Oh Indiana…

When friends and family members bemoan Indiana’s retrograde legislature, I like to remind them that the domination of that assemblage by pious frauds and occasional fascists (paging Jim Lucas) is a longstanding one. In the late 1800s,  the Indiana General Assembly decided to legislatively change the definition of pi.

Shades of Marjorie Taylor Greene…

When Indiana makes national news, it is almost never because our lawmakers have done something positive, so it wasn’t a surprise when, earlier this month, the state made headlines in the Washington Post.

That linked headline was a follow-up to an earlier article reporting on Indiana’s successful rush to pass one of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion bills. It featured comments received in response to that report–comments that put the legislation into proper historical context.

Indiana becoming the first state to pass an antiabortion law post-Dobbs is reminiscent of Indiana becoming the first state to pass forced sterilization, in 1907. To understand the state’s history of white-supremacist and misogynist legislation — catering to the Ku Klux Klan, the John Birch Society and other extremist groups — one needs to review the state’s conservative religious and political cultures. Not that this will liberate its citizens, but it gives context showing the state’s long history of oppressing individual liberty.

Another letter amplified the point by noting that, In the 1920s, Indiana was the only state in the union where every single county had its own chapter of the KKK.  (Still another letter-writer proved the continuing influence of Klan defensiveness, by insisting that both the John Birch Society and the KKK had Black members and integrated chapters…)

Friends who listened to the arguments over passage of SB 1, the anti-abortion bill, recounted the numerous references to Jesus–clearly, there are no First Amendment scholars in Indiana’s GOP super-majority! They also noted the divisions within the party over whether to allow any exceptions for rape, incest or the life of the mother. (“Pro-life” sentiments obviously don’t extend to the life of the women those lawmakers  dismiss as mere incubators…)

Disregard for the lives and autonomy of women is hardly the only evidence of what late NUVO editor Harrison Ullmann dubbed “The World’s Worst Legislature.” Our “pro life” lawmakers’ love affair with guns has led to increasing permissiveness–this year, despite the GOP’s purported support for police, the General Assembly ignored the testimony of law enforcement officials and eliminated the requirement of a permit to legally carry, conceal or transport a handgun within the state.

Ours is a state where the culture war dominates. It wasn’t that long ago–under the guidance of Mr. Piety–aka Mike Pence–that Indiana passed RFRA, another legislative effort that earned Indiana national headlines. As an article in the Chicago Tribune advised our lawmakers in the wake of that travesty,  “If you have to emphatically reassure citizens that your law won’t result in discrimination, it might be a bad law.”

This morning, the governor of Indiana signed a very bad law. The Religious Freedom Restoration Act is defended by its supporters as a means of protecting the religious liberty of each and every Hoosier of every faith.

That is what we in the “that’s a bunch of baloney” business call, not surprisingly, a bunch of baloney. This law, and others like it that are bubbling up in state legislatures across the country, is a transparent reaction to the swift expansion of same-sex marriage rights. The law effectively allows any business to refuse service to gay or lesbian people on religious grounds.

I’ve posted previously about the success of the legislature’s “Christian warriors” campaign to divert education funds to private, largely fundamentalist Christian schools via the nation’s largest voucher program.

That program isn’t the only attack by Indiana legislators on public school classrooms that has made national headlines. Vanity Fair was one of the many outlets reporting on Republican senator Scott Baldwin’s assertion that teachers must be “impartial” during lessons about Nazism and related “isms.” (Baldwin subsequently tried to walk back his statement, but it was too little, too late.) I suppose Hoosiers should be grateful for all the adverse publicity Baldwin generated; it was probably the reason the bill to ban teaching of (an invented) Critical Race Theory in the state’s public schools failed.

I absolutely agree with  one letter-writer to the Vigo County Tribune-Star. During the pandemic, as our intrepid legislators were protecting our freedom to infect our neighbors, he wrote:

It is better to be thought fools, than to pass legislation and remove all doubt.

