One of the biggest stories over the past two weeks is the controversy over the newly passed religious freedom law in Indiana. The backlash caught a lot of people by surprise, partly because the purpose and significance of these laws has evolved a bit over the past 20 years since Bill Clinton signed a federal law with the same name in 1993, but also because of how much the political notion of “religious freedom” has changed in recent years. Garrett Epps and German Lopez write about this history and why this particular law is different and causing an uproar.
I also think it’s worth reading both Amanda Marcotte and Jacob Levy on this. Marcotte comes from a more liberal perspective and Levy from a more libertarian one. But I think Marcotte makes the key point for me here:
The backlash is kind of surprising, when you consider that it’s already legal to discriminate against LGBT people in Indiana without having to pull the Jesus card to do it. Pence’s maddening dishonesty might be fueling the rage: Lying plus bigotry is a toxic combination. But there’s another factor that’s helping push this past the tipping point of “another story about conservative bigotry” to national scandal. Liberals are getting fed up with this ridiculous conservative push to redefine “religious liberty” to mean its opposite, using it as a phrase to justify Christian conservatives forcing their religious beliefs on you and depriving you of basic religious freedom.
Marcotte goes on to cite the Hobby Lobby court decision, which defined this narrative more clearly for a lot of people. Hobby Lobby’s desire to keep their employees from having easier access to birth control through their health benefits isn’t a matter of corporate executives exercising their own religious freedom. It was an attempt by a powerful employer to impose their religious beliefs on their employees. The fact that Hobby Lobby won at the Supreme Court certainly has people on edge about how radical ideas of religious freedom could potentially be recognized and become accepted.
In the case of Indiana’s new law, a small business owner refusing to serve gay customers is the same dynamic. If a florist or a baker refused to provide their services for an interracial marriage, we wouldn’t consider that to be someone exercising some valid religious objection, we’d see that as just plain bigotry. It’s hard to understand how doing the same regarding a gay wedding is any different.
This is why we now see the backlash. It isn’t the actual severity of the law, it’s the fact that it’s furthering a particularly cynical notion of religious freedom, one that is clearly rooted in bigotry and bad faith. It’s about the fact that Indiana chose to go in this direction, rather than passing anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians. And it’s about making clear the political risks of continuing to pander to those who are in denial about the recent awakening we’ve had as a nation regarding the rights of LGBT people.
More news from the past two weeks…
Supreme Court justices Kennedy and Breyer told a House sub-committee that our mass incarceration policies aren’t working.
John Oliver discusses how we’ve criminalized poverty.
Radley Balko writes about a recent court ruling on drug raids and how it encapsulates the insanity of what the police are allowed to do in order to keep people from smoking pot.
Matt Sledge and Hunter Stuart write about how police body cameras could change police investigations.
Shaun King writes about the record number of exonerated prisoners in 2014.
A bill has been introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives (after a similar bill was introduced in the Senate) to allow for medical marijuana in the medical marijuana states and to provide greater freedom for use of the drug within Veteran’s Affairs.
Marcy Wheeler challenges the recent AP reporting on the history of NSA’s phone record surveillance.
FBI Director James Comey continues to fight against tech companies like Apple for providing encryption to customers in order to better safeguard their privacy.
ACLU is suing to get data on TSA’s absurd effort to use behavior detection specialists in their screening process.
Border Patrol Agents in Arizona are being sued for incinerating a man inside his own car.
How much do you want to bet that the Arizona legislator who suggested mandating church attendance is also terrified of ‘Sharia Law’?
The police in Albuquerque somehow believed that the release of the police body camera footage in the James Boyd shooting would actually help in their efforts to shield the officers from murder charges.
David Graeber writes about the Ferguson report and the lessons we can learn from it.
Dahlia Lithwick writes about the “Slender Man” case in Wisconsin and why we shouldn’t try 12-year-olds as adults.
A Milwaukee police officer who killed a mentally ill black man won’t be getting his job back.
In Illinois, the FBI is convincing disaffected people to join ISIS.
A woman in Indiana was sentenced to 20 years in prison for having a miscarriage.
A black man in Michigan with no criminal record and a long career working at Ford was brutally beaten by police and may have also had drugs planted on him by an officer.
Customs at Dulles International Airport will be trying out facial recognition software on arriving passengers.
Baltimore officials are accused of keeping juvenile suspects in solitary confinement for far too long as they await trials.
The large number of police shootings in Philadelphia are starting to get more attention with the release of a critical report by the U.S. Justice Department. Also in Philly, six outrageously corrupt former narcotics officers are about to stand trial.
New Jersey Governor Christie pardoned Shaneen Allen, a single mother from Pennsylvania who mistakenly believed that she could bring her legally registered firearm into New Jersey.
Matt Taibbi writes about the lack of transparency in the Eric Garner case.
Ryan Gallagher writes about the Canadian efforts to hack into computers worldwide as part of intelligence operations.
The Harper government is attempting to shut down Vancouver’s safe injection room, in direct defiance of a 2011 Supreme Court ruling. Andrew Jeffrey writes about why this is such a big mistake.
Sandra Der reports from Edmonton on the case of Omar Khadr, a former Guantanamo detainee who is back in his native Canada facing a parole hearing.
A prominent Vancouver architect is fighting drug prohibition because of his own family tragedy.
Phillip Smith writes about the five ways the drug war devastates the developing world, while Rebecca Gordon writes about how the war on drugs has specifically devastated Mexico. And Honduras might even be worse.
Murtaza Hussein writes about longtime Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moath Hamza Ahmed al-Alwi, who has endured years of torture but has yet to be charged with any actual crimes. Joshua Partlow profiles some former detainees who’ve actually been exonerated and sent to live in Uruguay.
The Spanish government has passed a new law against protesting that appears to be aimed primarily at Greenpeace.
A Jewish kindergarden in Belgium has lost its insurance policy due to the high risk of anti-Semitic attacks.
Bahrain officials are not allowing relatives to visit with prisoners after overcrowding led to violent clashes inside the jails where many political prisoners are kept.
Amnesty International put out a report accusing Hamas of war crimes in their indiscriminate firing of rockets in civilian areas of Gaza. They had previously accused Israel of the same over the record numbers of civilians killed in 2014.
Nigerian government forces detained two Al Jazeera journalists covering the upcoming election.
A community in South Africa has attempted to re-implement apartheid era restrictions on black citizens.
Jailed Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian was denied a furlough request by an Iranian judge, while a woman who’d been jailed for attending a volleyball match has been released after spending five months in Evin prison.
An American soldier recently plead guilty to killing Afghan civilians for sport.
Reuters has been added to long list of news websites blocked in China.
Thailand’s Prime Minister has threatened to kill journalists who don’t report “the truth”.
Australia has refused to give a visa to the child of legally immigrating parents because she has Down’s syndrome.
A 16-year-old in Singapore was arrested for criticizing the recently deceased former Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew.
Nauru is looking into allegations of sexual abuse of asylum seekers, including children.