There’s more than GLBT in Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act


The Religious Freedom Reformation Act is now law in Indiana.

Before March 25th there was not a law which protected individuals and businesses from refusing service to anyone who held a religious view morally offensive to their own. And now, on July 1st, there is such a law. RFRA and its “fix”.

With all eyes and ears on the recent SCOTUS decision on same sex marriage it is imperative to know the facts- RFRA affects religious views on anything and everything.

As Sue Ellen Braunlin, co-president of Indiana Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice eloquently states ““[RFRA is] not just about wedding cakes – this very much has to do with access to non-judgmental reproductive healthcare, and that was a very big part of this case”.

Mainstream and local media miss that fact. The fact is that every argument for RFRA from Indiana Legislators and their minions included examples regarding reproduction- views on birth control. prochoice, fertility treatments, termination of pregnancy, and health insurance.

People of faith hold different views on what is “sin” or immoral. Our individual views and faith are already protected. But now on July 1st, one can choose to refuse to serve someone, or rent an apartment to someone, or hire someone simply because their belief or nonbelief in God isn’t the same as theirs.

That’s not religious freedom. That’s discrimination. Authentic religious freedom allows for individual conscience not coercion. One follows their faith path because they believe it is the right and just thing to do- not out of fear from fellow members. And one doesn’t force another to embrace their belief.

Religions have differing views on almost everything! Religions disagree on communion and baptism!

Just a few religious views, rather religious discrimination that will be protected by RFRA

  • Adoption – single parent? Biracial couple? Same sex couple?
  • Termination of pregnancy (for ANY reason- including ectopic pregnancies, rape, endangering the mother)
  • Medical procedures- fertility treatments, vasectomy, vaccinations, end of life decisions, morning after pills

So when you refuse to serve, or you are refused service due to religious views,  you could wind up in court. That’s another thing the Indiana Legislator agreed on – RFRA would result in court cases.

I doubt RFRA will make headlines though- the media and most of the big name companies /individuals that boycotted Indiana in April fell under the spell of Mike Pence and bought into the fix. After Indiana held the attention of mainstream media,  (and LBGT organizations) for almost a week when the General Assembly passed and Governor Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom RFRA. Mayhem ensued – boycotts, organizations threatening to pull their conventions, artists canceling performances, and companies talked of moving their headquarters. Even other states canceled trips to the Hoosier State.

But then Pence signed the RFRA “fix”. And they all disappeared. Except those of us long-suffering Hoosiers. We know there never was a “RFRA fix”. The protections for GLBT is only if you live in one of Indiana’s eleven municipalities with a Human Rights Ordinance regarding sexual orientation. And the majority of Hoosiers do not live with a HRO.

That and the HRO doesn’t touch all the other religious views.

The only way to end the discrimination that is now legal in Indiana is to repeal RFRA. Thankfully Democratic challengers to Governor Pence, most notably Senator Karen Tallian understands true religious freedom and it isn’t RFRA. As she posted:

     “As Governor, I would ask the same legislators who voted for             RFRA and the so-called “fix,” to once and for all repeal this                        harmful legislation. And even though our state’s defense of marriage act statute is no longer enforceable, as Governor I will also ask our legislature to remove this discriminatory language. These items should not be allowed to remain on the books as legacies to discrimination. Finally, it’s time our state adds civil rights protections for our LGBT community into state statute. I will author this bill in the 2016 Legislative Session and as Governor, issue an executive order protecting state employees against discrimination”

Yes, RFRA affects GLBT. It also affects more. It perpetuates hate. RFRA gives support for legislators to write and enact laws targeting women’s clinics and abortion providers- solely due to religious views. Physicians and those in the medical field testify to the safety of these procedures- but fear and religious fervor win out. It needs to stop.

RFRA is now law. Its time for those of us long suffering Hoosiers to change it.

Racism/Hate/Evil is not a Mental Illness. SIT with that for awhile.

We knew it wouldn’t take long. Before we even heard the names of the victims- we heard from media that the suspect was mentally ill. Enough.


Dylan Roof has made it quite clear, as have others, that he hated this group of people.  He wanted to kill them just for being who they were- black.  And yet the media and others toss out the synonyms for mental illness ad nauseaum.