In January 2022, Indiana Representatives plan to vote on House Bill 1001. The bill requires private businesses to accept any made-up excuse from employees refusing vaccination. Obvious bullpoo cannot be challenged…

 As an educator, I applaud any attempt to cure stupid. But, quarantining the worse cases in the House is not the answer.


  1. I fully expect some of the larger conventions to start booking their future events in IL rather than IN. I also expect the more responsible corporations will abandon IN as well. Rational people do not want to visit and support this level of stupid.

  2. Don’t forget the Right to Work and Right to Farm laws passed by Hoosier lawmakers. They even stole two school districts and gave them to themselves.

    The Right to Farm came at the same time they limited local powers to restrict pollution laws. The Health Department became a restaurant overseer, and those involved with environmental regulations departed the state. Does anybody want to eat glowing fish?

    The lawmakers are so proud of their work in Indy. They’ve wrapped up and delivered the state to Charles Koch without much work.

    Do you still think we function as a democracy? What is the purpose of voting?

  3. Constitutional Carry is touted as the same as permitted carry. Does Indiana’s Constitution legalize all lawless gun ownership?
    Or is this a National Constitution interpreration?
    Mr Piety = pastor pence

  4. Indiana also passed the first Eugenics law in the U.S. in 1907 – thought also to be the first in the world.

    Very little has changed in our state’s philosophy when it comes to violation of civil rights.


  5. In 1970, at age 33 with five children and serious “female problems” which doctors had no solution to but warned against more pregnancies, I read a news story in Indianapolis Star and News about a law suit against Dr. H.C. Moss for performing sterilization surgery on a Central State Hospital patient. The surgery had been requested by her parents who learned she was sexually active, not mentally aware enough to refuse. I contacted his office for an appointment; he spent 3 hours questioning me then sent me home with a document for my husband’s signature for approval for the surgery. I had to argue him into signing. The surgery prevented pregnancy but did nothing to improve my basic condition; 18 months later the hysterectomy again required my husband’s approval even though we were legally separated. The surgery discovered I was days from death due to internal bleeding they were unaware of. After the surgery Dr. H.C. Moss visited me in my hospital room and handed me a laminated card bestowing on me membership in the “Indiana Voluntary Sterilization Society”. Unpleasant personal information, guys? Tough shit; that is what women are being forced back into in this state and nationally if the Catholic SCOTUS has its way. As women, our situations regarding the ability to bear your/our children has much unpleasantness and pain involved which you can never be aware of.

    We watch appalled as the highest criminal in the nation slithers out of all attempts by the highest governing bodies in government to investigate his seditious and treasonous acts while president and continues today and we women are losing our right to simple birth control and our chosen medical treatment. Our children in the voucher system are forced to be educated in the religion based schools they attend to brainwash them into continuing the religious far right control over mind and bodies into the future, with special laws regarding women only.

  6. Fifty-one years ago in April and one year after the first Earth Day, Indiana’s General Assembly and its GOP Governor did this:


    I was a Sophomore at IUB and had just begun the process of waking up to the many man-made threats to our natural resources. A professor shared this news in class and I recall that we applauded. We were actually proud of our state elected leaders. This was just after the peak of student unrest on college campuses around the world, but especially in the US.

    Now we’re thinking of moving to purple-turning-blue Michigan.

  7. Yes, we do have tragic low level reached by the General Assembly in recent years. But there have been better times over the last two centuries, such as Indiana’s 1963 Civil Rights Act. Hoosiers have many other examples of leadership and good citizen action. Remember, Hoosiers drove Pence from the state because most abhorred his version of religious freedom. Start with gerrymandering, perhaps, and make voting fair.

  8. Regarding Charlotte’s comment about Indiana’s 1907 eugenics law – I believe Indiana and the entire United States would be a much better place to live if the parents of many of Indiana’s current and past gop state legislators and the parents of almost all current gop members of the U.S. Congress had been sterilized.

  9. “What a long, strange trip it’s been!” Looks like it will get even longer and stranger.

