Category Archives: Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Hot Air

Living Dangerously

The Pencil took a few days off — well, okay, I took a few days off — so I missed the chance to note the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death.

What must it have been like to know that hundreds — perhaps even thousands — of people are gunning for you, that at any moment the crack of a rifle shot might be the last sound you’d ever hear?

Then again, MLK prob. never heard the crack of James Earl Ray’s rifle. The bullet traveled from Ray’s flophouse bathroom window to the Lorraine Motel balcony faster than the speed of sound. One moment King was vibrant, alive, wondering what that local minister’s wife might serve for dinner that evening and the next, he was bleeding to death from a hole on the side of his face and neck the size of a fist. King in a fraction of a second was transmuted from a Nobel Peace Prize winner, the world’s foremost advocate of nonviolent resistance, a loud critic of the Vietnam War, a fighter for justice, wealth redistribution, and organized labor to the toothless, innocuous, marketable symbol of faux-kumbaya we insist on seeing him as today.

King Arrest

Unarmed And Dangerous

Whoever wanted King dead — and a good goddamned many did — got precisely what they wanted.

Faces Made For Radio

You should know by now that Bloomington’s community radio station, WFHB, has been a nursery for many voice and journalistic talents who’ve gone on to make honest dough at public radio stations. Our own WFIU features, for instance, Drew Daudelin doing local news breaks during each weekday’s Morning Edition program. Daudelin used to edit my copy when I wrote for the Daily Local News at ‘FHB.

And don’t forget Alycin Bektesh — News Editor Emeritus (Emerita?) — who’s doing freelance work for public radio stations out west now that she’s ditched us for the climes of Colorado and beyond.

Another great colleague from ‘FHB, Ryan Dawes, is doing scads of work for community radio in Minnesota. He oriented me the first day I reported for a shift at ‘FHB back in late 2009. He quit his gig as WFHB’s Assistant News Director, got himself hitched, and moved to Minn. a couple of years ago. Too bad for us. But we can still hear him thanks to the magic of radio — and the interwebs.

Here are some SoundCloud links to his recent projects:

  • A feature on moonshiners during Prohibition, featuring vintage recordings of Minnesoat still operators
  • A report on Ojibwe hip hop artists; they live in a remote part of Minnesota and must endure racism as well as try to find sound recording facilities — but they still get their music out
  • Skijoring — a winter sport wherein people on skis are pulled by a horse, dogs, or a snow vehicle
  • Canoes made from birch bark
  • “My nerdiest project, about devout fans of Sherlock Holmes
  • Upcoming — “I’m going to produce projects on the Minnesota Conservation Corps (an extension of the New Deal’s CCC), Prairie For Lady Choir, and one about the organist for the Minnesota Twins.”

Radio, my good friends, is decidedly not dead.

 

Entrepreneur Alert

Okay, who’s with me? Let’s start a business, proclaim publicly we won’t serve same-sex couples who want to get married, and then rake in the tens of thousands of dollars bigots’ll surely donate to our crowd-funding site. Seems simple enough. Look how many businesses this has worked for in recent days.

Anyway, let’s say our business would be selling something weirdly obscure, for instance, Leopard Pop Phone Handsets — they do exist: check out Real Simple‘s “13 Unique Bridesmaid Gift Ideas, item no. 13.” We stock, say, a half-dozen of them so the start-up costs won’t be too much. We print up a few business cards, crank up an eBay account, start a Facebook page, sell one or two to a friend or a cousin, just to show we’re a going concern, and then — ba-da-boom! — we announce our deeply-held religious objection to sodomy and forbidden lifestyles and all the other holy horseshit all these pizza restaurants and cake bakers have been shoveling. We wait a couple of days and then cry that our business has fallen off the table and we’re being forced to shut down because of all the pressure from “the gays.”

Handset

Our Product

Next thing you know, we’re dumping bushels-full of cash over our heads in celebration!

Alright, alright, you’re shaking your head because — I know — ill-gotten gains and all that. So fine, we donate half our profits to the Human Rights Campaign or the International Gay & Lesbian Human Rights Commission and keep the rest. We still make out like bandits.

Emphasis on the word bandits.

Hot Air

A Declaration

Y’know, it’s a damned shame I have to do this but considering the state of our bizarre, regressive, antediluvian, smug, arrogant state I have no choice.

Declaration

That last line, BTW, was originally written If you don’t like this, fuck you. Then I figured it’d be a tad more civilized the way it ended up. My original sentiment stands, though.

A Bold, Moral Stance

Kudos to the editors and publisher of the Indianapolis Star. Today’s front page is groundbreaking, even monumental.

Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s a welcome departure from the careerist, too-cautious, phony-baloney objectivity that characterizes corporate news media these days (with the exception of the amorally subversive Fox News).

Indy Star 20150331

 

Click Image To Read Complete Editorial

 

Let’s recognize the people who made this happen:

  • President and publisher Karen Ferguson
  • Editor and vice president Jeff Taylor
  • Editorial pages editor Tim Swarens
  • Designer Emily Kuzniar

Good job, folks!

Join The Club

A quick reminder: The second meeting of the Bloom magazine Book Club happens late this afternoon, 5:30pm, at FARM Bloomington’s Root Cellar Lounge.

Sanders

Scott Russell Sanders

Scott Russell Sanders will read from his latest, the novel Divine Animal, and will answer questions. The Pencil will be there, too. You don’t even need to have read the book. Just come to hear the author speak and rub shoulders with people who dig reading.

More Word-y Stuff

The southern half of Indiana boasts a second, beloved independent bookstore down by the Ohio River in Madison. Friends of Bloomington’s own Book Corner, Village Lights Bookstore props. Nathan Montoya and Anne Vestuto have been peddling new and used tomes since 2008 in the picturesque river town.

The two also stage Poetpalooza, an annual bash for local and regional versifiers. This year’s event takes place Friday and Saturday and will include readings by former Poets Laureate Norbert Krapf of Indiana as and Maureen Morehead and Richard Taylor of Kentucky. B-ton’s Tony Brewer will pound out Poetry on Demand on his old-school typewriter throughout the course of the affair.

Brewer

Tony Brewer Loads His Smith-Corona

Here’s the 2015 Poetpalooza schedule:

Friday, April 3

  • 5:00pm Open Mic Kick-Off Emceed by Alex Acosta (IN) & Harlan Kelly (IN)
  • 6:00pm Tom C. Hunley (KY)
  • 6:30pm Barbara Sabol (OH)
  • 7:00pm Bianca Bargo (KY)
  • 8:00pm Book Launch “Black Achilles” by Curtis Crisler (IN)
  • 8:30pm Katerina Stoykova-Klemer (KY)
  • 9:00pm Film Screening “Proud Citizen”

Saturday, April 4

  • 10:00am Book Launch “The Work of the Body” by Jill Kelly Koren (IN)
  • 11:00am Maureen Morehead, Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2011-2012
  • 12:00pm Norbert Krapf, Indiana Poet Laureate, 2008-2010
  • 1:00pm Tom C. Hunley (KY)
  • 1:30pm Barbara Sabol (OH)
  • 2:00pm Gerry Grubbs (OH)
  • 3:00pm Nettie Farris (IN)
  • 4:00pm Richard Taylor, Kentucky Poet Laureate, 2011-2012
  • 5:00pm Frederick Smock (KY)
  • 6:00pm Curtis Crisler (IN)
  • 6:30pm Katerina Stoykova-Klemer (KY)
  • 7:00pm Book Launch “Eavesdropping in Plato’s Café” by Jack Ramey (IN)
  • 8:00pm The Reservoir Dogwoods (IN) — Jason Ammerman, Tony Brewer, Matthew D. Jackson, Joseph Kirschbaum
  • 9:00pm Film Screening “Proud Citizen”

It’s a two-hour car ride from Bloomington to Madison via SR 46 and SR7 (catch it at Columbus). The view is delightful as you enter the Ohio River Valley, though, so make it a neat day trip.

Four Dead In O-Hi-O

It’s been 45 years since four young anti-war protesters were gunned down by Ohio National Guardsmen on the Kent State University campus.

Kent State became a touchstone term for a generation. It might well have been the most dramatic salvo in a general violent uprising — one that never really took place for a variety of reasons, many of which remain hidden or willfully unexamined to this day. A careful reading of the history of this holy land between the years 1954, when the US Supreme Court ordered the desegregation of the Topeka, Kansas, school district, and the January 27, 1973 treaty ending American involvement in Vietnam shows a nation perilously close to a second Civil War.

Kent State

Protesters Take Cover As Shots Ring Out (Image: Reuters)

PBS will air a new documentary, Kent State — The Day the ’60s Died Tuesday, April 28th, at 8pm. Documentary production company Room 608 Inc. and PBS also will release the 60-minute film on DVD. The program is part of a week of specials airing on PBS to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the end of our nation’s Vietnam War.

