Oh, Indiana.

There is a lot of talk going on lately about the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and with good reason. Some support it, some don’t…and many seem to be confused as to what it is and why it’s a big deal. The confusion needs to go. My problems with the Indiana law are two-fold. First, my religious freedom is already protected by the first amendment to the US constitution and by my state’s (and Indiana’s) constitution as well. I fail to see why we need a special law saying we have the right to religious freedom when that issue was solved with the Bill of Rights. Along with this issue, goes another one (a big one for me), and that is the inherent hypocrisy of those who support the law. Now, those that know me should know that nothing gets my goat more than hypocrisy. To quote Denzel (Remember the Titans- great flick, but I digress): I may be a mean old cuss but I am the same mean old cuss to everyone. I like consistency if you don’t support something for someone else then you can’t claim to have a right to it or a need for it.

So, where is the hypocrisy, you ask? I am glad that you did (even if you didn’t we are going to pretend that you did, so go with it). See, my biggest issue is that many of the laws proponents argue that the LGBT community is not asking for equality, but for ‘special rights.’ They hold the idea that people already have the right to marry who they wish, but LGBTers want ‘special rights’ just for them. I don’t hold to this opinion (I find it highly flawed, offensive, and discriminatory) but if you do, so be it. But if you do, yet you support the Indiana law, you are by definition, a hypocrite. As I already mentioned, religious freedom is already protected, the proponents of the Indiana law do not want religious freedom (which they have all had since birth) but they want ‘special rights’ they claim are within the mandates of their religion. Rights that may possibly violate other state and federal statutes.

We have anti-discrimination laws for a reason. We shouldn’t have to have them, but we do because people generally suck. These laws do not harm anyone nor do they violate the first amendment. See, like with all rights, there is a limit to what you can do with that. We have freedom of speech, but we can still be prosecuted for telling lies (libel), mis-truths (slander), or any speech that causes or threatens active harm (threats of violence, or screaming fire in a crowded theater.) These limits are not stifling our freedoms, but, rather protecting them…for everybody. The same holds true for religious freedom. Your religious freedom ends at the point where someone is exposed to undue harm. Hence, why stoning or human sacrifice (or sacrifice of any kind, generally speaking) are still illegal. This is the reason that, despite many religions supporting and/or promoting it, polygamy is still illegal in many states, because it has shown to come with a lack of consent and harm to individuals (sometimes underage)…see: Colorado City.
In fact, the argument over religious freedom is hardly anything new. SCOTUS has decided this issue many times over, and reached the same (ish) conclusion every time. The exception being the Hobby Lobby case…well, sort of. The big religious freedom case was US v. Lee. An Amish man made the argument that as we was spiritually opposed to social security, he shouldn’t have the pay the employer required contribution on behalf of his non-Amish employees. SCOTUS basically said, uh-unh, doesn’t work that way. Well, actually they said: When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes which are binding on others in that activity. In other words, when you open a business you make a ‘choice.’ No one says you are required to do so, and no one is forcing you to open a business against your will…you choose to do that. As such, in making that choice, you agree to follow any and all laws and regulations that apply to that business. There are laws on the books that state you are not allowed to discriminate against someone in your business, these laws are unfortunately necessary and are around for a reason. They protect those to whom others wish to place an, undue burden. That’s the language used in the Hobby Lobby case, too, but wrongfully applied.

See, if the government can show that a law fulfills a fundamental need, is in the public good, (or shows compelling interest) and doesn’t place an undue burden upon others then that law is not in violation of anyone’s religious rights. For example, the state can require vaccinations (oh, if only they would) because they can prove that it is a compelling interest (i.e. Vaccinations save lives, improve community health and cost far less than the treatment of said diseases.) The government can prove that required vaccinations to keep a public healthy, is the least restrictive method of doing so. In the Hobby Lobby case, the court again used this compelling interest/undue burden requirement. Where it dropped the ball was here. See, the decision stated that the government did prove that requiring employers to give health coverage (and that, that coverage cover contraception) was in a compelling interest (side note: in stating this the court has already decided for the ACA). Where the government failed, according to the court, was to prove that such a requirement was the least restrictive method of obtaining their goals…and thus, violated the owner’s ‘strongly held religious beliefs.’ But where the courts failed is that they forgot that Hobby Lobby would then place that ‘burden’ on a third party…the employees. (Yes, this is all the fault of the Hobby Lobby case…way to go for unintended consequences).
The Indiana law would allow businesses to refuse service to individuals based on their ‘strongly held religious beliefs.’ (Since, you know, corporations are people now and have religious freedom). This, however, places an undue burden on consumers (discrimination). The law essentially forces others to comply with another’s ‘strongly held religious beliefs,’ which is, in all actuality, unconstitutional. How can this go wrong? Say some one has a ‘strongly held religious belief’ that black people are unclean and thus refuses to serve them in their establishment. Many would agree (I hope) that this is a false belief and that allowing a business to carry out this plan is wrong. But that is exactly what the law allows to be done to the LGBT community. How much longer before they refuse to hire certain group of people? The Indiana law, and the Hobby Lobby decision, places the ‘rights’ of a business above the rights of the individual. This is why I have a problem with both the new law, and the decision. Your religion does not give you the right to discriminate against people. (If you want a more professional opinion, one of lawyers and such, with all the legal mumbo jumbo click here)

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Hey, SCOTUS, Thanks For Nothing

