Vox Misses the Point of the Indiana Religious “Freedom” Law

I like Vox, but this story about a law professor’s opinion of Indiana’s so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act only goes to show the professor’s lack of political acumen.

The gist of the story is that University of Virginia Law Professor Douglas Laycock thinks everyone’s got the Indiana law all wrong. It’s really all about protecting minority religious groups who are oppressed by the majority. It’s a good thing.

Even if some folks would seek to use these sorts of laws to justify discrimination, Laycock said that will usually fail. And he said that even though the Indiana law goes further than other similar laws in other states, and federally, by expanding the religious protection to businesses, that’s not a big deal either.

Laycock said that sure with businesses that are run by a single family, they might make a claim to a right to discriminate, but not a large corporation. Hobby Lobby, a company whose annual sales are more than $3 billion a year, won a case at the Supreme Court that allowed them to discriminate against women by denying them access to contraception. The company argued that it violated its religious rights to offer health insurance to its employees that covers contraception. How again did we end up with a system in which employers get to choose employee health insurance coverage?

Laycock said that Hobby Lobby won that case because the company is a “closely held” family company, with more than 500 stores across the country and thousands of employees. Laycock’s argument is that this sort of discrimination is and will be rare.

“As soon as you take in outside shareholders, that becomes untenable as a practical matter,” Laycock said. “They don’t want to sacrifice profit for your religious concerns. There are very few corporate claims and it’s not likely, to the extent there are any, that they’re going to win many. Hobby Lobby is a very special context. It is closely held by one family.”

Of course every argument that Laycock is making is shockingly ignorant, because he’s missing the larger point of these sorts of laws, but regarding his blind faith in the power of shareholders, allow me …

Most businesses are not large corporations with shareholders. The butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker are more often than not, family owned businesses. It is certainly not beyond the realm of possibility that these closely held family business would seek a religious exemption under this law for the purpose of discrimination. Now it’s very true that this business owner might fail in court, but it is these laws that provide aid and comfort to the bigot.

And that right there is the only reason these laws exist. Republicans like Indiana Governor Mike Pence, I doubt he personally even cares about gay marriage. Maybe he does, but what I do know for a fact is that Pence likes getting elected.

The only way to do that is to lie. If Republicans told voters about the issues that the party really cares about, they’d never break 20 percent in any election in any district.

No the GOP can’t tell voters that if they get their votes they’ll cut taxes on the rich, deregulate industries, leaving huge budget deficits, dirty drinking water and smoke smuggered skies.

To win elections, Republican politicians have to talk about social issues. They’re going to end abortion. They’re going to prevent gay people from getting married. They’re going to pass laws to protect your perceived right to discriminate against gay people, or whoever you don’t like.

There’s no other way to get people to vote against their own economic self-interest, you have to lie to them.

And the lie is the tall tale that these sort of “religious freedom” laws will allow businesses to discriminate. The message Gov. Pence is sending bigoted Indiana citizens and business owners is that if you want to discriminate against gays, he’s got their back.

But the reality, as Laycock accurately tells Vox is that the ability of a person, or a business, to seek a religious exemption to discriminate using these sorts of laws is extremely limited. Most cases, but not all, do side against the bigot.

Pence doesn’t care though. When this law proves to be ineffective at protecting bigotry, Pence can just blame activist judges for trampling the rights of god-fearing Christians who just got to hate.

So don’t be fooled, like Mr. Laycock is, regarding the point of these laws, which is to get Republicans elected by creating a culture of divisiveness, fear and hate. While Pence’s supporters are angrily moaning about how the fags are ruining everything, Pence and his Republican party comrades are doing everything they can to shift wealth in Indiana up to the rich.

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