One more thing: Kent State gets all the ink and the attention but a mere 11 days later, Jackson police and Mississippi Highway Patrol troopers opened fire, killing two and wounding 12 students at Jackson State University. The campus, like hundreds of others across the nation, had been roiled by anti-war and civil rights protests that spring. Back in 1970, though, the killing of black students was deemed not as newsworthy as that of whites by the then-mainstream news media.

Things change, natch, even as they stay the same.

Hot Air

Religious Freedom

The question has been put to me (and others) by loyal Northern Indiana Pencillista David Paglis:

I wonder if those opposed to the Religious Freedom [Restoration] Act would be in favor of legally requiring Catholic hospitals to provide abortion services and if not, why not.

For whatever reasons, those Catholics who are most flamboyantly passionate about their religion seem to be passionate most about abortion. Capital punishment? Meh. War? Sometimes ya gotta do it. Nuclear proliferation? Silence. Abortion, though, gets the uber-Catholic blood to boil. The only thing approaching it as a sheer reactionary trigger is homosexuality.

A more pressing Q. might be What is it with Catholics and sex? But that’s a topic about as inscrutable as quantum electrodynamics.

Anyway, let’s tackle David’s query.

Acc’d’g to pretty much everyone’s interpretation, Indiana’s spanking new SB-101 2015, AKA RFRA, allows business proprietors to do things like refuse service to LGBTQ folks if their (the proprietors’) religion sees them (LGBTQs) as sinners bound for the eternal flames of hell. We’ll ignore the utter absurdity of our state legislators penning laws to accommodate peoples’ belief in inanities like eternal damnation and a flaming hell. A brief reminder: The calendar tells us this is the year 2015; hell, natch, is a Mesopotamian cultural concept, meaning it was a an attempt to understand our shared baffling mortality by the very first proto-civilized Homo Sapiens sapiens more than 5000 years ago.

I might hope we’d have learned a few things since then.

Nevertheless, an alarming swath of the American pop. still buys into the hell thing. So much so, in fact, that they loathe even being around those whom they’re certain are on a highway to the place. And so sure are they of this that they’ve pressured our democratically elected representatives to codify it.

Again, in the year 2015, in case you’ve forgotten.

The law tells us we can’t make people do things that are in violation of their religion’s tenets. Indiana University Maurer School of Law prof. Daniel Conkle (a supporter of the new law) suggested last week in an Indy Star op/ed piece that laws such as RFRA protect, for instance, Muslim prisoners in their practice of Islam within the confines of the joint. Conkle also cited a Pennsylvania state court ruling that people could set up soup kitchens in city parks in violation of municipal statutes if their religion demanded they feed the homeless.

The government wanted to make the Muslim prisoner shave his beard and hoped to force the soup kitchen operators to stop ladling broth in the park. Under similar “religious freedom” laws, per this argument, the gov’t was barred from doing so. Huzzah, Conkle concludes, for these laws.

No one, though, has attempted to argue that Muslims should be forced to eat barbecued (pork) rib tips at the Taste of Bloomington. Nor has anyone demanded that soup kitchen operators make their broth available to lawyers, doctors, and hedge fund managers. Quite frankly, those of us who despise this new law don’t give a good goddamn if Muslims eat pork or that hedge fund managers are being deprived of free soup.

Nor do we, as a rule, care that Catholic hospitals don’t do abortions. In fact, many dioceses and hospitals have banned even the dilation & curettage procedure because it is often used as an alias for abortion. That’s like refusing to let customers to enter a bank lobby because bank robbers always use the lobby.

In any case, we should be demanding that Catholic hospitals, especially those that are the only health care facility for many miles around, provide abortion services. If you’re going to open up an ice cream parlor in this free society, you should be compelled to serve everybody who comes in except those causing mayhem, are public nuisances, or pose a threat to public health. Same with hospitals. Abortion is legal in this holy land. It’s a medical practice generally regarded as safe. If you open up a hospital, that means you should treat everybody who comes in the door using every therapy and procedure that’s been okayed by contemporary medical science.

Otherwise, don’t open a hospital. And try to think a little bit less about how gross sex is. And lose the habits and wimples while you’re at it. It’s 2015, for chrissakes.

Here’s Gov. Mike Pence signing RFRA last week, surrounded by officials of the Holy Roman Empire, the Kingdom of Israel, the Rashidun Caliphate, as well as various ascetics, mystics, and fundamentalists. In the year 2015. In case you’ve forgotten.

Pence RFRA Signing

Hot Air

God

I’ve never tried to conceal the fact that I’m an atheist, either in this space or in any other setting. At the same time, I’ve always felt it was best to take a kid glove approach to people who do believe in a god.