The Hobby Lobby ruling is a slap in the face to all human beings, especially those who proclaim to be a part of a religion. The reason why is this: SCOUTS just gave a non-living entity the same rights and privileges afforded to me and all other human beings BY GOD. God did not give these rights to tigers, rocks, treesor businesses but solely to HUMANS. By giving these non-living legal entities the same rights and privileges afforded to humans SCOUTS has effectively demeaned the entire human race. We, especially those of us of faith, should be appalled and offended by this ruling. Faith, and thus the exercise of religion, is a gift given to us by God… it is not something that can be granted by a court of man. For those who would argue towards the owners religious freedomthis is not about that, they are free to exercise their religion as they see fit. This is about the corporation of Hobby Lobby. The owners made the CHOICE to incorporate their business making it a SEPARATE entity from themselves. This was never about the owners paying for anything, but for the separate legal non-living entity of the corporation complying with legislation. What SCOTUS has done is given rights to a non-living entity above the rights of actual human beings. SCOTUS has taken the gifts, given solely to the human race, by God, to a non-living entity created solely by man. Congratulations, I hope you are happy.

Baby Veronica

 

    So the internet exploded this week as Baby Veronica was returned to her adoptive parents. Ultimately, it was the right decision. What concerns me is not really the aspects of this case, per se, but to the hateful reactions to it. Maybe it is because I am white. Maybe I just don’t get it. I fully accept that possibility. My ancestors may have known what it was like to be denied their heritage (Irish) but I have not. As a result, there are aspects of this case that I cannot even begin to understand. I do not see race as being a valid part of this, or any, custody dispute. Truth of the matter is, had her father been Latino instead of Cherokee, it would have never gotten this far.

    A child of the ’80’s I cannot begin to understand the emotions and anger of the 1970’s regarding the Aboriginal Peoples of the United States. Thus, I cannot fully understand all of the reasons behind the Native Child Welfare Act. First and foremost, this law assumes a misconception that is, unfortunately, widely supported by Child Service Agencies (ok, they are not all cut from the same cloth but those that I have dealt with fit this roll) that biological is best. In a perfect world, that would be true. But this is not a perfect world. In my lifetime, I have seen far too many cases where this misconception has caused more harm than good. Because of doing all that is possible to keep kids with their biological families I have seen children neglected, abused, permanently disabled, and even killed. Perhaps this misconception is a result of our own ethnocentricity. Surly, we all believe that our family, values, culture, religion are what is best for our children. But what happens when things are not so simple. Shouldn’t we objectively look at what is best for the child and not allow biology and race be reason enough alone to base that decision?

    First, let’s get this out of the way. I do not consider adoption as purchasing a child. It is not uncommon for adoptive parents (I have known several) to pay the medical expenses that may be accrued during a pregnancy. Since every parent pays these expenses I fail to see how it is much different for adoptive parents. A loving couple who are unable to have children, for whatever reason, are torn apart and heartbroken at the inability to have a child. Many have tried and failed. Many have tried and lost children. Sometimes, a couple finds it in their heart to give a home to a child not of their blood. Quite frankly, blood has very little to do with family. I have several adopted cousins. I, nor any member of my family, thinks less of them, loves them less, due to a silly thing like biology.

    I am appalled by the reactions of many to the outcome of this case. Blatant racism appalls me. To be fair it is apparent of those one both sides of the issue. And just to get something off my chest there is no such thing as reverse racism. It’s just racism. If someone with dark skin dislikes someone because they have pale skin then that is racism. It is just as racist as if a person with pale skin dislikes a person with dark skin. Nothing reverse about it, just racism.

    The adoptive parents of Veronica did not seek to purchase or steal a child from the Cherokee Nation. They sought to adopt a child. They were chosen by the child’s birth mother, a Latino (though I protest that this detail is unnecessary and has no bearing on the case at all), to raise the child in an open adoption. For the uninitiated an open adoption is one where the adoptive parents keep the biological family involved. So none of this ridiculous notion that being adopted by a white family was going to neglect her heritage, as the mother was always going to be involved. Then we come to the part where a legal adoption can be contested because of 1.2% of a child’s heritage. Let me break it down, it was contested in court that the mother of this child had NO RIGHT to decide the fate of her child based on the 1.2% of the child that was Cherokee. I have admitted that I cannot possibly understand the feelings and complexities of the Cherokee Nation but I cannot help but feel that this law is discriminatory.

    We can play the he said, she said all day long. It is something fairly typical in custody cases. However, there is this one little thing people are grotesquely overlooking. The biological father signed away his rights. He didn’t sign a paper giving the mother full custody while he went overseas. Full custody by the mother is assumed in cases where the father has made no move to take a part in the child’s life…or pregnancy. He signed away his parental rights. Plain and simple. And he did so freely and willingly. He was not coerced. If he didn’t understand what he was signing that’s on him. If you want involvement in your child’s life, at any point in time, you do not sign away your parental rights to the other parent. You work with an attorney to establish a custody arrangement. Nowhere, in any case, do you sign away parental rights and expect to receive any form of contact.

    For me, race/nationality is only important in this case for one reason, and only then because the law made it so. My objections to this case are quite simple. The rights of the mother, the choice of the mother, was overturned and ignored because the father, who signed away his rights, happened to have a minute percentage of Cherokee DNA. Period. End of sentence. Nothing else matters in this case, according to this law, but that tiny piece of DNA. Thus, effectively, putting the will of the Tribal Council ahead of the choice of the mother. This is taking choice away from mothers. This is wrong. And I highly doubt, that the law was written to purposely override a mother’s wishes as to who raises her child. Something tells me it has more to do with what happens to children in the foster system or those who, for one reason or another, become wards of the state. The law was written to make sure these kids are placed before the council before being removed from the tribe, not to deny a mother the choice of who is allowed to raise her child.