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As Indiana politicians, including governor Mike Pence, find themselves in the midst of a national firestorm of negative reaction to the state’s newly signed Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which in effect guarantees for-profit businesses the right to discriminate against customers they consider to be offensive on religious grounds — Indiana’s hospitality community is stepping up to fight the new law, which is seen by many as a means to discriminate against the LGBT community.
Restaurateur Martha Hoover, for example, a semifinalist for Outstanding Restaurateur in the 2013 James Beard Foundation restaurant and chef awards, is holding a fundraiser for Lambda Legal, a national organization that works to secure full recognition of the civil rights of lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, and transgender people.
Her restaurant group includes half a dozen Café Patachou locations, as well as Petite Chou Bistro & Champagne Bar, Public Greens, and three Napolese artisan pizzerias. For the fundraiser, her restaurants that are open in the evenings — Petite Chou and the three pizzerias — will host fundraising dinners called The Great Patachou Sit-In to Benefit Lambda Legal. A $100-per-couple seasonal menu will include a shared appetizer, salad, and pizza at Napolese locations or a shared appetizer, salad, and individual entrées at Petite Chou, as well as a bottle of wine and mini desserts. In addition, Hoover said, Uber has agreed to provide anyone dining at one of the dinners with a special code for a free ride home.I’m lucky every day that anyone chooses to open the door to one of my restaurants and they need to be welcomed. That really is what the hospitality industry does — they welcome people. Restaurants are at the very center of the hospitality industry. -Martha Hoover
For Hoover, efforts to change or repeal the law are part of creating a welcoming environment for customers and staff. “I’m lucky every day that anyone chooses to open the door to one of my restaurants,” she said, “and they need to be welcomed. Restaurants are at the very center of the hospitality industry.”
Indianapolis chef Jonathan Brooks, who was just named one of Food & Wine magazine’s Best New Chefs for 2015, posted on his Facebook page that his restaurant, Milktooth, will be holding a fundraising dinner as well, to “show the world that this legislation does not represent Indy.”
Some local restaurateurs are even switching ice machine companies in response to RFRA. State senator Scott Schneider (R-Indianapolis), who was a co-author of the legislation, is a vice-president at his family’s company, Mister Ice of Indianapolis, which leases the equipment. Hoover said that although she has worked with Mister Ice for 25 years and leases 15 to 18 ice makers, she will be phasing out company’s machines. “The core values of our businesses are just so different,” she said. “I don’t expect everyone to agree lockstep with everything that I agree with… [but]… we are moving in another direction, with a company that has a more open and tolerant view.”
A group of Southern Indiana chefs and food artisans, who call themselves The Goat Kicks Back, is also working on anti-RFRA fundraising efforts, in conjunction with the Indiana Civil Liberties Union. Judith Schad of Capriole Goat Cheese, Susan Welsand of The Chile Woman, James Beard semifinalist chefs David Tallent of Restaurant Tallent and Daniel Orr of FARMbloomington, David Fletcher of BLU Boy Café and Cakery, David Fischer of Fischer Farms, and Indiana University professor and Slow Food Bloomington co-founder Christine Barbour — along with other Indianapolis chefs and food artisans — are exploring ways to offer products and hold events to benefit anti-RFRA efforts.
Rather than boycotting Indiana restaurants and producers, Barbour said, consumers can actively support those who are working for repeal. “It’s just a shame that these same folks are paying a price in lost business as they are held accountable by people outside the state for a law they neither passed nor support,” Barbour said. “The economic damage from this unfortunate piece of legislation is going to hit people who have just dug out of the recession.”
Boycotts against Indiana and its products are a real concern. Already, other states and cities have prohibited official travel to Indiana because of RFRA. Out-of-state celebrities have condemned the law; the band Wilco has cancelled an upcoming concert in Indianapolis, and conventions such as Gen-Con are considering whether to relocate from the city.
But reactions to RFRA affect cities across the state as well. “This is far-reaching,” said Patrick Tamm, president and CEO of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association. “From northern Indiana, I have had food deliveries denied by Michigan customers.” For Indianapolis, Tamm stresses the economic impact that losing convention business could have. “We are the No. 1 city for group business,” he said. “We rely on group business more than any other market in the country. That group business to us is so, so critical.”
Tamm said he has been meeting with the governor’s office, legislative leaders, and a broad coalition of people about how the legislation is affecting the hospitality industry. “I am hopeful that we will get a fix,” he said.