We must stop this labeling.  Foremost, the fact is that those who are mentally ill are more often the victims.  Thus sliding in the euphemisms for mental illness so early after a violent event plants the seed that society doesn’t need to look any further.  Mental illness will be the avenue the media and law enforcement travel.

Why?  Why not, for at least a DAY sit with the concept that racism. is. real. Racism.and. hate. exist. People are evil.  (And no, evil is not a mental illness either, Scriptural herd of swine perpetuate THAT myth).

I strongly believe that authentic discussions on racism are so raw and emotional that society prefers to avoid all but a cursory nod to racism when it comes to violent acts. So much easier to label someone mentally ill. “See? SEE? He’s sick, he’s deranged, and his mental state is in question.” And with that WE feel better. Whew. The evil is no longer among us. There’s a reason- we can point to it. We can rest.

Except mental illness demands its own attention from society. One not connected to the ugliness of racism.

The idea that anyone could be murdered while in a house of faith is anathema to many in the United States. So it MUST be the actions of a mentally ill person. (Consider how many mosques, temples, shrines are bombed in the Middle East and Africa on a weekly basis – you don’t hear mental illness, you hear terrorist).

Terrorism is not a stranger to US soil despite what media wants you to believe. Nine beautiful souls are gone in Charleston and Emmanuel AME as a result of hatred and racism. Six faithful worshippers at the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin   were murdered in 2012 due to bigotry and hate; Nine Monks in a Buddhist temple in Phoenix were executed for no reason in 1991. Black lives are being targeted.

I am begging people to think. To have that difficult, uneasy discussion, to sit with the concept that no, this cannot be explained away by a diagnosis. This is tough work. It’s not easy.  I am a Chaplain, an ordained minister in the UCC.  I do not sugar coat facts nor say things to make those I minister with feel better. (In reality that IS the work of a Chaplain- to companion in the messiness of life and meet the other where they are. Happiness is not the goal.)

So I implore my fellow ministers to choose their words carefully for their Sabbath sermons and prayer services. Do NOT choose the easier softer way and default to mental illness, sick mind, deranged, etc.  Embody the pastors who were massacred Wednesday night- step out into the world- BE in the world- with its racism and hate and allow the discussion and anger and emotions to happen. Do not damper anyone’s grief with solutions and reasons for an evil act.

Make no mistake. I am not saying there is no hope. What I AM saying is that we must address this racism in our country now. Black lives matter. (I hear you mumbling all lives matter—- stop that too).

Can we- as a country – in 2015 – focus on the terrorist attacks on Black lives? Can we sit with THAT? At least for 24 hours? For a week? For a month?

Let’s start today. It is racism. Not mental illness.




Faithful presence as IndyPride celebrates 20 years

This weekend Indianapolis will host the twentieth Indy Pride Festival. It has changed drastically over the decades- but there has been one notable and consistent voice- that of the clergy and faith communities. The clergy , faith leaders, churches and temples have participated in Pride, but also met with legislators, testified at the Statehouse, signed petitions, and held prayer vigils advocating for total inclusion of GLBT regarding marriage, adoption, healthcare, and protections. Their polity and doctrine affirm LGBT in the life of the churches and faith community they represent.

In 2014 over 13 churches or houses of faith walked in the Pride parade. Some of these were in the first Pride events in the 90’s- The Church Within, Jesus MCC now LifeJourney, First Congregational UCC, Central Christian to name a few.

The national media is slow to report on such inclusion and support. But it is there. Over 18 denominations affirm same sex marriage with public statements. Another 3 leave the decision to individual churches or conference areas. And some faiths have no stated policy. Add to this that some of the congregations/organizations participating in IndyPride are themselves welcoming, yet at the official doctrinal level their denominations consider GLBT incompatible with the faith. (United Methodists and Roman Catholics). These communities are working from within to change the official stance- and for some it is a long process. But they remain faithful.

So who is at IndyPride? United Church of Christ (UCC), Disciples of Christ (DOC), Metropolitan (MCC), Buddhist, Pentecostal, United Methodist (UMC), Independents (Church Within) Episcopal, Church of the Brethren, Spiritualist, Unity, Unitarians, Roman Catholics (Dignity), to name a few.

The faithfulness of the communities , clergy, and denominations cannot be ignored- yet it is. The continued support will probably not make any headlines, after all, Indiana is fixed. Just ask anyone.

