David Hoppe

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:: Religious freedom

How about freedom from embarrassment?

by David Hoppe

Well, they just couldn’t help themselves.

The Indiana House voted in favor of making religion an excuse for showing prejudice in public by a vote of 63-31. This is what they call “religious freedom.”

The bill is now on its way to Gov. Mike Pence, who said he plans on signing it. "The legislation, SB 101, is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact," he said.

So florists won’t have to sell flowers to gay people. Bakers won’t have to sell gay people wedding cakes. Photographers won’t have to take gay family portraits.

As if those wicked gays were all about foisting their business on these folks, forcing them to take their filthy lucre.

It will be interesting to see how this new birth of religious freedom will express itself. Perhaps businesses will now feel free to put up some kind of sign to let the rest of us know in advance who is welcome and who is not.

That way, there will be no risk of anyone being embarrassed by mistakenly thinking they will be served at one of these places.

Yep, everybody will be much happier that way.

The passage of this bill makes me wonder when we might see another kind of legislation brought before the General Assembly. Let’s call it the “Freedom From Embarrassment” act, or FFE.

I have lived in Indiana since 1980. During this span, I have seen countless attempts by the state’s legislators to serve a version of Indiana that seems brewed with equal parts nostalgia, paranoia and opportunism.

It’s a state that’s constantly “reforming” education, but barely teaching kids; obsessed with “jobs” that don’t pay enough to live on; and that celebrates its agricultural roots by trying to force factory farms on small towns that don’t want anything to do with them.

This all seems designed to make the state safe for people who are unable to find their way in a world that, for them, must feel more and more impossible to navigate.

That’s fine. But it is not, to use Gov. Pence’s word, “reassuring” for the rest of us.

Let’s face it: we know who we are. It’s not that we’re all the same, agree about everything, or think we’re right all the time. That’s okay. The thing is, we participate, we don’t feel threatened by what’s new, and we tend to find differences stimulating. It seems like we bring added value to the neighborhoods where we live and the places where we work.

And there doesn’t appear to be anyone in the Statehouse who respects us.

People like us are taken for granted in Indiana. I get that: everybody figures we’re fine, we can take care of ourselves. Compared to most folks, that’s true.

But instead of hearing our politicians and policymakers yak about how they want to attract more of us, I wish they’d think about ways to help us be better at what we do.

They might try to be less embarrassing. That would be a start.