Mike Delph and “Religious Freedom”

It’s deja vu all over again.

Mike Delph–whose hysterical (in both senses of the word) tweets in the wake of the failure of HR3 left no room for doubt about his feverish homophobia–has introduced a bill to protect “religious” folks from having to recognize the civil rights of LGBT citizens. [Update: Evidently that other “religious warrior,” Scott Schneider, authored this particular bill. Given Delph’s legislative history, you can understand how I made the mistake…]

(I’m sure Schneider is equally anxious to protect good Christians from being forced to do business with unwed fornicators, bearers of false witness, adulterers and other sinful folks. That bill will undoubtedly be introduced any day now. Not.)

My friend Bill Groth, a highly respected lawyer who frequently litigates constitutional issues, reminded me via a Facebook post that we’ve seen this movie before. In Newman v. Piggie Park Enterprises, Inc. the Court wrote:

” The free exercise of one’s beliefs…is subject to regulation when religious acts require accommodation to society. Undoubtedly Bessinger has a constitutional right to espouse the religious beliefs of his own choosing, however, he does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens. This court refuses to lend credence or support to his position that he has a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of the Negro race in his business establishments upon the ground that to do so would violate his sacred religious beliefs.” 

Newman was decided in 1968.

The identity of the people who we are being asked to classify as second-class citizens may have changed, but the desire to justify bigotry in the name of religion sure hasn’t.

Fortunately, on this issue, that pesky Constitution this proposal ignores hasn’t changed either.


  1. As long as the GOP Bible thumpers are backed by SCOTUS we will have THEIR religious freedom forced on us. Not only via the media but by laws they manage to pass through legislature on all levels like you-know-what through a goose. For many decades I have questioned missionaries going to foreign lands to cram Christianity down the throats of unsuspecting, almost always uneducated people, rather than sharing these beliefs and learning the beliefs of others. The scene early in the movie, “African Queen”, of Katherine Hepburn playing the organ and the tribal members jabbering their language off-key is the best sample of this forced Christianity on those who do not understand. Maybe that is why it was included in the movie? We are subjected to Delph’s religious beliefs along with Rush, Robertson, Fox News and their ilk and our own Constitution and Amendments allow it. We can only protect ourselves from this legal “missionary” action by going to the polls every election day and voting. Voting is another of our rights that has been weakened by SCOTUS along with control of women’s right to choose medical care and controling our sex lives. We allowed them to be voted in; now let’s try to vote them out for our own self preservation.

  2. Somebody must like him; they keep electing him. I assume that his success is tied to a gerrymandered district that includes part of Marion County. As JoAnn frequently points out, the opposition needs to actually go to the booth on election day en masse.

  3. People are simply too dumb to vote. I asked a young lady if she had voted and she replied, ” I don’t follow politics.” I coldly looked at her and replied: ” Politics follow you.” Didn’t help. She won’t vote next time. If she can.

  4. Which is worse (or causes more damage), Earl, those who “don’t follow politics” or those who do, and complain bitterly about their lot in life but go to the polls and vote for Republicans. I have seemingly intelligent friends who have done this; after months of complaining and making changes in their lives (they are mother and daughter who share an apartment to survive) to adjust to the daughter losing her food stamps and the mother who is 88 years old losing Medicaid assistance with her Medicare. They cannot seem to make the connection between their more difficult living condition and their part in supporting those who put these changes in place.

    I kept an eye on Delph when he placed a bill before the legislature to impose sanctions on employers who knowingly hire illegal immigrants and landlords who knowingly rent to them. Merritt led the vote against the bill claiming it isn’t the responsibility of the state to do anything about illegal immigrants. To me, it wasn’t perfect but it was someone attempting to do something about the problem here…and it is a problem here. Then Delph proposed a bill to aid students with student loans; it also was voted down. Another ongoing and serious problem in this state. To my surprise he is simply another GOP Bible thumper and not a Republican with some common sense who wants to help Indiana residents. I need to get the picture of Mayor Bill Hudnut’s Republicanism out of my head and fully accept the truth. They are extinct.

  5. Although you continue to suggest Delph’s proposal is something unusual, we have the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed an almost unanimous Congress (including virtually every Democrat) and signed into law by President Clinton and scores of states have adopted the same thing. Delph merely wants to do that in Indiana.

    The Free Exercise Clause requires that government laws accommodate people’s religious practices and beliefs. When the US Supreme Court cut back on its previous holding, Congress passed the RFRA. If you don’t like the fact that government is mandated to accommodate religious beliefs and practices, I would suggest you advocate repeal of the RFRA and push for a constitutional amendment that repeals the Free Exercise Clause.

  6. Paul, you and all other Republicans, do not know the difference between government being mandated to ACCOMODATE religious beliefs and practices and government MANDATING one religious belief and it’s practices for the entire state and/or country. Being Christian; I understand the 1st Amendment, remember early American history and practice the Biblical teaching of doing unto others by allowing them the same religious freedom I claim and adhere to.

  7. Oh goody! I can’t wait til this passes and I can open a company that allows me to refuse to do business with Catholics, Baptists, Evangelicals etc because they violate my Wiccan faith.

