AIDS relief for Africa?

Really?!!?

Still haven't figured out that a lobbyist is paid to make a case and the fact the lobbyist used to be a Democratic staffer does not bestow credibility when commenting on Democrats who oppose the lobbyist's interests?

Of course you haven't.

FIGMO2
FIGMO2

@Paul42 @FIGMO2

Elizabeth Warren's reforms are going nowhere without the support of Tea Party conservatives and Libertarians.

Unfortunately for YOU, your liberals have discredited the Tea Party folks with their insane accusations of right-wing nutjobs.

Funny how that works out, eh? Just couldn't resist the urge to pile on without looking for similarities.

Penses
Penses

@Paul42 

"There's only one word for some of your posts, Penses. Stupid."

ROFL. Funny, I would have said the same about many of yours (including this one). You get smacked down for intimating that the former staffer's warning (which I tend to agree with) was somehow tilted because he is now a financial lobbyist (as if the Democrats have NOT been corrupted by monied interests and Warren would be LOVED by the entire Democratic party). Warren will be like Cruz BECAUSE so many Democrats are beholden to "financial" interests (and she is not). Got it now? Good!.

honested
honested

@FIGMO2 

Egad, if Senator Warren gets her way and we put proper safeguards in place for the American economy and the well being of all Americans, how will those in 'financial services' be able to reap 'profits' at substantial multiples beyond the actual service they provide?

fedup52
fedup52

@FIGMO2 Yet the big banks are POed at the D for Warren trying to rain in the big banks.  Just apples and oranges.