I figured, hell, this world is mad, this life is crazy, and if believing in a distant, invisible being who created the universe and who, albeit rarely, will grant your wishes helps you get through it, fine. I use things like music and comedy and red wine and perhaps another substance or two — unnamed, natch — to negotiate the insanity. Who says my crutch is better than yours?

Now, though, I’ve reached the end of my rope. I’ve had it. The gloves are coming off. This mad, maddening, mad-making, so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act that Gov. Mike Pence will sign in a private ceremony this morning is the deal-breaker for me.

Here’s the offending clause in RFRA, AKA Senate Bill No. 101, 2015:

Sec. 8. (a) Except as provided in subsection (b), a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability

See what the bill says? The gov’t may not force a person to violate her or his religious standards even if her/his actions violate laws or the rights of another person. If the rest of us have to play nice and by the rules vis-a-vis other human beings under the law, you, homo-fearing, transgender-fearing, butch-fearing, effeminate-man-fearing, and — most importantly — god-fearing shop owner may deny service to those people whose appearance scares you to death.

All ya gotta do is say god told you so.

God

Enough. Stop the madness.

You want to believe in god, go ahead. But keep it to yourself. Don’t make rules and laws based on the supposed utterances of a deity or his representatives, the vast majority of which inspire constant discord and strife even among members of your own club. If there are three billion people on this planet who believe in god, there are three billion who disagree over precisely what god wants them to do.

Take pleasure and comfort in your supposed solidarity with an ancient, pre-technology, pre-literate, nomadic desert tribe. Just leave me out of it. And leave my city, my state, my country, and my world out of it. Burn all the incense you want. Raise your hands and pray that the most powerful entity in all creation is looking down upon you with paternal love in his eye. Give all your money to your preacher. Teach your kids that there is only one true god — yours, of course. That’s your right.

My right? Not to be bothered by your bullshit.

Horserace

Okay kids, here’s the early form chart for the 2016 presidential election.

2016 Odds

Business Insider Chart

You want some advice? Here it is:

1) Bet $500 on Hillary. You’ll make a c-note that way and the risk is really, really minimal.

2) If you can stand merely breaking even on the election in a worst-case scenario, drop another hondo on Ted Cruz. If he loses either in the primaries or the general e., you’re covered. But if he wins — which I don’t believe to be too deranged a proposition (well, yes, a Cruz presidency would indeed be deranged but the possibility of it happening is not) — you’ll cop a cool thirty-three hundred skins. That should take a bit of the sting out of a Cruz victory.

With the way things are headed in this holy land, I’ve got a funny feeling about a Cruz long shot.

[h/t for the chart to Rich Lloyd, Vanderbilt University prof. and player emeritus.]

Carson’s Diagnosis

This may be my fave headline of the month:

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So, the leader of this holy land joins an elite club including such luminaries as Charles Manson, John Warnock Hinckley, Mark David Chapman, the Unabomber, and even Norman Bates and Patrick Bateman. Golly gee, thanks for the clarification, Dr. Carson!

Psychotics

We Now Have It On Good Authority

Hot Air

Do They Follow Or Lead?

The Indy Star tells us this morning the “religious freedom” bill that passed the Indiana House yesterday is “controversial.”

Indy Star

Um, let me correct the equanimous editor who concocted that headline. The bill passed 63-31, which, in political horserace terms, is a goddamned landslide. You see, it’s obvious the entire nation is four-square against this gay marriage stuff and our esteemed statehouse representatives are merely reflecting that will of the people.

I mean, am I right? It couldn’t be that our state legislators are woefully out of touch with the zeitgeist of the 21st Century, could it?

Here in Indiana?

Send Him To Hawaii

As of nine o’clock this AM, Owen V. Johnson has raised only $70 of the $3000 he’s aiming for in his gofundme effort to get to Honolulu. He’s hoping to get there so he can participate in a ceremony noting the 70th anniversary of the death of Indiana’s own Ernie Pyle, the nation’s most famous and beloved combat correspondent during World War II.

Johnson is a retired Indiana University prof. of journalism and is known as the nation’s foremost expert on Pyle. He’s been invited to give the commemoration address at the dedication of a new gravesite for the legendary Hoosier. The only things standing between him and the April ceremony are 4200 or so miles, airfare, hotel accommodations, cab fare once there, and maybe enough scratch for a few decent meals.

Johnson

Owen Johnson

Johnson has set up the crowd funding page to cover his expenses. One of his biggest cheerleaders is City Council member Steve Volan who calls Pyle “one of the greatest Hoosiers who ever lived.”