Earlier this year Indiana held the attention of mainstream media (and LBGT organizations) for almost a week when the General Assembly passed and Governor Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Reformation Act. (RFRA). Mayhem ensued- boycotts, organizations threatening to pull their conventions, artists cancelling performances, and companies talked of moving their headquarters. Even other states canceled trips to the Hoosier State.

And then… the media fell under the spell of Mike Pence and believed the hype when the legislator passed and Pence signed the RFRA “fix”. And they all disappeared. Except those of us long-suffering Hoosiers , including the above mentioned clergy and faith communities , stay the course. We know there never was a “RFRA fix”. On March 25, there was not a law in Indiana which protected businesses or individuals from refusing service to anyone who held a different faith view then theirs. On March 26 when Pence signed RFRA, there is now legal protection for discrimination based on religious views. ( views on anything- birth control, fertility, end of life, marriage, medical treatment…) After the uproar the fix came in- and , unless you live in one of Indiana’s eleven municipalities with a Human Rights Ordinance regarding sexual orientation, it is STILL legal to discriminate. So, no, it is not better. Its still worse.

So when you ask anyone? Try asking any of us who have lived in this State. Ask the grassroots organizations who have maintained their inclusion. Don’t be surprised when you find faithful people who realize nothing has changed regarding LGBT. But, as Mother Theresa said, many come to be faithful, not successful. We haven’t stopped yet.




Memorial Day honors the dead- it is not the holiday to thank Vets

From Gary, IN First female soldier to die in combat Afghan war
First female soldier to die in combat Afghan war. She was 22.

This year ,more than most, I am affected by the media/politicians/folks who cannot grasp the huge difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Ironic that a day specifically  set aside to honor the dead  has become to most a day to offer thanks to all who served.  I find it disrespectful.

The women and men who served and continue to serve in the military undoubtably deserve recognition. Yet this day is for the memory of those who gave that “ultimate sacrifice”. They are gone. They never came back. We cannot thank them.  We do not honor their memory by proxy gratitude.

So why do I feel the need to keep inserting a disclaimer that “of course Vets need our gratitude”? This nagging feeling is directly tied to the anger welling up with each tweet from an otherwise intelligent person writing” On Memorial Day we honor all our military.”

I think we in the US have an issue with accountability for those who died.  Hell, we have an issue with simply acknowledging those who died. We don’t want to think of the number of lives lost, souls gone, futures denied. For one, we cannot fathom numbers of the dead- over 58,000 – Fifty-eight thousand from the Vietnam War Conflict, (Incidentally over 51,000 Confederate and Union soldiers died in the three days of Gettysburg). 400,000 from WWII. Over 5,000 in Iraq. And the deaths continue daily.

I can think of only one television program that consistently names those who die in military- Nancy Grace.  Local and National news rarely mention when a US soldier dies.  For years there was a media blackout on photos of caskets returning to the US. But there is never a blackout of the names- media just doesn’t bother.  I guess its easier to remind people to thank all who served- instead of think about those who died.

Historians cannot pinpoint the first Memorial day- all agree it was Decoration Day. Most ascribe that former Slaves in South Carolina reburied Union soldiers  from a mass grave and gave them a proper burial in a ceremony in 1865.  There are accounts of women in Mississippi , Illinois, and Georgia  decorating graves of their loved ones and noticed the Union (or Confederate) soldier graves were deserted.They used their Spring flowers to decorate them as well. By 1867, over 27 states held festivities.

The intent of the first ceremonies  needs to be  the same today. The dead were honored and remembered.  Cemeteries were visited, flowers placed, names read. Names and lives mattered- especially because they gave all.

Why do we continue to downplay the dead?  What else can you call it when we wrap Memorial day celebrations into thank a Vet?  Do we go to funerals to celebrate all who are attending? No. We focus on those we will not see again- for what is lost. Why do we use military statistics only when it suits the purpose for military spending or invading another country? Why isn’t it enough that teens, young men and women, all ages and races died. Why is it so hard to give these fallen soldiers one damn day to themselves?





