jesuswept indiana

It’s not often that I use this blog for articles dedicated to comment on a current public issue. While I certainly don’t agree with a certain social media “expert” who advises authors that they should never express a political or social opinion for fear of driving away potential readers, I never envisioned this blog as a political soapbox. But I feel that the issue of the law passed in Indiana recently and signed by Governor Mike Pence, the so-called “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” is a matter of such concern that I feel I should go on record. And, raising the ante, I should say that this fulsome and ill-advised law has already affected me, even though I don’t live in Indiana.

On Sunday, I was invited to a book signing and promotional event at a horror convention sponsored by my publisher, scheduled for September. I would love to have gone. The convention falls at a perfect time for my schedule, and it would be a great opportunity to promote both my newest book, Doppelgänger, and my upcoming book, The Rats of Midnight. But there’s one problem: the convention is in Indianapolis. While I know that my publisher does and always has stood up for equality, inclusion and diversity–the decision for Indianapolis as the site was made long before this law started to gain steam in the Indiana legislature–because of the act I unfortunately had to decline the opportunity to go to this convention.

Let’s be very clear. The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is not about religion, not about freedom and not about restoring anything. It’s about one thing, and one thing only: hatred of LGBT people.

mike pence by george skidmore

Mike Pence, the Governor of Indiana who signed the law last week, has throughout his political career remained steadfastly hostile to equality and respect under the law for LGBT people.

Despite the numerous disingenuous protestations by Indiana Governor Pence that the law supposedly has nothing to do with discrimination–protestations which exactly no one believes–the purpose of the law couldn’t be clearer. It’s meant as a license to private businesses to discriminate against LGBT people. Period. The only other possible purpose the law could have is as a public statement that Indiana does not want and will not welcome gay, bisexual, lesbian or transgendered people within its borders. That message went out loud and clear. I got it. I am bisexual and I’m not coming to Indiana in September.

I’m inconsequential to Indiana or Governor Pence, but a lot of other people are also not coming to Indiana because of this law, and many of them are consequential. A partial list of boycotts, pull-outs and divestitures from the state, solely as a result of this law, include Yelp, comedians Nick Offerman and Megan Mullaly, rock band Wilco, AFSCME, Angie’s List, Salesforce, and the list goes on and on. If Governor Pence wanted to cleanse the state of LGBT-friendly businesses, events and organizations, he’s made an excellent start.

This law is about hating people who aren’t like you. That’s all it’s about. Its only legal purpose is to enshrine, within Indiana’s system of positive law, permission to hurt, harass and shame LGBT people for the “crime” of being who they are. That the proffered explanation for this is “religious freedom” is even more shocking, insulting and offensive. Freedom to practice one’s religion never includes the freedom to hurt other people because you hate them. Religious liberty is always a shield. It’s never a sword.

Not a single person of any faith, anywhere, under any circumstances, has ever or will ever have their religious freedom abridged by being denied the ability to hurt someone else. The only reason for insisting on a legal right to hurt other people is to validate an agenda of bigotry, hatred and discrimination.

This cannot be what America is about in the 21st century. This is so alien to American values, to Christian values, to Jewish and Muslim and Buddhist values, that the mere suggestion this law can be justified by “religious freedom” reveals a profound ignorance of what religious values are.

So, when we talk about the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” let’s be clear. This is a law about hate. It was passed by people who hate me, signed by a man who hates me, and intended to please others who also hate me. Their actions speak far louder than the feeble quacking sounds Governor Pence made on various Sunday talk shows or at his press conference this morning, which may as well have been the indistinct droning of Charlie Brown’s teacher in the old Peanuts cartoons. This law is about hate.

It must be repealed. Not fixed. Not tweaked. Not clarified. Repealed. Until that’s done, Indiana has lost my business and my respect–forever.

The photo of Mike Pence is by Gage Skidmore and is used under Creative Commons 3.0 (Attribution) license.