Before I begin today’s column, I have to ask any menstruating women to stop reading.
No offense. But my faith believes you are unclean — it’s written somewhere, I’m sure; I’m not going to bother digging out chapter and verse. So if you would set your device down, and go sit in the Hut of Shame for a few days and wait for it to pass, well, then I would feel better. You are welcome to read this column later, after you perform certain ablutionary rituals I will not describe here.
There, now my religious scruples are honored, I can cluck over Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing a law Thursday that allows Indianapolis photographers and Bloomington bakers, Evansville owners of Grange Halls and Fort Wayne barbershop quartets, to refuse to serve gay weddings because, well, God wants it that way, in their estimation.
As far as why this should be limited to gays — why anybody of any faith should not use any religion as a reason to refuse any kind of service to just about anybody — has not been sufficiently explained. We have to take it on faith, I suppose.
I could use this as an opportunity to sneer at Indiana. The state where, in the mid-1920s, half the members of the same General Assembly that passed this law, and its governor at the time, belonged to the Klu Klux Klan, along with 30 percent of the white Protestant men. I assume that’s no longer the case, but I haven’t hard evidence.
The truth is a dozen other states are in the process of passing similar laws. We have our own in Illinois, the 1998 “Religious Freedom Restoration Act.” (I guess religious freedom needed restoring because it went away when all those hellbound sinners and false religions — and you know who you are — started strutting about, pretending they had equal rights to equal treatment).
“Government should not substantially burden the exercise of religion without compelling justification,” it reads.
Hmmm, “substantially burden.” That sounds familiar.
“A governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability,” the new Indiana law reads, also echoing a federal law passed in 1993.
So civil rights must bow to religion. No need to provide flowers for gay weddings, and if there’s a reason Jewish weddings aren’t next, I can’t think of it.
“Religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law.” Pence said in a statement. “The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”
Of course they do.
Time was, they felt under attack just because there was a pope in Rome and Jews selling cheap suits across the tracks. There is a certain sort of religious folk who feel under attack by the mere existence of anybody who lives or thinks, loves or believes differently than they do — and they manifest that sense of being attacked however they can get away with it.
If they can force you to pray their prayer in school, fine. If they can yank your magazine off the stands or close your play down, fine. Right now hounding gays and restricting the rights of women is in vogue, so they do that. Because they can.
I guarantee you, if Omar’s Falafel Pit in Elnora said that the Holy Quran, blessed be it, demands that they refuse to serve babaganoosh to infidels, there would be a stir. If Morty’s Deli in Zionsville stopped serving corned beef to Catholics — and if you can refuse a wedding cake to gays based on your religious faith, what’s the difference? — there would be an outcry. Because just as prayer in schoolassumesit’ll be your prayer, so Indiana’s codification of religious bigotry only works until theuntermenschendecide to get in on the fun. No wonder conservatives are terrified of the concept of Sharia law: they’re jealous.
For the moment, Adam and Steve have to be careful where they buy the rice to be tossed after their nuptials, because they might end up getting the bum’s rush.
Add another law we’ll look back on someday and cringe. But nothing Chicago should feel smug about. We’re a city that once had an “Ugly Law” which read:
No person who is diseased, maimed, mutilated or in any way deformed so as to be an unsightly or disgusting object or improper person to be allowed in or on the public ways or other public places in this city, or shall therein or thereon expose himself to public view, under a penalty of not less than one dollar nor more than fifty dollars for each offense.
Of course we repealed that law. In 1974.