  10. I always wondered what was in the DNA of pie baked in Indiana that made it conspicuously fabulous. 🤔

  11. JoAnn, I’m so sorry you had to suffer in that way. Twenty years later it was somewhat easier for me, married but no children and no serious health issues except the knowledge I did not want children and my husband was an infant who wasn’t letting anyone near ‘his parts’. I made the wise decision to see a female OB/GYN and that made all the difference. I’m sure they were a scarce animal in 1970.

  12. The No. 1 target of Indiana’s KKK wasn’t African-Americans. It was Catholics and immigrants. I don’t think that anti-Catholic bigotry has gone away.

  13. Paul is right. My late mother remembered the cross burned in front of my Catholic grandfather’s bakery in the 1920s in Medora, Jackson Co. He was also the son of a respected and successful German immigrant (and Democrat) farmer, so that didn’t help him, either. The local Klan lady dropped by to wish him good morning as he swept up the ashes. My mother said he returned her greeting with a smile and muttered a few epithets under his breath as she walked away.

  14. Paul, I think that was the propaganda actually published by the KKK to hide the fact they were a white supremest group, and of course to broaden to appeal to suck in more recruits.

  15. Paul is right. In the late ’50s, while we were living in Bryan, Ohio, having moved from Chicago, we attended a very tiny Catholic church (27 families). One Sunday morning, a parishioner got home from Mass to find a cross burning on his front yard.

    The town had sundown laws that I actually witnessed being enforced by the sheriff as he made sure a hispanic family left the house they had rented before dusk. That family had been working in the large tomato fields outside the town and were Catholic.

    In 1959, after we moved to Fort Wayne, again as my dad looked for work, my mother came home from work to find a KKK flyer (yes, it actually had that information included) stuck on the windshield of our family car. The flyer alleged that JFK would not serve the Constitution but would answer to the Pope only, among other lies.

    As a lapsed Catholic, I abhor what the Church has enabled and hidden, but understand what drove so many Catholic families to take refuge in parochial schools. It pales in comparison to the vicious bigotry and violence that POC experienced for hundreds of years in this country. What makes me so disheartened is to see conservative Catholic clergy and strident believers like Alito, use the same tactics against others that were routinely used against Catholics for centuries.

  16. The KKK probably went from one hatred to another or a combination of hatreds, i. e., Catholics, Jews, blacks et al. in their efforts to maintain their version of White Christianity, so I am not surprised to see today’s commentaries here cover the waterfront of hatreds. I knew the general counsel for the KKK who was a law partner of the governor of Indiana during the Twenties, who told me that the Klan was a good outfit but was given a bad name by a few hotheads. I did not agree. I should have but didn’t note that the Klan’s headquarters at the time were not in some southern city but in Indianapolis and that there was no record that such “outfit” expelled its “hotheads.” He was, after all, my senior; and few are today.

  17. It wasn’t that long ago when the #1 target for KKK in Indiana was Catholics & foreigners. My dad who grew up Catholic in Elwood and whose family owned a grocery store, then bar grill in the Depression, said they had to “be careful.” I wonder if younger generations of Catholics who were swayed by the single issue of abortion, were aware of who they were uniting with in politics. I doubt it.

  18. These days some Catholics are really earning the resentments against them, and I think you will see a major liberal backlash against them and their evangelical partners in cultish idiocy.

    Given the evidence of the current makeup of the Supreme Court, the influence of the Federalist Society, and the rape of the entire female population of Indiana, it seems that the Jews may not replace us, but the Catholics are giving it their best shot.

  19. When the Nazis initiated mass sterilization of people with disabilities it was referred to as “The Indiana Plan.”

  20. Love this blog–the only one where I learn a ton from the commenters. I had not idea about crosses being burned on the lawns and businesses of Catholics. Wow. My dad was raised Catholic–paternal side was Irish Catholic whereas his mother was Welsh and Episcopalian (aka: I call Catholicism w/ a twist).

    I am 53 and grew up in Terre Haute and it seemed to be common knowledge where the “Grand Dragon/Wizard” would reside. When I moved to Indpls most of my friends of color would talk about never visiting towns with the name of a color in it like–Greencastle, Brownsburg, Greenfield, Brownstown…

    Indiana-middle finger for the south.