Chris Gahl, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Indy, which works to bring visitors, conventions, and events to the city, said it will take a concerted effort to counteract the legislation’s negative effects. “I think it’s going to take everyone in the community to rally and make sure the world knows that Hoosier hospitality is alive and well,” Gahl said. “It’s something that our city’s brand has been largely dependent on for some years, so it’s absolutely essential that we get out the word that just because a bill has been signed doesn’t mean that Hoosier hospitality is gone.”
Gregory T. Angelo: Let’s not demonize those who disagree with gay marriage
In the immediate aftermath of the Supreme Court ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, there was sentiment that the court’s opinion could ignite a new culture war — a Roe v. Wade for a new generation — and polarize parties (and the American electorate) for decades to come. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Winning with grace is an important first step for marriage equality advocates, who should resist the temptation to demonize fellow Americans who might not yet have had the same epiphany on marriage equality that President Barack Obama reached only three years ago and that Hillary Clinton reached a mere two years ago. Marginalizing marriage equality opponents does little to generate the healing needed on all sides to diffuse a culture war.
The marginalization of those who oppose marriage equality starts with the numbers. The population of LGBT Americans is relatively small (3.8 percent), but a public majority supports our right to marry (60 percent). Approval is even more pronounced among the millennial generation: 79 percent of Americans born in 1981 or later agree that marriage equality should be legal.
While encouraging, this strong public support for marriage equality has imbued advocates with a false sense of cultural and political authority on what remains, in many ways, a contentious issue — especially for the older generation.
Consider religious freedom: In discussions of marriage equality, disrespect for dissenting perspectives is particularly pointed when this opposition in framed in terms of faith.
Among many on the left — and I daresay most all of the gay left — the mere utterance of the phrase “religious freedom” is considered to be a dog whistle for anti-gay policy. This association is almost certainly compounded by the lingering stigma of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was widely criticized as a deliberate effort to provide a license to discriminate.
Data confirms this negative connotation: A survey conducted in February found that 57 percent of Americans supported religious exemptions for wedding-related businesses. Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act was passed in March. By late April, approval for wedding-related exemptions had dropped to 52 percent. Analysts attribute the decline — 5 points in less than three months — to the Indiana controversy. Even after Indiana’s RFRA debacle, a majority still supports reasonable religious accommodations.
Following the Obergefell decision, some Republicans expressed concerns that nationwide marriage equality threatens the free exercise of religious freedom — even that of priests, ministers, rabbis and imams. This is largely histrionics, but it does little to assuage Chicken Little-types when breathless titles like, “Now’s the Time To End Tax Exemptions for Religious Institutions” are broadcast by Time Magazine. If the fight for marriage equality was never a war on religion, some advocates clearly never got the memo.
There are a number of questions precipitated by the Supreme Court decision that will need to be answered. The Obama administration’s Solicitor General, Donald B. Verrilli, Jr., even admitted as much during the Obergefell hearing. Navigating the legal complexities of this new terrain on issues such as tax exemptions for religious schools or the refusal to provide service in certain businesses will inevitably impact the lawful scope of religious freedom.
As future legislative and legal battles loom, some faithful conservatives worry their freedoms are vulnerable. And the reaction from liberal marriage equality advocates is aggravating, rather than alleviating, these anxieties.
The left continues to dismiss fears about religious freedom as imagined or insincere while simultaneously branding people of faith who publicly express apprehension of nationwide marriage equality as out-of-touch bigots.
It’s no wonder some religious conservatives are warning that proponents of so-called traditional marriage feel condemned to live as cultural exiles in the aftermath of Obergefell.
Case-in-point: A Pennsylvania newspaper announced recently that it would no longer accept opinion pieces that argue against same-sex marriage. Submission guidelines were later updated to clarify that dissenting opinions will be “strictly limit(ed)” rather than categorically banned.
The ongoing marginalization and vilification of certain religious conservatives ultimately brings the evolution of marriage equality to an ironic full-circle.
Not so long ago, gay and lesbian men and women — as well as our straight allies — were on the losing end of the public debate on marriage equality. At that time, I hoped those who disagreed with my personal view would do so humbly, empathetically and with respect. Most did, and these compassionate reactions facilitated productive, meaningful dialogue and mutual understanding.
It’s time to return the favor.
