What can a Hoosier possibly write about this week except our shiny-new Restoration of Freedom of Religion law? The backlash has been incredible and I think it has astonished its Republican supporters as much as it has the rest of us. Perhaps they assumed there might be an initial flurry of negativity from its opponents but that it would fade in time.
And, after all, they've gotten away with so much in our state since they took over, I expect they thought this was just one more thing apathetic Hoosiers would shrug off as we have being made a Right To Work state and watching our prisons and welfare department and toll road being privatized for the profit of big political donors and seeing our public school system devastated (for the same donors) and ignoring our leaders' decision to deny poor Hoosiers access to healthcare by refusing to accept the Medicaid expansion and tolerating new abortion restrictions and voter i.d. laws. They can be forgiven for believing - "hey, we can get away with anything - Indiana voters either agree with us or if they don't, they won't stir themselves to react."
And, you know, they could still be right. Not only Indianans, but all Americans, have the attention span of gnats when it comes to political issues. As Rachel Maddow reminded us on her show, it was exactly ten years ago that Terri Schiavo was even more of a hot button issue than the RFRA is today. If you remember, Terri had been in a vegetative state for a decade. Her husband wanted to remove her feeding tube and let her die.
The governor of Florida at that time, Jeb Bush, persuaded the Florida legislature to pass a law making him, personally, Governor Jeb Bush, her guardian and they did. He signed the law and then ordered an ambulance to take Terri from the hospice where she resided to a hospital where she was hooked back up to her tube and artificially induced to live on.
A lower court declared the Terri Schiavo law unconstitutional and the Supreme Court allowed its ruling to stand.
But Jeb wasn't done. He went to Congress and convinced them, much as he had Florida lawmakers, to pass a national law forbidding the medical community to allow Terri to die. Congress came back from a recess just to vote. George W Bush signed the law. And once again, Jeb was Terri's guardian and he ordered her to be kept alive.
Remember now, these were the Republicans who shout to the skies how they believe government should keep its nose out of the private lives of citizens....unless they don't.
Public opinion was overwhelmingly against the Republicans in the Terri Schiavo matter (she eventually did die). In fact, when Americans were polled they claimed to be horrified that state legislators and governors and congresspeople and presidents would behave in such an arrogant manner. But, hey, this happened ten years ago and life goes on and we forget. Did we hold it against them? No, not in the long run. We voted for them overwhelmingly in the last election...or we didn't vote at all, which is the same thing.
The difference between Terri Schiavo and the Restoration of the Freedom of Religion Act is that poor Terri and her husband didn't have a bunch of big gun defenders, just a few liberal groups and common people. No one the Republicans cared anything about.
But business is against the RFRA and that's an entirely different story. Business is the Republican God so when Apple and Eli Lilly and Walmart and Cummins Engine and many, many more, not to mentions sports organizations, (NASCAR expressed its disapproval, for God's sake, and it doesn't get worse than that for conservatives!) The Indianapolis Star featured a front page headline in huge letters that simply said: FIX THIS NOW - and trust me, the Indianapolis Star is not considered part of the liberal "lamestream" media. Our state has already been hit by business boycotts and more are threatened.
So, we are now looking at a clarification amendment, or so the legislature and Governor Pence say. (The governors of both Arkansas and North Carolina have decided to think a little longer about signing their own recently passed Freedom of Religion laws in light of the push back Indiana has received). I don't think that will work. At this point, it is too little, too late. The whole damn this needs to be repealed. Maybe our state Republicans can get some advice from the national party because Washington Republicans definitely have a lot of experience trying to repeal laws.