Tag Archives: Micah Clark

Karma’s a Bitch

More accurately, as a friend posted on Facebook, “Karma’s only a bitch if you are.” Either way, the ignominious conclusion of the Christian Right’s spiteful effort to send a message to the LGBT community is what we professors call “a teachable moment.”

Let’s recap: Eric Miller of Advance America, Micah Clark of the American Family Association of Indiana, and Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute were smarting from their losses in the same-sex marriage debate. They wanted a win for their constituencies (to whom, not so incidentally, their constant fundraising efforts are directed), and prevailed upon their ideological allies in the Indiana legislature to introduce a vague and expanded, post Hobby Lobby version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. They were confident that Governor Pence, a longtime culture warrior, would sign it.

RFRA was unlikely to have much effect in rural Indiana, where discrimination against LGBT folks was still entirely legal anyway. And although the legislation raised some troubling questions, most lawyers predicted that it would not trump LGBT civil rights in cities where those rights were protected by ordinance.

But the real purpose of the legislation wasn’t legal, it was political.

The bill was intended to send a message: to tell gay folks that despite their marriage victory, they remain unwelcome, and (by “protecting” good Christians against further “victimization” by the nefarious “gay agenda”) to reassure their credulous members they were worth the dollars they’ve been extracting from them.

That message was received and (unlike both RFRA and the First Amendment) understood.I’ve already posted about the immense and damaging blowback it generated.

Yesterday, the Governor and legislative culture warriors capitulated, amending the law to provide that “religious liberty” cannot be used as a defense when a business or other “provider” discriminates on a laundry list of bases–including sexual orientation and gender identity.

This is the first time in Indiana history that LGBT folks have been explicitly protected by state law. It isn’t quite the same as inclusion in the state civil rights law, but it’s close; after all, virtually all discrimination against LGBT folks is justified by citation to religious belief. If that is no longer a sufficient reason, it’s hard to think what is.

And that gets us back to (very satisfying) karma. Eric Miller, Micah Clark and Curt Smith deliberately set out to inflict gratuitous harm on a marginalized minority. Because they thought they could. Because it would be good for fundraising. Because it would salve their wounded egos. Because they have never understood the fundamental decency of most Hoosiers.

Instead–and as a direct result– gay rights in Indiana have advanced substantially. In addition to the new language in the Indiana Code, a broad coalition has formed to work for inclusion of sexual orientation in state civil rights laws. Businesses throughout Indiana are displaying “We Serve Everyone” signs. And the presumed political power of these smarmy culture warriors has been shown to be largely mythical (can we all say “the emperor has no clothes?)

Karma is so gratifying.



Someone Needs to Explain Free Speech to Micah Clark

Recently, a State Trooper was sued for proselytizing a woman he’d stopped for speeding. The Indianapolis Star has the story.

Not surprisingly, our homegrown theocrats saw nothing wrong with this.

Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said that although the traffic stop might not have been the best time to quiz someone about faith, he questioned whether a police officer should lose his right to free speech because he is wearing a badge.

“I have people pass out religious material all the time. Mormons come to my door all the time, and it doesn’t offend me,” Clark said. “(This case) might not be the most persuasive time to talk to someone about their faith, but I don’t think that a police officer is prohibited from doing something like that.”

Let’s try this slowly, so that even folks like Micah can understand: when people are acting in their individual capacities, they have free speech (and free exercise) rights. When they are acting on behalf of government–when they are what lawyers call “state actors”–the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits them from using their governmental authority to impose their religious beliefs on others.

That’s why a sectarian prayer from the Speaker’s Podium at the Statehouse violates the Establishment Clause, but a group of legislators voluntarily praying in the back of the chamber or on a street corner is protected by both the Free Exercise and Free Speech clauses of that same Amendment.

When you are acting as a private citizen, you can pray or proselytize to your heart’s content.

When you are acting as a representative of the government of all the people, you can’t.

It isn’t rocket science.


Drawing the Wrong Conclusions

Curt Smith and Micah Clark have been quoted extensively in the wake of Tuesday’s primary, celebrating the social conservatives–especially “defenders of marriage”–who won their races. According to Micah, this proves that Indiana voters are “pro-life and pro-traditional marriage.” (Translation: anti-woman, anti-gay.)

Micah Clark began his post-primary newsletter with that message.

Yesterday’s primary election was as close to an across the board sweep as you will ever see in politics.   Republican voters finally got their chance in a few state legislative districts to express their anger over the failure of the GOP dominated statehouse to pass a marriage protection amendment.  If only there had been more conservative challengers in legislative races where establishment Republicans had voted for the unraveling of marriage.

In addition, incumbents targeted for their defense of social conservatism won as well.   You may recall when Rep. Bob Morris stood alone under immense criticism for pointing out that the Girl Scouts of America’s national organization had grown closer and closer to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.    The establishment loathes conservatives whom they cannot control and Bob is one of those.  In spite of a misguided high-profile pro-life endorsement of his pro-homosexual marriage opponent, Bob won the primary re-election yesterday.

Actually, as I recall, Morris made the bizarre claim that the Girl Scouts promoted abortion and turned girls lesbian….but I digress.

The newsletter went on (and on) in that celebratory vein. Micah went so far as to suggest that Eric Turner’s recent ethics problems were the result of leaks by “pro-homosexual” lawmakers. (Because Jesus would have been A-OK with his behind the scenes arm-twisting to protect his own pocketbook….)

So, are Micah and Curt right? Do the primary results vindicate their views? This is Indiana, after all.

