Diversity, Inclusiveness, Tolerance and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of the State of Indiana: Is Jim Crow still alive and well in the 21st Century?

Keywords or Terms: Religious Freedom Restoration Act; Indiana; Governor Mike Pence; LGBT Community; Cultural Diversity and Inclusiveness; Asians, Blacks, Jews, and Mexicans; Pastor martin Niemoller; Civil Rights Law; Fortune 500 CEOs; US Supreme Court Marriage Equality Ruling; Republican Senator Rick Santorum; and, Governor Mike Pence

The resurgence of intolerance in the State of Indiana is probably commuted this week in the signing of the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act by Mike Pence, 47th and second term governor of the State of Indiana. The limping triumphs of the civil rights era and endurance of remarkable achievements in race, religion, and national origin relations in the nation notwithstanding, the State Assembly of Indiana, in its infinite wisdom, saw it fit to protect the rights of some while rejecting those of others, by aligning with the right of refusal of service to anyone who necessarily, do not look like, love like, think like, or cherish mainstream values of heterosexuals, under this new Indiana Act.

In Indiana of today, there is no room for lesbians, gays, bisexuals, or transgender; and, if you are probably Asians, Blacks, Jewish, Mexican, and what have you, we are coming to get you; excuse me, you might just be the next in line. Sort of remind me of Pastor Martin Niemoller’s famous quotation: “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out because I was not a Socialist; Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist; Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew; Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.” Indiana Assemblymen have learned from the flaws of the Civil Rights laws of 1964 and as amended in 1972: failure of inclusiveness of all manner of minorities in the epic law. The governor of the State of Indiana like his assemblymen are hardly interested in the principles or doctrinaire of cultural diversities, tolerance and inclusiveness in the twenty-first century. 

Today, under the disguise of protecting the rights of peoples under religion, the Indiana Assemblymen and Governor have chosen to defend the rights of refusal of service to those, who do not share the ethos, principles and philosophy of heterosexual orientation. For these politicians, their religious rights and liberties thrump other’s sexual preferences or full rights, and if they had the choice, the LGBT community will be eclipsed from the face of the earth.

The passing of marriage equality right and the re-affirmation of this privilege for everyone under the constitution, and the recent US Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality, notwithstanding, as a provider of services in Indiana, you may refuse to sell or deny participation to provide services of any kind to anyone, any person, who do not share your marital and or sexual orientation values. Fortunately, many opinion leaders, politicians, CEO’s of fortune 500, and others are calling out the Indiana law as retrogressive and unwelcome; placing on record and circulating their objections as follows: 1) “Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, Sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. Legislations that allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.” – Adrian Swartout, CEO Gen Con; 2) “Regardless of the original intention of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, we are deeply concerned about the impact it is having on our employees and on the reputation of our state. All of our companies seek to promote fair, diverse and inclusive workplace. Our employees must not feel unwelcome in the place where they work and live” – CEO Bill Oesterle, Angie’s list and on behalf of several other Corporations; 3) “Laws that says you can discriminate have no place in this country” – Ed Murray, Mayor of Seattle, Washington; 4) “Discrimination is intolerable wherever it exists. I stand with the LGBT community on [Religious Freedom and Restoration Act]” – Muriel Bowser, Mayor, Washington, DC; 5) “Due to the actions taken by the State of Indiana, we will join with other cities across the nation in suspending the use of city funds for official business in Indiana. This law is just wrong, plain and simple, and we will not tacitly condone discrimination through the use of taxpayer’s dollars.”– Michael Hancock, Mayor of Denver, Colorado; 6) “AFSCME is pulling our Women’s Conference out of Indiana this fall as a sign of our disgust and disappointment with Governor Pence’s discriminatory law. We stand with the ever-growing number of corporations and associations who are taking similar action this week, and demanding fairness for all in the State of Indiana.” – Lee Saunders, President, AFSCME; 7) “NIKE proudly stands for inclusion for all. We believe laws should treat people equally and prevent discrimination. NIKE has led efforts alongside other businesses to defeat discriminatory laws in Oregon and opposes the new law in Indiana which is bad for our employees, bad for our consumers, bad for business and bad for society as a whole.”– Mark Parker, NIKE President and CEO; and, 9) “[Religious Freedom and Restoration Act] is an attempt to rationalize injustice by pretending to defend the very principles upon which [this] country was founded. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair… On behalf of Apple, I’m standing up to oppose this new… legislation – Tim Cook, Apple CEO.