Gregory T. Angelo is the national executive director of Log Cabin Republicans, described on the group’s website as “the nation’s original and largest organization representing gay conservatives and allies who support fairness, freedom, and equality for all Americans.” He wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.
Equality groups ready for counterattack against wave of anti-gay bills across US
LGBT and civil rights groups are mobilising for a nationwide battle to safeguard the gains of the marriage equality movement, in the face of a gathering backlash that is spreading anti-gay bills across the country.
Republican-controlled legislatures have introduced more than 85 anti-gay bills in 28 separate states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT-rights advocacy group in the US. New laws targeting gay couples have been passed in Indiana, Arkansas and Mississippi, with many other states attempting to follow suit.
On Monday, Apple’s openly gay chief executive, Tim Cook, sounded the alarm about the rash of new laws, which he described as contrary to America’s founding principles of freedom and equality. He likened the anti-gay surge across state assemblies to “whites only” signs in the days of racial segregation.
“We must never return to any semblance of that time,” he said.
Eunice Rho, advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), said the volume of legislation coming out of state assemblies was “very high and very troubling”. She said the phenomenon was a direct response to the advances made by the LGBT equality movement that now stands on the verge of what is expected to be an historic US supreme court ruling extending constitutional protections to same-sex marriage.
“A lot of what we are seeing now is the rewards of our success. We see this for what it is – it is Plan B: an attempt to erode the gains that have been made towards marriage equality and LGBT equality overall,” Rho said.
Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said civil rights and LGBT groups were working closely together in a concerted effort to block the bills before they ever reach the statute books. Where new laws have been enacted, litigation would be considered, but only as a last resort Minter said.
“It’s so much better to stop these discriminatory moves before they become law. Litigation is a very expensive, time-consuming and uncertain way to fight back.”
The discriminatory bills have come in a variety of guises. Some like those in Alabama, Florida and Michigan would allow officials to turn away gay and lesbian couples seeking to adopt or foster children.
Republicans in other states such as Oklahoma are trying to allow gay conversion groups to flourish by protecting gay-to-straight “therapy” groups from legal action. Florida has gone another route still, focusing its efforts on transgender individuals.
But the most common form of the backlash has come in a spate of bills known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRA), that seek to claw back some of the ground lost to same-sex marriage by allowing businesses and individuals to refuse services to gay and lesbian couples on grounds of religious conviction. A law of this sort was attempted by Arizona but vetoed by the then governor Jan Brewer last year, following a rebellion by local business leaders.
Arkansas is reaching the final stages of a similar “religious freedom” bill. Last week Indiana’s governor Mike Pence signed into law its version of RFRA, prompting a blizzard of largely adverse reaction from activists, business leaders, religious groups, media outlets and sporting leagues. The furor has put Pence on the defensive, forcing him to offer a possible supplementary bill that would “clarify” the purpose of the new law.
Minter said that the response had been overwhelming. “I’m feeling very optimistic after what has happened in Indiana,” he said. “There has been a huge public outcry coming from all quarters and that’s a testament to the highly structured network that has been created that can get the word out quickly.”
But challenges remain. As Arkansas pushes ahead with its own variation of RFRA, the Republican-held legislature has already passed a law that would leave LGBT people vulnerable to discrimination anywhere in the state.
SB 202 prohibits any city, town or county in the state from framing its own local ordinances relating to discrimination. The law does not specifically mention the LGBT community, but given its timing just before the US supreme court hears aural arguments in its review of gay marriage on 28 April, the impetus of the act is widely assumed to be in that direction.
SB 202 declares an “emergency” that it says must be addressed in the name of “the public peace, health and safety”. It says that it is “immediately necessary to create uniformity regarding discrimination laws across the state” – which is ironic because Arkansas at state level has no anti-discrimination laws relating to gay people.
In effect Arkansas, as well as Tennessee and West Virginia, which are pursuing similar laws, are saying that discrimination against the LGBT community must be allowed to take place in every corner of their territory.
Even where bills are defeated, there is no guarantee that they will not return. Republican representatives in Maine tried to pass an RFRA bill last year but were forced to drop the legislation in the face of widespread opposition.
Now a coalition of groups in the state is gearing up for what is expected to be a renewed attempt to pass the law. “We anticipate they will make another attempt, and we’ll be ready for it,” said Ben Klein, a senior attorney with Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders in Boston.