Why the Pope isnt pardoning women who chose abortion

My Catholic spine was rattled when I read the DailyMail headline,” Pope orders all Catholic priests to bestow  a full pardon on women who have had an abortion …” .  For starters, the Pope cannot order his priests to do anything and Holy Mother Church doesn’t pardon. Ok, so the reporter  may not be Catholic nor understand basic Church teachings.  But  a quick read demonstrated this article was yet another example of the media having their head far up the papal vestments . In their attempt to make Pope Francis and the Church look new and improved  they, how can I put it ,  made stuff up.  Or keeping with the theme of sin they  commit  a sin of omission.  As in omitting facts.  Allow me.

On April 11 Pope Francis  issued   his Papal Bull Misericordiae Vultus”   announcing  an Extraordinary Year of Mercy beginning December 8 2015. In this, he spoke of the  attributes of showing mercy:

“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love. The Church “has an endless desire to show mercy.”

Frances further states that during the season of Lent 2016 he will send priests to whom he has given authority to pardon even those sins reserved to the Holy See.   Found in Canon Law, these include acts of schism, heresy, apostasy, such as ordaining women, conferring holy orders without papal authority, violating seal of confessional, sacrilege against Blessed Sacrament (communion) and abortion . They fall into three categories-censure, interdict, and excommunication. Abortion incurs  Latae sententiae, or automatic excommunication.

This is no doubt where the sensationalized headline came from- thanks to the  soon-to-be-sainted Pope Francis (if media has is way) priests ’round the world will have special powers to pardon women and their doctors who performed the abortion. But those pesky facts are needed again to explain why these powers may or may not be needed.

Namely the woman , and the doctor or medical professional must realize a. they have been excommunicated  and b. seek absolution and reinstatement into the graces of the Church.  Yes there  are conditions  for an automatic excommunication in the Catholic Church.

According to canon law ( which is neither cut nor dried nor direct), one must realize abortion is not only a sin, but a sin for which one can be excommunicated. If she doesn’t realize its gravity, she isn’t automatically excommunicated. . And if she isn’t excommunicated, then if she had  sought absolution prior to this year of Mercy any priest could and would have absolved her already.

Which means this is not new. And special powers are not always needed. And Francis may be many things, but  media cannot continue to paint him as one ignoring the catechism of the Church and granting blanket absolution. It is simply not true.




A year ago GOP suggested Clinton be “just grandma”

In April 2014 the GOP was already attacking a Clinton presidency based on the fact she is a woman. This year they have stepped up the sexism in many ways, one using only her first name in media reports. When is the last time you read an article headlined “Ted makes appearance …”, or ” As Bobby ponders campaign…”.  The media consistently uses only her first name, comments on her age, appearance, and everything else without equal treatment of male counterparts. ( I am missing the article ” Rand begins using  noted designer to help image). ANYWAY.

Here is Bubba Siroky’s take on last years GOP mantra that Clinton should be Just Grandma”.

Indiana is first to convict and sentence a woman for feticide- except she miscarried

Indiana continues to be noted for all the wrong reasons. While she is 4th in Infant mortality, state lawmakers continue to restrict access to healthcare, women’s health, and criminalizing women whose pregnancy ends in anything less than a viable, healthy infant.

On Monday March 30th Judge Elizabeth Hurley of St. Joseph county sentenced Purvi Patel  who was convicted in January of contradicting charges of feticide and neglect of a dependent.  Ms Patel is now serving 30 years for feticide, and six years for neglect of a dependent.

Except that this was a miscarriage.  Patel maintains she suffered the miscarriage at home, tried to blow air into the fetus mouth but it was dead, For many reasons not known -I’d guess shock, loss of blood- she instead placed the fetus in the bathroom trash bag and then into a dumpster, Yet five hours later she as still bleeding and went to St. Joseph Regional Center.

Despite expert testimony depicting this was a miscarriage, 24 wk old fetus born dead and could not have survived even if immediate NICU was there, and no proof she ingested or bought any abortion inducing meds- due to disposing the body in a dumpster, being unemotional, and being “a woman of means” she was convicted and sentenced.

The case sets dangerous precedents- most notably if you are a woman and experience an issue with your pregnancy  be careful when seeking medical help. You may get 30 years.


Excellent forensic synopsis. The Charles Smith blog. 

Indiana has now charged two Asian Americans with feticide 

Reality Check: Purvi Patel sentenced feticide 




Thoughts from a Region Gal