  21. When it comes to “Christian education”, I guess we can be glad that, so far, Indiana hasn’t tried to enact a law that DeSantis got passd in Florida that requires social studies teachers to teach children that our founders never intended for there to be separation of church and state. So, I guess that means that churches can be taxed on contributions as ordinary income–right? They are also required to indoctrinate students into believing that the only Supreme Court Justice whose opinions are valid are those of Antonin Scalia, and that Scalia’s opinions on “originalism” of the Constitution are the only interpretation teachers are allowed to teach or comment on. Teachers are outraged.

    Recently, that right to life group in Indiana issued a statement saying that the poor little 10 year old rape victim from Ohio should not only have been denied an abortion, she should have been told that carrying her rapist’s baby was “a gift from God”. What a way to go through the 4th grade! She could bring her ultrasounds to “show and tell”, or maybe get a fetoscope so her classmates can listen to the heartbeat, since it’s good that she’s pregnant–right? According to an interview I saw last evening on the local NBC affiliate, Indiana women are already flocking to Illinois to get abortions, and even care for suspected ectopic pregnancies, even though Indiana’s law won’t go into effect until September 15th and the statute allegedly contains an exception for ectopic pregnancies. Doctors are running scared, too. None of them wants to be the test case that we all KNOW Rokita will file after getting publicly drubbed over the Dr. Bernard incident.

    I’d like to know whether the Indiana Legislature ever thought about how medical students, interns and residents are going to get sufficient experience in performing surgical abortions after the procedures are outlawed in Indiana. It will be only a few years before the current crop of Indiana doctors retire, and their replacement will not have any clinical experience. Training using a mannequin and videos only goes so far and is no substitute for actual clinical experience. Because they will not have sufficient experience in performing the procedure, it’s most likely that they’ll just turn away rape victims and women whose life is threatened by continuing with a dangerous pregnancy. Such exceptions are meaningless if you can’t find a doctor sufficiently experienced to perform the procedure. So, even rape victims and women with dangerous pregnancies will be forced to go out of state. But, hey, they’re saving “unborn babies”.

  22. This whole abortion debacle infuriates me. How dare any male tell a woman what to do with her body! The politicians and Supreme Court Justices who went along with this BS and overturned Roe v Wade Should all burn in their holy Catholic hell.

    The 10-year-old from Ohio is supposed to consider her rape induced pregnancy is a gift from God….certainly not the God I worship, even being raised as a Catholic. That child is not equipped in any way, shape or form to raise a child to become a responsible adult. The homeless 16 year old from Florida told that she is not mature enough to make a decision to terminate her pregnancy? She has no home, how and where is she supposed to raise a child in a reasonable home, with sufficient means to afford her all the opportunities to grow into responsible adulthood.

    These moral hypocrites feel that abortion is murder, well when have any of them stepped up and offered to pay the pregnant females total pre-natal expenses and then raise that child themselves to adulthood.

    I am appalled and outraged at that simpleton thinking. Who the hell IS supposed to raise that child? A 10 year old? A 16 year old homeless child? And what about the female who is abandoned by the egg fertilizer/ sperm donor? Not everyone wants or is equipped financially or emotionally to raise a child. I do not condone unprotected sex, and as a child of adoption myself, I truly do wish that adoption was encouraged vehemently as a viable option. But it is not and while the hypochristians are dead set against killing that fetus, they are not stepping up to offer ANY reasonable alternatives.

    My God will not look kindly on them when they meet him!

  23. Jo Ann, I continue to reiterate to any one of my circle who will stand still long enough to hear me out that this banning abortion is only the tip of the women’s healthcare issue.
    The younger women who applaud this law have no idea how restrictive the future will be for them when they need access to healthcare to keep from dying from any kind of bad pregnancy.
    And many older women who should remember this have apparently forgotten what they went through back in the 70’s and before.

  24. First in the nation, the shame of taking away women’s rights to abortion….such pride they must have……has IN ever been first in anything other than having the Speedway have the biggest one day crowds? Oh, maybe dense pence’s lovely religious thing that was gratefully squashed I am exhausted from all these fools in “power” Vote Blue.

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