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.