  8. From Wikipedia about the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act.

    “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, Pub. L. No. 103-141, 107 Stat. 1488 (November 16, 1993), codified at 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb through 42 U.S.C. § 2000bb-4 (also known as RFRA), is a 1993 United States federal law aimed at preventing laws that substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion. The bill was introduced by Congressman Chuck Schumer (D-NY) on March 11, 1993 and passed by a unanimous U.S. House and a near unanimous U.S. Senate with three dissenting votes[1] and was signed into law by President Bill Clinton. It was held unconstitutional as applied to the states in the City of Boerne v. Flores decision in 1997, which ruled that the RFRA is not a proper exercise of Congress’s enforcement power. However, it continues to be applied to the federal government – for instance, in Gonzales v. O Centro Espirita Beneficente Uniao do Vegetal – because Congress has broad authority to carve out exemptions from federal laws and regulations that it itself has authorized. In response to City of Boerne v. Flores, some individual states passed State Religious Freedom Restoration Acts that apply to state governments and local municipalities.”

    “The Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to all religions, but is most pertinent to Native American religions that are burdened by increasing expansion of government projects onto sacred land. In Native American religion the land they worship on is very important. Often the particular ceremonies can only take place in certain locations because these locations have special significance.[5] This, along with peyote use are the main parts of Native American religions that are often left unprotected.”

    Law, of course, is very complicated and requires a great deal of education and experience to accomodate all of its nuances. As do so many of the specialties that humanity has pursued in our quest for more light and less dark in what surrounds us.

    I frequently write about science as it is the specialty that I am least ignorant in although still profoundly so.

    My simplistic litmus test for laws in regard to, do they not abridge freedom, is does it apply equally to all. If it does not advantage or disadvantage anyone, IMHO, it is probably OK from that one perspective.

    I like to believe that the rationale behind separation of church and state is that principle. No religion should be advantaged or disadvantaged by the law. I think that Sheila’s blog captures the same idea in her quoted ” does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens.”

    How can a bill intended “to protect “religious” folks from having to recognize the civil rights of LGBT citizens” possible not abridge freedom?

    Although expertise and specialization are now table stakes for civilization common sense still has a role as long as its limitations are recognuzed by expert and layman alike.

    Some call that the smell test. This effort smells suspicious to me.

  9. Paul’s tepid defense of Delph’s “freedom-to-discriminate” bill is also way off the mark RFRA was passed in response to the desire to accommodate private religious practices, such as the Indian tribe who believed smoking peyote was a relgious sacrament. it was never designed or intended to permit conduct in the name of religion that interfered with the rights of others.

  10. Because I’m a practical person, if I owned a business and expected to show at least a meager profit, my only stipulation for conducting business with anyone would involve the individual’s either having the cash to pay on the spot or the necessary credit available to insure payment.

  11. daleb, you say that someone must like Delph in that he got elected twice. That’s a reasonable assumption. Unfortunately, those of us in Marion County who were gerrymandered into his district don’t like him; he lost in Marion County. So that points the finger squarely at Hamilton County. How they could have missed his Twitter meltdown baffles me. Apparently, there are too many people in Hamilton County who faithfully vote for anyone with “R” after his name, having no idea who or what they’re voting for. I was so disgusted Delph won again, feeling my vote for JD accomplished nothing.

  12. Rosemary; I have believed for many years that too many people vote for a name that is familiar. And staunch Republicans lead the pack; I saw it in my own family when I was growing up and it continues today.

  13. I see that folks are beginning to “out” Fox News for their constant incredible and ignorant programming, with France and England even joining the fray. As you may know, research (Fairleigh Dickenson University) shows that people who rely on Fox News know less than people who listen to nothing. The strategy seems to include holding up their broadcasts and then ridicule them, which is not difficult. It’s nonsense to most thinking people.

    Why not make a public list of our Indiana clowns and include the amazing things they say and the incredible bills they propose. Outside the sphere of their base (which appears to applaud even the most ignorant actions), sensible people will be outraged. The people who vote for them will have to defend their nonsense, and may soon decide they don’t want to do that anymore. It doesn’t exactly take John Stewart or rocket science, to quote Mr. Delph and add “He actually said this!”

    I know that in Northern Indiana, people who listened to Mr. Pence’s “vision” for education were actually astounded to actually hear him say or read his remarks. It was like deadpan comedy. It doesn’t take rocket science. In today’s Post-Tribune Quicky, someone asked if it would be O.K. to vote for Pence as president, just to get rid of him as governor.

  14. Hey y’all; it has hit the fan now! Nancy Pelosi named our own Andre Carson to the House Intelligence Committee. Twitter and other social media already posting that exposing American secrets to him could be dangerous; for those who aren’t aware, Andre Carson is a Muslim. He is also already a member of the House Armed Services Committee. I applaud Nancy’s wise appointment of this highly qualified Democrat who followed his grandmother, Julia Carson’s, footsteps and his service to Indiana and America would make her proud. I voted for him each time he ran and will continue to do so; I voted for the man and his service record, not for his religious beliefs.

  15. Speaking of Mike Delph, he has proposed, in SB 203, another one of looney nullification laws. Let’s hope that is assigned in the proper committee to die peacefully, lest we be exposed to more humiliation. I guess this guy hasn’t consulted the Constitution recently, like in 150 years.

  16. From: Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
    Date: January 13, 2015 at 9:12:47 PM EST
    To: Abdul-Hakim Shabazz
    Subject: A Cheat Sheet Supplement – The Oracle of Delph
    Must read!!!!

  17. These guys must have watched -Looney Tunes-as little boys on Sat morning cartoons- and took them as the reality.

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