(Dear Visitors: After you read this, please see Jack Stanton’s smart, calm companion piece, How to Talk to Your Conservative Friends about the Indiana RFRA. It will do you good.)
I believe we’re going to fix this RFRA thing.
Let me be clear about that. Those of us who live and love in Indiana won’t sit idly by while our legislators pass laws that foster and excuse discrimination.
And, in fact, we have not. The loudest, angriest protests have come from not from outsiders, but from people here in Indiana who oppose the spirit of RFRA and never thought the law was necessary.
Even Gov. Pence has agreed that the law needs to be clarified. It will get done. There’s already been too much damage to our reputation to allow this situation to continue.
So I’m assuming we’re going to get past it. And we’re gonna want to talk about it. Which is why I thought my Republican friends could use a little advice about how we can move our relationship forward. Here are six things you can do (or not do) to get us to warm up to your advances:
1. Accept the fact that we’re angry. We can accept that we have different priorities and different beliefs. We can accept that we don’t agree with the majority of people who sit in our legislature. We hope you’ll accept the fact that we’re angry that you guys made a law that has, at very least, done great harm to the reputation of our state as a place that’s welcoming to everyone. Don’t act as if we didn’t warn you of the consequences. We did.
2. Don’t patronize us. Don’t tell us that RFRA was not about discrimination when that is clearly what motivated it at this time, in this state. Eric Miller, executive director of Advance America, was almost literally holding the governor’s hand while he signed the act into law. Advance America celebrated the victory by declaring one way the law would help them was that, “Christian bakers, florists and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!” (All bold type and exclamation points theirs. Here’s a link to their post.)
Also: There are no Nazis lining up to ask Jewish bakers for wedding cakes featuring fondant swastikas. So stop saying that. You just sound stupid—not least of all because it seems to imply that Christian bakers might be all about the swastika cake.
3. Take responsibility. I didn’t vote for Gov. Pence, and my legislators didn’t vote for RFRA. Ultimately, I can’t fix this. Perhaps you should figure out how to nominate conservative candidates who won’t go out of their way to pander to people who are, for some reason, afraid of homosexuals. If you don’t want far-right religious dogma messing up our state’s business environment, you need to do better.
4. Don’t tell us that Christians’ rights are in jeopardy. Christians are a clear majority in our state. Christians operate massive places of worship that don’t have to pay taxes. It’s still perfectly legal to wish people, “Merry Christmas.” If you’re really a Christian, there’s nothing anyone can ask you to do that will send you to hell. Your immortal soul has not been, is not, and never will be in danger—even if, God forbid, someone asks you to bake a cake. (Even if you actually bake it.)
No one is trampling Christians’ rights. That’s not a real thing.
5. Stop invoking Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. The laws aren’t the same, and their intent was not the same. Yet, you keep saying they’re the same. But they’re not, and you know it, and we’re not stupid. Stop saying that.
6. Think about coming out hard for something that unites us instead of divides us. Seriously. There’s too much divisiveness in the world. And maybe the thing you come up with that unites us shouldn’t be business-related; we don’t need another “let’s all spend money together” day. Maybe think about creating a new state park or something. Or make Casual Friday a statewide requirement. I think that’s something we can all get behind.