The Indiana version of RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) that Governor Mike Pence signed last week has drawn so much criticism inside as well as outside Indiana that it may well be revised or “clarified” by this weekend’s Final Four basketball games in Indianapolis. The law does not, of course, explicitly endorse discrimination of any kind, but equally-of-course was intended as a signal to some–not all–evangelical Christians in Indiana that the state government had their back if their take on “Hoosier hospitality” was, let’s say, selective.
According to Second Corinthians 6:14, “be not unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship has righteousness with unrighteousness? Or what partnership has light with darkness?” That is a world away from cosmopolitanism, but so be it. I do not believe that legislation could or should mandate cosmopolitanism, but it could and should restrain hatefulness and incivility when they go out, so to speak, in public. If those who wish not to be “unequally yoked” with the unwashed, the “unclean,” the “unrighteous” do not wish to be circumscribed or restrained by the law, no one is forcing them to go out into the arena with businesses that may be privately owned but operate on public streets, benefit from government-enforced limited liability laws, and provide public accommodations (which were required to be open and inclusive by multiple civil rights laws of the 1960s and multiple Supreme Court rulings since). Corporations are explicitly protected as “people” by the Indiana law in a way that challenges the legitimacy of “public accommodation.” I think that is one reason why the mainstream business community has responded so strongly against this law. Global corporations have no interest these days in suffering damage to their reputation and brand by associating themselves with bigotry, and are willing to be much more vocal about it than in decades past.
Indiana Republicans may have intended to send a message of solidarity and support sub rosa to their socially conservative voting base, which may feel aggrieved at the pace of change–but the “unequally yoked” thing does not seem to be working out quite the way they planned.
Alexander Baunov (on the Carnegie Europe site) points out that “if the killing didn’t happen on the Kremlin’s orders, matters are no better. In some authoritarian regimes, the state strictly monopolizes its repressive mechanisms; in others, this monopoly is lost. Repressions spin out of control, and the repressive reins slip to the masses. This is happening now in Russia, where the authorities are trying to consolidate society around opposing an enemy, and some are starting to take this signal too literally–as a call for action.” Now that is worrisome for what remains of Russian civil society, if characters out of Dostoevsky are let loose.
The Supreme Court hears oral argument in King v. Burwell today, and if you are guided by the NY Times headline, “four little words” (“established by the state”) are the key to the case. That way of framing this case makes this latest effort to gut Obamacare seem quite reasonable. In fact the issue is the appalling eagerness of four (or more–there’s the worry) justices to act like middle-schoolers and not even wait for the appeals courts to issue conflicting opinions that would create an actual issue at stake. The issue is the willingness of so-called conservative justices to abandon long-settled legal principles such as standing–at least three of the plaintiffs have no actual beef with the Affordable Care Act because they are actually eligible for tax credits, i. e. subsidized health care. But the Supreme Court is willing to ignore the requirement of an “actual case or controversy” if it suits their agenda.
The larger issue is, should four perhaps ambiguous or poorly drafted words out of–as Republicans loved to point out–an almost thousand-page bill be torn utterly out of context to send the law into a death spiral. The ACA clearly provided for mechanisms to insure health insurance availability in all fifty states. And Antonin Scalia has coauthored a book, Reading Law, with Bryan Garner in which basic principles of interpreting laws are unambiguous, such as: “presumption against ineffectiveness: [an] interpretation that furthers rather than obstructs the document’s purpose should be favored.” And “whole-text canon: the text must be construed as a whole.” Furthermore: “harmonious-reading canon: the provisions of a text should be interpreted in a way that renders them compatible, not contradictory.” Those are reasonable and certainly conservative legal principles–will the Supreme Court uphold them?
President Chaim Weizmann of the new state of Israel listened to President Harry Truman complain that no matter what he did, some group of Americans would criticize him. Weizmann replied that Truman ought to try living in Israel, since in the U.S. Truman was president of two hundred million citizens, whereas Weizmann in Israel presided over a million presidents!
Current Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu of Israel has declared himself to be in a different league. Ahead of his speech to Congress this week, Netanyahu announced that he is an “emissary” not only of all Israeli citizens–including those who do not agree with him, but of “the entire Jewish people.” Then in the air over the Atlantic, in an apparently unpressurized cabin, the prime minister declared himself to be “on a misssion from YHWH G-d, on behalf of all sentient beings, including gefilte fish and turtles.” Mitch McConnell, on the Senate floor, thanked Netanyahu–about the turtle part that is.