Pyle, born near Dana, Indiana, in 1900, served in the US Navy Reserve during World War I and attended IU after peace broke out. He studied journalism here and edited the IDS. After graduation, Pyle went to work for the Washington Daily News where he eventually became something of a travel correspondent. His editor there described his writings as having “a Mark Twain quality.” His travel columns eventually were syndicated nationally.

Pyle became a war correspondent in 1942 and, unlike other journalists covering the action, he shunned hanging around the generals and commanders, preferring instead to hunker down in the mud with the grunt soldiers. His focus on the little guys endeared him to the nation’s newspaper readers. In fact, he even suffered what used to be known popularly as “battle fatigue” and was officially termed “war neurosis.” (It’s now called PTSD.) For instance, he wrote of visiting the French town of Falaise immediately after a vicious battle there: “Everything is dead. The men, the machines, the animals — and you alone are left alive.” Historian Rick Atkinson writes of Pyle’s mindset after Paris was retaken in The Guns at Last Light, the third volume of his Liberation Trilogy about the Western European campaign:

Among the Allied casualties was Ernie Pyle. “If I ever was brave, I ain’t any more,” he wrote a friend. “I’m so indifferent to everything I don’t even give a damn that I’m in Paris.” The war had become “a flat, black depression without highlights, a revulsion of the mind and an exhaustion of the spirit.” In a final column from Europe, he told his readers, “I have had all I can take for a while. I’ve been 29 months overseas since this war started; have written about seven hundred thousand words about it…. The hurt has finally become too great.”

Pyle recharged his batteries in the US and then went back to covering the war in the Pacific. On the atoll island of Iejima, he was riding with a regiment commander in a Jeep when the vehicle came under fire from a distance machine gun nest. Pyle and the lieutenant colonel jumped into a ditch until the firing stopped. The two peeked over the rim of the ditch and Pyle, smiling, asked the colonel, “Are you alright?” At that moment, he caught a machine gun bullet in the left temple. He was killed instantly. The date was April 18th, 1945.

Pyle

Ernie Pyle

Pyle was buried first at the Army cemetery on Okinawa and then transferred to the National Memorial Cemetery in Honolulu. He was one of the very few civilians awarded the military’s Purple Heart.

If you figure it’s worth it to kick a few dollars into Johnson’s kitty for the trip, do so. Go here.

Make It A Fair Fight

Al Jazeera America reported yesterday that the magnificent African elephant is nearly extinct. The cause? Poachers are killing the creatures for their tusks.

African Elephant

Beauty

As of now, the elephants are just a few decades from disappearing in the wild. The world has lost some 80,000 members of the species to poachers in the last eight years. Man, I wish elephants could fire guns, just so they could have a chance against the bastards.

Boggling The Imagination

The foreign-born Ted Cruz utilizes a secret weapon in his stump speech, according to a BBC online magazine post. He used the word “imagine” some 38 times during his candidacy announcement yesterday at Liberty University in Virginia.

Political reporter Anthony Zurcher writes that Cruz’s speaking style is a “cross between Atticus Finch and Tony Robbins.”

Cruz

Imagine This Man As President

Zurcher cites political strategist Frank Luntz re: “imagine”:

‘Imagine’ is still the most powerful word in the English language because it is inspiring, motivating and has a unique definition for each person. When you want to inspire, imagine is the language vehicle.

In other words, “imagine” conjures up whatever the hell the listener wants to believe. Which pretty much encapsulates the strategy of too many of today’s pols.

Me? I see Cruz as a lot like Robbins and not so much at all like Atticus.

Groupie Nuns

Sounds like a punk band name, no?

A gaggle of cloistered nuns almost knocked Pope Frankie over during his visit to a cathedral in Naples this past weekend. They charged him in an effort to touch, presumably, the hem of his garment.

Pope Francis

Rock Star

On the other hand, one cardinal also in attendance shouted as the nuns surrounded the Pontiff, “They are going to eat him! Sisters! Sisters!”

Can the Catholic church get any psycho-sexually weirder?

Selfie Nonsense

I thought you’d get a kick out of this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 1.10.45 AM

In the real world that I inhabit, this poor dope would either be sucked out of the cockpit and tumbled to his certain doom or the force of the near 600-mph wind drag would sever him at mid-thorax like a deli slicer cutting through a fresh Genoa salami. That is if he could even get that cockpit window open, which he couldn’t because it’s a pressurized cabin.

The kicker is there are enough people in this mad, mad world who believe this kind of bushwa to constitute, say, an entire political party.

Our World, Take It Or Leave It

From New York University prof and social media marketing guru Peter Shankman:

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