Writings and observations

rainey BARRETT


So the state of Indiana has adopted a new non-religious “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA). The national media has come unglued with coverage every five minutes. “Breaking News,” you know. Corporations and governors and millions of individuals are threatening to boycott the state. Human rights groups are up in arms. Why? Why now?

What’s curious about all this attention is Indiana is the 20th state to put this garbage on the books. It ain’t new! And this. The National Council of State Legislatures says 13 other states have it in process. And this. Forty percent of the states have done it or something similar. And this. The federal government, too! Feds call it “Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

RFRA was enacted in 1993 – signed by Bill Clinton – but was successfully challenged in 1997 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled states wouldn’t have to comply. So, over the next few years, some states wrote their own.

But the dam broke a couple of years ago when the billionaire-backed American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) sent out “sample” legislative bills so no one in the states would have to think too hard. Just fill in the blanks. Went by a lot of names but the guts were the same.

In our Northwest backyard, Idaho Republican bigots made the list of 20 with electronic copying (Idaho Code §73-402). Oh, there was local muttering from folks who could see this discriminatory trash for what it was. But the national media – the folks who’re now bombarding us with minute-by-minute updates – didn’t say “squat.” “What the Hell – it’s just Idaho. Again.”

Checking the list of 20 entities who’ve decided to discriminate “legally,” more than half are in the “bible belt.” All 20 – all – Republican-dominated. Though Arizona’s effort was repealed in 2014 after a lot of economic pressures were brought to bear – including playing the Super Bowl – the bill was passed and made law in 2012 so it made the list. New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma are the only other western states among the 20.

Aside from the obvious targeting of gay and lesbian Americans in this trash, the thing that makes it so insidious is that it leaves the “discriminator” free to invent any sort of excuse to do his/her discriminating. You don’t have to be LDS or Presbyterian or Catholic or Lutheran or Hindu or anything else. You can just claim providing goods and/or services violates “your beliefs.” Whatever the hell that means. Make something up. That’s your “out.”

The one thing different this time is the national reaction to Indiana joining the other bigoted legislative cretins under the bridge. I have damned little use for the NCAA. But I think if this law had been enacted 30 days sooner, the final four playoff would likely have been played in Chicago or New York or Philadelphia and not Indianapolis.

So, here we are. The Republican age of cut ‘em off by law. These 20 GOP-run states are discriminating against different sexuality or race or anything else different from the “norm.” Some of them – and others – are using new laws to cut off voter access. More than a dozen are violating common sense and public safety by passing laws putting guns in schools, on college campuses, bars, churches and everyplace else. Some are abolishing training for concealed carry. U.S. House Republicans passed a budget cutting taxes for the “haves” while slashing food stamps, Medicaid and other critical welfare programs for the “have nots,” hitting seniors with cuts in Medicare as well.

Putting all this into some kind of perspective is damned difficult. But I found this on my Facebook page the other day and it makes the point about as well as anything I’ve seen:

“Isn’t it interesting that a country founded to allow freedom from religious persecution is now using religion to persecute freedoms?” Works for me.

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Here’s what public affairs news made the front page of newspapers in the Northwest today, excluding local crime, features and sports stories. (Newspaper names contracted with location)

Concern over British Columbian fish trends (Lewiston Tribune)
Tax measure clears Idaho house (Nampa Press Tribune, Lewiston Tribune)
Syringa owner files Chapter 13 bankruptcy (Moscow News)
Agidius accused of spying on former opponent (Moscow News)
Eminent domain law could limit some local growth (Nampa Press Tribune)
Interim Pocatello school superintendent named (Pocatello Journal)
Monitors say tribal radioactivity not high (Pocatello Journal)

Annual economic forecast outlines trends (Eugene Register Guard)
State might ban bee-related insecticide (Eugene Register Guard)
New KF police chief takes over (KF Herald & News)
Bly terrorist camp case draws another ‘guilty’ (KF Herald & News)
KF Sportsmans Warehouse to open soon (KF Herald & News)
Republicans mostly sidelined at legislature (Medford Tribune)
Umatilla Co ranks low in health index (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Rethinking Milton-Freewater’s downtown (Pendleton E Oregonian)
Little support for light on legislators records (Portland Oregonian)
Looking for an elder-crime prosecutor (Salem Statesman Journal)

Bellingham waterfront rebuild decision arrives (Bellingham Herald)
Kitsap sewer rates rise more gently (Bremerton Sun)
Auditor Kelley inquest linked to 2008 fire (Everett Herald)
New Snohomish ombudsman hired (Everett Herald)
Seattle apartment rents keep rising (Seattle Times)
Spokane planning major biking routes (Spokane Spokesman)
Teachers arrive at Olympia on ‘no child’ rule (Tacoma News Tribune, Vancouver Columbian)
Boating marina was once a toxic site (Tacoma News Tribune)
Local debate weighs in on minimum wage (Vancouver Columbian)

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