Klein said he was confident a revived bill would be defeated a second time. “We have very strong arguments that these laws are contrary to the country’s values of individualism and equal protection in front of the law. They are bad for business and have many untold consequences.”
Readers React: What other groups should Bible-believing business owners shun?
To the editor: Seeing as how Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana is unable or unwilling to repeal his “religious freedom” law, and how he seems stymied as to how to fix it, I have a suggestion. The law could be amended to require businesses to post on their front doors a list of the specific groups they intend to deny services to. (“Uproar over Indiana religious freedom law shows shift in gay rights fight,” March 31)
For those biblical literalists who want to avoid gays, they might also consider denying services to divorcees getting remarried (Matthew 19:9) or to those who are not virgins on their wedding day (Deuteronomy 22:20-21).
This would allow members of those groups the opportunity to avoid the humiliation of walking into a business only to be turned away. It would also provide those of us who would never think of patronizing such a business a heads-up.
Marian Sunabe, South Pasadena
To the editor: Balancing the rights of same-sex couples and business owners who object to their marriages is not a problem, but it is an issue of civics and citizenship.
Public space and business space are the places for equal protection. Religious spaces and churches are set aside for discrimination in the name of a creed.
Douglas Braun-Harvey, San Diego
To the editor: A Christian couple have the right serve ham at their wedding reception, but shouldn’t a kosher caterer have the right — on religious grounds — to decline their business?
Chris Norby, Fullerton
To the editor: Pence claims that his state’s new law doesn’t and wasn’t intended to allow businesses to deny services to the unprotected class of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Then why was the bill signed in a closed ceremony with Pence surrounded by the leaders of various anti-gay organizations?
Alice P. Neuhauser, Manhattan Beach
To the editor: When did politicians, of all people, become our social and religious arbitrators?
Politicians spend an inordinate amount of time fawning over those who donate money to their reelection campaign accounts, but they still have to find some time to tend to the people’s business. Depending on the level of the office, this can run from the filling of potholes to the defense of the nation.
How, then, do they have enough time to try and force their personal views of morality on the general population?
That’s not their job. Their job is to do the pragmatic business of overseeing and running government. There are civil and criminal laws to cover social interaction, and the people’s private business and actions are theirs alone as long as they don’t violate existing law.
Politicians should take care of the public’s business and mind their own.
Bob Hoffman, Long Beach
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Op-Ed: 3 factors that make Indiana’s religion law different from other states’
Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by Gov. Mike Pence late last week, is virtually identical to a Clinton-era federal law as well as statutes on the books in 19 other states. Nowhere does the Indiana law explicitly authorize discrimination. Yet critics from Tim Cook of Apple — who opined against the law in the Washington Post — and the actor George Takei — who said tourists and companies should boycott Indiana — are absolutely right to worry that the state’s intention is to allow discrimination against gays and lesbians based on claims of religious freedom.
The Indiana statute is the culmination of a long, murky legal history that reaches back to the 1990 Supreme Court case Employment Division vs. Smith, which significantly changed the standard interpretation of the 1st Amendment’s free exercise clause. At issue was whether a Native American group could use peyote in religious rituals in violation of an Oregon law. The court ruled that it could not — because the state law was “neutral,” in that it was not motivated by a desire to curtail religious rights, and because it applied to everyone in the state.
Legal precedent prior to 1990 dictated that the government could substantially burden a person’s practice of his or her religion only if its action was necessary to achieve a compelling government purpose. But in Smith, the court established that the free exercise clause could not be used to challenge a neutral law of general applicability no matter how much the law burdened religion.
So, before Smith, a priest in a dry county who wanted to use wine in communion surely would have prevailed in court. After Smith, he would have lost because the law prohibiting consumption of alcohol was a neutral law of general applicability.
In 1993, Congress, with strong bipartisan support, passed and President Clinton signed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Its stated goal was to restore religious freedom by statute to what it previously had been under the Constitution. The law provides that whenever the government substantially burdens religion, even with a neutral law of general applicability, its action is illegal unless proven to be necessary to achieve a compelling government interest.
The next development came in 1997, when the Supreme Court declared the act unconstitutional as applied to state and local governments because it exceeded the scope of Congress’ power. But the law remained constitutional as applied to the federal government, and was the basis for the court’s decision last June in Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby. In that case, the court held, 5 to 4, that it violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to require a closely held corporation to provide contraceptive coverage if that contradicted its owners’ religious beliefs.
