Republicans like Fiorina are attempting to roll back the harm to their brand that came with Indiana’s RFRA and Mike Pence’s disastrous attempts at spin control. The new defense of the RFRA does come closer to the truth, as seen in Asa Buchanan’s recognition that Arizona’s RFRA is not a mirror image of the Federal version.
Fiorina’s contribution to the RFRA offensive takes 2 entailed explaining that the federal RFRA was passed to protect religious minorities from government policies that violate their religious freedoms.
She was correct in noting that the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act is “an important law because it protects these rights against government intrusion. However, because the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not apply to the states, 20 states have passed their own religious freedoms law.”
Then she reverts to the GOP’s primary talking point that RFRA’s are to “ensure that the citizens of their states have the opportunity to practice their religions freely. It has not and never has been a license to discriminate.”
Finally, Fiorina came to the significant part, in her discussion of same sex marriages.
The debate about gay marriage is really a debate about how the government bestows benefits and whether they should be bestowed equally. I believe they should. I also believe that people of religious conviction know that marriage is a religious institution with a spiritual foundation because only a man and a woman can create life, which is a gift that comes from God. We must protect their rights as well.
In fact, she uses the sort of argument that was once used to forbid interracial marriages.
Back in 2004, Virginia law Professor Kim Forde-Mazrui drew comparisons between arguments made by opponents of interracial marriages to those made by today’s opponents of marriage equality.
If religious, scientific, moral opposition to interracial relationships — sex, marriage and adoption — were wrong, notwithstanding the sincerity and good faith of those who believed in the opposition, then are the same arguments any more justified when they are used to oppose same-sex relationships?” Forde-Mazrui asked. “It seems that the similarities at least shift the burden….We’ve tried this before. We’ve learned in hindsight this is wrong.
Yes, we tried this before the Supreme Court ruled against Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage in the case of Loving v Virginia.
Then Fiorina, who hopes to revive her political career by running for president in 2016, reached for the final element of a 21st Century Republican rant, blame “the left” for rejecting the right-wing narrative and blame the media for reporting the facts about the RFRA.
It is frankly sad to me that politics has become a fact-free zone. It is sad that so many people on the left were quick to turn this into a divisive and destructive debate so they could further their own brand of identity politics. It is sad that CEOs took to Twitter before checking their facts, adding to the division instead of helping build tolerance.
To begin with, “the left” while prevalent in its criticism of Indiana’s RFRA doesn’t own a monopoly on opposition to bigotry. Granted, the most and the loudest voices in the Republican Party are defending Indiana’s RFRA in reaction to expectations that the Supreme Court will recognize marriage equality.
In phase one of the RFRA offensive, its proponents claimed Indiana’s RFRA is a mirror image of the federal RFRA and state RFRA’s. This is not true.. The White House Debunked it and 30 law professors warned Indiana Governor Pence about it. Even Asa Hutchison, whose state’s RFRA is similar to Indiana’s acknowledged there are differences between the Arkansan RFRA and the Federal law. Other state RFRA’s also have differences like the inclusion of anti-discrimination clauses within the law or codification of protections for the LGBT community in other statutes.
Moreover, the Indiana version trumps city ordinances, the fig leaf used by the State’s speaker of the House and the Senate Pro Tem when they admitted that “no gays” signs would be allowed (though not required) except where city ordinances provide the LGBT community with anti-discrimination protections. The two also acknowledged that most areas of Indiana do not have these ordinances.
There are some Republicans, like Montel Williams, who are critical of Indiana’s RFRA Williams assessed the political impact in a tweet on Marh 26.
When will conservatives like Mike Pence figure out discriminating against #lgbt under the guise of faith is REALLY bad politics?
— Montel Williams (@Montel_Williams) March 26, 2015
Walmart called on Arkansas’ Republican Governor Asa Hutchison to veto that state’s proposed RFRA. NASCAR condemned the bill though fell short of participating in an economic boycott. It’s likely that these people consulted with lawyers before forming their opinions.
Oh and some Christians see the bill the same way as individuals, businesses, cities and state governments do. In fact, Indy star (a conservative Indiana newspaper) reports:
In Indianapolis, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) sent a letter to Pence on Wednesday threatening to cancel its 2017 convention in Indy if he signs the measure into law.
“Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,” Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.
Adams said the Disciples of Christ would instead seek a host city that is “hospitable and welcome to all of our attendees.”
Worth noting: Adams anticipates 8,000 attendees for the 2017 convention. The projected economic impact of that convention is $5.9 million. Incedently, the Indy Star took the rare step of publishing an editorial calling on lawmaker’s to “fix” the RFRA.
Fiorina is hoping that blaming the left for views held by Williams, Walmart, NASCAR, Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchison and other lawmakers will endear her to Republicans and hopefully they will forget about her disastrous run for the Senate.
Fiorina presumes that individuals businesses, city and state governments did not read the bill, didn’t seek legal opinions and can’t distinguish between facts and fiction before drawing the conclusions they did.
There are substantive issues here.
Indiana’s RFRA differs from the federal version in two important ways.
First, it includes artificial persons like corporations, organizations and churches, per the rationale the Supreme Court used in the Hobby Lobby case. The federal law’s protections were limited to protecting the religious freedoms of real persons who practice minority religions as Fiorina correctly pointed out:
Too often, we see people who are prevented from practicing their religion because of a government mandate. A Muslim prisoner was not permitted to keep a beard until his religious rights were vindicated in court. A Native American kindergarten student was told he was required to cut his hair in order to attend school, despite his family’s insistence on the religious significance of his long hair. Once again, the courts stepped in to protect his religious rights against government overreach.
Second, Indiana’s RFRA provides an affirmative defense between two private parties. So when Pence, Fiorina and others claim this is about protecting people from government over reach, they are lying by omission.
It’s worth noting that Fiorina is making the same “balancing” argument offered by Asa Buchanan during his press conference and another 2016 GOP hopeful, Jeb Bush made later on Wednesday.
Ms. Woodbury has a graduate degree in political science, with a minor in law. She is a qualified expert on political theory with a specific interest in the nexus between political theories and models and human rights.
Based on her interest in human rights and the threats that authoritarian regimes are to them, Ms. Woodbury’s masters thesis examined the influence of politics on the enforcement of international criminal law was cited in several academic studies.
Published work includes case summaries for the War Crimes Research Office.
She has an extensive background doing legal research in international and domestic law.
Ms. Woodbury’s work for politicusUSA includes articles on voting rights, the right to asylum and other civil/human rights.