Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Arkansas Seeks to Follow Indiana's Deference to Bigots

The fat tub of lard on the right is an author of the Arkansas bill
Even as Indiana is facing national criticism, the cancellation of convention, bans of state sponsored travel to Indiana by a number of other states, the Arkansas legislature has passed a bill substantially the same as Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" and sent the bill to GOP Governor Asa Hutchinson who has promised to sign it.  Even Arkansas based Walmart is calling on Hutchinson to veto the bill.  But there seems to be no limit to how low the Republicans will go to prostitute them selves to the Christofascist element of the GOP base.  A piece in the New York Times looks at Arkansas' rush to make itself a pariah to the national business community.  Here are excerpts:

The Arkansas legislature on Tuesday passed its version of a bill described by proponents as a religious freedom law, even as Indiana’s political leaders struggled to gain control over a growing backlash that has led to calls to boycott the state because of criticism that its law could be a vehicle for discrimination against gay couples.

The Arkansas bill now goes to the state’s Republican governor, Asa Hutchinson, who expressed reservations about an earlier version but more recently said he would sign the measure if it “reaches my desk in similar form as to what has been passed in 20 other states.” Tuesday afternoon, Doug McMillon, the chief executive of Walmart, the state’s largest corporation, said Mr. Hutchinson should veto it.

The passage comes as Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana responded to the criticism of his state voiced by business interest groups, advocates for same-sex marriage and others. He said that he wanted the measure clarified . . . . “I’ve come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to discriminate against anyone,” Mr. Pence, a Republican, said at a news conference in Indianapolis. He acknowledged that the law had become a threat to the state’s reputation and economy . . . 

The bill in Arkansas is similar to the Indiana law, with both diverging in certain respects from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was passed in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, Arkansas’s most famous political son.

Both states’ laws allow for larger corporations, if they are substantially owned by members with strong religious convictions, to claim that a ruling or mandate violates their religious faith, something reserved for individuals or family businesses in other versions of the law. Both allow religious parties to go to court to head off a “likely” state action that they fear will impinge on their beliefs, even if it has not yet happened.

The Arkansas act contains another difference in wording, several legal experts said, that could make it harder for the government to override a claim of religious exemption. The state, according to the Arkansas bill, must show that a law or requirement that someone is challenging is “essential” to the furtherance of a compelling governmental interest, a word that is absent from the federal law and those in other states including Indiana.  “It has way too broad an application,” said John DiPippa, a professor at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock law school,

Though Arkansas has now joined Indiana as a target of criticism from businesses, condemnation of Indiana’s law continued to grow. . . . . Business executives, notably leaders of tech companies like Apple and Yelp, have spoken out against the law, and Angie’s List cited it in canceling plans to expand its facilities in Indianapolis. Entertainers have canceled tour dates in the state, a gaming convention is considering going elsewhere and the governors of Connecticut, New York and Washington have imposed bans on state-funded travel to Indiana. Even the White House joined in.

[T]he chief executive of Acxiom, a marketing technology company based in Little Rock that employs nearly 1,600 statewide, described the bill as “a deliberate vehicle for enabling discrimination.”

The future of similar measures elsewhere remained unclear. In Georgia on Tuesday, where the legislature will adjourn for the year on Thursday, opponents of a pending proposal rallied outside the state Capitol. Although the bill’s path has been turbulent — a Monday committee hearing about the measure was canceled — supporters and critics alike said it could be approved in the session’s final hours. North Carolina is far earlier in its debate. Religious freedom proposals surfaced last week in both the House and the Senate, and neither has faced a vote at even the committee level.
These bills and the Christofascists who  are demanding them from the GOP are a cancer on society.  We need to return to the Founding Father's concept of freedom of religion - .i.e, no forced support of an established church, no civil penalties for failure to belong to a particular church, and freedom to attend a house of worship of one's choice - and send a loud message to the Christofascist that their days of special rights and undeserved deference are over.

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