The new Indiana law has the same title and contains the same language as the federal statute. Like the federal law, the Indiana version provides: “A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.”
But the Indiana and federal statutes are not wholly identical. The Indiana law, unlike the federal RFRA, builds on Hobby Lobby by expressly providing protection to corporations and other business entities. That’s one reason to worry that the purpose of the Indiana law is to allow discrimination against same-sex couples based on business owners’ religious beliefs.
Another reason for concern is timing. Why is Indiana adopting the law now, 25 years after Employment Division vs. Smith and 22 years after the enactment of the federal statute? There is a widespread consensus across the political spectrum that the Supreme Court is about to recognize a right to marriage equality for gays and lesbians and hold that state laws prohibiting same-sex marriage violate the Constitution. This law appears to be a reaction to that development.
The rhetoric surrounding the Indiana law is also troubling. In fact, over and over in his interviews, Pence has refused to deny that the law would permit discrimination. He also was emphatic that there would be no expansion of rights for gays and lesbians on his “watch.”
This is why there are loud protests against the Indiana law and calls for boycotts of the state. But Indiana could easily solve this controversy by amending the law to provide that no one can discriminate against others based on sexual orientation, sex or race under the statute or on the grounds of religious beliefs.
Erwin Chemerinsky is dean of the UC Irvine School of Law.
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Is religious freedom reason enough to refuse service?
Gracie Bonds Staples is an award-winning journalist who has been writing for daily newspapers since 1979, when she graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi. She joined The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 2000 after stints at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, the Sacramento Bee, Raleigh Times and two Mississippi dailies. Staples was recently promoted to Senior Features Enterprise Writer. Look for her columns Thursdays and Saturdays in Living and alternating Sundays in Metro.
There’s a scene in the “Cracking the Codes” documentary about race in which an African-American woman recalls ordering food at an Asian restaurant and the waiter telling her that “we don’t serve you people.”
It’s a fascinating look at the system of racial inequity that challenges us to build a world that works for everyone.
There’s no indication when the exchange at the restaurant took place, but you get the feeling it had to be in the 1960s or long before and then you read about Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and the recent passage of the state’s controversial “religious freedom” law.
I know Georgia has been wrestling with its own version of this legislation, but I was a tad late to the controversy in the Hoosier State. When I finally tuned in late Saturday, I couldn't help but remember that moment in Shakti Butler's "Cracking the Codes: The System of Racial Inequity" and the restaurant sit-ins launched in 1960 by four black college students.
And Sunday when I heard Pence’s reaction to the public outrage, his refusal to answer “whether it would be illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians,’’ I had visions of the newly elected Alabama Gov. George Wallace vowing “segregation now, segregation tomorrow and segregation forever.”
Pence didn’t hesitate to say, however, he wouldn’t be changing the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act even though its critics say it allows business owners to discriminate against members of the LGBT community.
“We’re not going to change the law,” Pence told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos on “This Week.”
My reaction was as swift as the law’s critics, among them business and political leaders who say that it is anti-gay and will drive away business. Even the NCAA, which hosts the Final Four there this weekend, has said the law goes against what higher education and America are all about.
I never thought I’d say this, but I agree with Sir Charles Barkley. They ought to yank the tournament from the state.
“As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states’ cities,” Barkley said.
On Sunday, Stephanopoulos couldn’t get a yes or no answer when he asked Pence “if a florist in Indiana refuses to serve a gay couple at their wedding, is that legal now in Indiana?, but by Tuesday morning, the governor was backpedaling.
“This law doesn’t give businesses the right to deny services to anyone,” Pence told reporters.
Pence also urged lawmakers in his state to pass legislation making that clear, but you have to wonder whether he is reacting to public pressure or speaking his conscience.
I hope it is the latter. I hope he makes this right.
They say hindsight is 20-20, but it would appear that Pence hadn’t taken that backward glance when he signed this legislation. If he had, he’d know better.
No matter where you stand on issues of sexual orientation, there is no good reason to refuse service to anyone, not even in the name of religious liberty.
One of my favorite hymns is “Just as I Am,” the song that became the altar call in the Billy Graham crusades. It is a reminder that no matter how “poor, wretched, blind” we are, God stands with open arms ready to accept us.
So why is it some Christians are willing to shun and even refuse to serve an entire group of people simply because they disagree with their lifestyle?