Dramatic and sometimes breathtaking, these criticisms and colliculus development since the signing of the new law in Indiana, has shown how abhorrent this law is and how unwelcome the business community interpret its provisions for their businesses, employees, communities and or leadership. The community of business leaders declines to recognize a law that is in anyway restraining or discriminatory to the freedom of choice of the backbone of their enterprises: their workers. Some politicians, even within the State of Indiana, see a conservative agenda in the passing of the law; with many of them musing, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act reflects an uncommon practical wisdom. If Indiana does not move quickly to quash this act or amend it to facilitate transparency, voters and residents of the state are very well going to receive a backlash that will cut into the state confers and probably ouster some notable political players in the state. While businesses hardly like to get into political fights, their choice to make their disgust known openly about a law, spells real bad omen for politicians and their constituencies.

Why have oppositions grown so rapidly to Indiana’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act? What effects if any, will businesses and political leaders’ oppositions to the law have for the future of businesses and contractual obligations with Indiana and Indianans?

One of the current 2016 Presidential Aspirants, Republican Senator Rick Santorum has twitted that he stands by Governor Pence in “his defense of religious liberty and real tolerance.” During the campaigning periods, politicians are always known to make very outlandish statements; however, we have also often seen them walk back their statements when the rubber meets the road. When Indiana politicians and Presidential aspirants for the 2016 White House begin to see the repercussions of the out of place law with the LGBT communities over the federation, they probably will realize that, although in tone, the substance of the law looks substantially similar to one signed into law by President Bill Clinton, the tone and spirit of Indian’s law, actually impinges the rights of many at the expense of the compelling interest of probably more liberal, inclusive and diversified society. As for morality, it is evitable that government and peoples of the State of Indiana are faced with decisions to either exclude or include a population segment in Indiana that seems till now, oblivious; however, has always been part of the State. The ruling this week by the US Supreme Court on Marriage Equality may have emboldened Indiana’s LGBT community to quickly speak out against the law. Rather than seek guidance on how to define, measure or apply the new realities from the US Supreme Court, Indiana’s State governor may have jumped the gun by signing a moralistic law that forces heterosexual moralism on a more diverse State population.

The growing opposition to the law from the business communities and leaders has the potential to change the debate from obligation to protect religious rights for one, while discriminating against another minority segment of society on the basis of sexual orientation. Further, the debate may be shifting to ostracizing business consumers and manpower; a question many businesses are hardly ready to condone because it cuts deeply into their bottom line. In addition, the growing opposition symbolizes a reality that the LGBT communities are part of the fabric of society; and, many of them are workers, consumers, neighbors, family and friends; and, no matter how anyone see them, they are all Americans and God’s children. The remarkable comments from fortune 500 business leaders, as troubling as they may be for politicians in Indiana, have the potential of having a broader implication for the State of Indiana and probably, the nation. Executives at huge American Corporations often make good on their position or conviction; especially when it has to do with their bottom line.

The oppositions to Indiana’s Religious Freedom and Restoration Act have grown so rapidly because of the nationwide ramification and or implication of the law. The fear that the law may spread to other states and scuttle the ideals of inclusivity, tolerance, and diversity, nationwide, probably netted the overwhelming opposition, especially from various business communities. The business community leaders are more interested in their dollars and cents; any law or action that may impact the bottom line is often frowned upon by businesses and stockholders. The rapid opposition is to send a quick message to other states that may be contemplating such similar laws to Indiana's Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. The prominent CEO’s of fortune 500 companies that have spoken so far, want to shatter any misgiven that  the new law in Indiana has no consequence. The immediate implication of the law for nationwide LGBT communities may just be as relevant as the need and desire for many companies to remain inclusive, tolerant and diversified in all their engagements. The nationwide relevance and oppositions are captured in the released statement by NASCAR immediately after the signing of the act into law by Indiana's Governor Pence: “NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusions or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sports and, therefore, will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at events in the State of Indiana and anywhere else we race.” This not only says a million, it puts the State of Indiana Assemblymen and governor on the defensive.
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