Unfortunately for that conservative thesis, it ignores two very inconvenient facts: turnout was unusually low, even for a primary; and the social conservatives who won were Republicans running against other very conservative Republicans.

Reported statewide turnout for both parties was around 10% (in Marion County, it was a pathetic 7.9%) and a number of races on both sides were uncontested. Furthermore, primary voters in both parties are notoriously more ideological–the right wing of the GOP and the left wing of the Democratic party are the reliable primary base.

What the results do unequivocally tell us is that the Republican party is moving farther and farther to the right. Clearly, supporters of candidates running against the Very Most Rabid Righteous did not come out to vote on Tuesday. The primary left Indiana’s GOP ever more firmly in the hands of its radical fringe.

Today’s GOP is the party of Richard Mourdock, Curt Smith and Micah Clark.  The party of Richard Lugar and Bill Hudnut is long gone.

The question is: will Indiana Democrats (or Libertarians) mount respectable challenges to these candidates in November? Will voters have a reason to come to the polls, and an actual choice when they get there?

If that happens–if there is decent turnout and reasonable opposition–and the Christianist Caucus prevails in November, Curt and Micah will have a legitimate victory to celebrate.

Tuesday’s results, however, just reminded me of the old Bob Newhart line: What is the sound of one hand clapping?

Public Duties, Private Rights

It’s a bitch having to share the country with other people. Especially when so many of them are so wrong about everything.

A friend of mine just sent me the most recent tantrum (excuse me, newsletter) from the Indiana Family Institute’s Micah Clark, and that’s pretty much the message. According to Micah, those of us who don’t share his belief that “kids do best with a mom and dad”–that is, those of us who oppose a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions –are thereby labeling people like him “bigots.”

I realize that needs a bit of deconstructing. Or, perhaps, psychiatry.

Here’s what Micah and his fellow “victims” don’t get: we live in a society with a lot of other people, many of whom have political opinions, backgrounds, holy books, and perspectives that differ significantly from our own. The only way to govern such a society–the only “social contract” that allows us to coexist in reasonable harmony–is by respecting those differences to the greatest extent possible. That requires treating everyone equally within the public/civic sphere, while respecting the right of individuals to embrace different values and pursue different ends in their private lives.

I know this is hard for you to understand, Micah, but a refusal to make everyone live by your particular interpretation of your particular holy book is not an attack on you; it is recognition that we live in a diverse society where other people have the same rights to respect and moral autonomy that you claim for yourself.  Ironically, a legal system that refuses to take sides in your religious war is also the only system that can safeguard your own religious liberty. I know you don’t want to believe it, but most Americans really don’t share your religious certainty and belief in your own moral superiority. If your right to live in accordance with that certainty had to be put to majority vote, you might find your own “lifestyle” legally marginalized.

As I’ve noted previously, poison gas is a great weapon until the wind shifts.

As to your accusation that those of us who support marriage equality are calling you a bigot–well, here’s the dictionary definition of the term: “a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group.”

If the shoe fits…..


Fortunately, Most Christians Aren’t Like Micah Clark

The Boy Scouts did (half of) the right thing a couple of weeks ago, and triggered another of Micah Clark’s (tiresome and predicitble) rants.

Some of his bizarre assertions: the Indianapolis Star is “one of the largest homosexual advocacy organizations.” The Boy Scouts “decided to abandon their moral principles in favor of keeping pro-homosexual corporate donors’ money.” The Greenwood Church that withdrew from sponsorship of a cub scout pack is “one of the finest churches in the Greenwood area.” Gays make up “only 3% of the US population but are responsible for a third of all child molestations.” The Scouts’ decision is yet more evidence that “true manhood is under attack.”

Needless to say, Clark plucks his “facts” from thin air–or perhaps from the same “researchers” who broke the news that Sponge Bob Squarepants is recruiting for the armies of homosexual activists that Clark sees everywhere. (Which does lead me to wonder how a mere 3% of the population can be everywhere Clark sees them…)

I would ignore this latest roar of wounded indignation, but a friend sent it to me not an hour after I had spoken to a sizable group of Christian senior citizens about same-sex marriage. The average age of the audience was probably 80+. They all belonged to Christian denominations. All but one of them was white. (The common stereotype of such older white Christians, of course, is that they are the bulk of the nation’s culture warriors.)

Since Micah clearly believes that he speaks for all “true” Christians, this gathering must have been composed of “fake” Christians. Not only did they reject the sort of hateful homophobic characterizations and falsehoods that Micah and his ilk constantly spew, not only did they applaud the Boy Scouts’ decision, they were strongly supportive of marriage equality.

In fact, these senior-citizen Christians must be Micah’s worst nightmare.

Micah Clark and those like him can turn blue insisting that neutral reporting turns the daily newspaper into an advocacy organization. They can excoriate “liberals” like yours truly, and dismiss our positions out of hand. They can invent statistics and “facts” and insist that theirs is the proper “moral” standard. But all of that is window dressing. Their position rests, ultimately, on their conviction that they speak for the angry God of their version of Christianity.

But just as they stereotype GLBT folks, they stereotype their fellow Christians.

For every literalist, fundamentalist church that defines itself in contrast to sinful “others,” there is a Christian denomination that takes seriously the obligation to love one’s fellow-man.

For every angry, judgmental, morally-constipated “Christian” I’ve met, I can point to three or four others who see their faith as a prescription for love and understanding and who shrink from the very real transgressions of arrogance and self-righteousness.

I am neither a Christian nor a theologian, but I know the difference between people who are at peace with themselves and people who–for whatever reason–need to blame someone else for the demons that beset them.