It’s worth saying here that Indiana isn’t alone. A federal version of the religious freedom law was enacted in 1993, but dozens of states have passed their own versions since then, including one passed unanimously in Illinois. To the state’s credit, it added specific protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation several years later.
The backlash in Indiana didn't surprise Jeff Graham, executive director of Georgia Equality, an organization that works to advance fairness, safety and opportunity for the LGBT community.
“Basic fairness and valuing diversity is something that the corporate community there has not only embraced but is taking the lead on,” Graham told me.
He believes that the law undercuts basic tenets of fairness, serves to further divide us and is a vehicle to discriminate.
"The backlash we've seen is exactly what we would see here in Georgia if our law would pass without including strong anti-discrimination protections," Graham said.
Here’s Graham’s other big concern: Georgia is one of only three states that does not have a statewide civil rights law.
I can think of a couple of life-death exceptions where a “religious freedom” law could rightly apply, but baking wedding cakes and making floral arrangements aren’t among them. Wouldn’t we all fare better if we’d just look over our shoulders and consider our past mistakes?
I mentioned the sit-ins. Those four black kids only wanted a cup of coffee. A cup of coffee.
In Indiana, an uncomfortable turn in the spotlight
The talk at Rabbi Michael Friedland’s seder table in South Bend, Ind., was about Memories Pizza in the small Indiana town of Walkerton. Not that the celebrants already had tired of unleavened food — rather, they were bemused at how the restaurant owner’s stand in favor of the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act was turned into a windfall.
“The owner said that if someone asked them to cater a gay wedding, they wouldn’t do it,” said Friedland, who leads Conservative Sinai Synagogue. A four-day crowdfunding campaign in support of the pizzeria, set up by conservative commentator Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV network, raised $842,387.
“Someone joked that the synagogue should come out in favor of discriminating against gays, and we could raise almost a million dollars, too,” Friedland said. “Somebody else asked who would go to a pizza parlor to cater a wedding.”
The catering question was hypothetical, and the pizzeria’s owner said they would serve gay couples in the restaurant.
But the national attention that focused on Indiana after Republican Gov. Mark Pence signed the bill into law on March 26 has been something that Hoosiers — and the state’s 17,000 Jews — are unaccustomed to. The fact that in the face of national outrage the law’s proponents passed a “fix” a week later, which the governor signed, says that religious freedom cannot come at the expense of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender persons and has calmed the atmosphere for now.
“There’s a little bit of schadenfreude — that the governor was embarrassed and had to walk this back,” Friedland said.
Still, the unfriendly spotlight on Indiana — and the travel bans and beginnings of a commercial boycott — “is not how we want to be the center of attention,” said Rabbi Sandy Sasso, rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, the state capital.
“Every time I bump into someone, they say ‘I can’t believe this is happening. I’m so embarrassed.’ You really can’t go anywhere without people talking about it.”
In Evansville, at the southwest end of the state, Rabbi Gary Mazo spoke at his Seder about the meaning of freedom in the context of the RFRA debate.
“I emphasized that in today’s world, where we are no longer slaves, we are compelled to focus our efforts on both remembering and working toward securing freedom for those who are oppressed, enslaved or persecuted,” said Mazo, of Reform Temple Adath B’nai Israel. “I then made it very clear that we live in a state that has sanctioned oppression and bigotry under the guise of religious freedom, and our job is to combat that.”
Mazo said the clarifying legislation passed on April 2 does not resolve the controversy. “It was too little, too late, and the law should never have been enacted and should be repealed.”
“At this point, we’re doing what we can to make sure the rights of minority religious communities are being addres-sed,” said David Sklar, director of government affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, which opposed RFRA.
Sklar said the JCRC began discussing the bill last summer. The agency opposed the legislation and lobbied against it as “less of a specifically LGBT issue and more of an issue of potential discrimination,” he said.
“Decades of court precedent has resulted in a workable balance in Indiana between individual and religious freedoms. RFRA would upset the balance,” he explained.
And although Jews are protected by the constitutions of Indiana and the United States, “RFRA could cloud and confuse the landscape of religious freedom in the United States,” Sklar said.
Jews have come down on both sides of the issue, and an equal number of Jews testified before legislative committees for and against RFRA, Sklar added. But the overwhelming majority of Indiana Jews oppose the legislation, he said.
Rabbi Yisrael Gettinger, of Congreg-ation B’nai Torah in Indianapolis, has come out in favor of RFRA. The Orthodox rabbi appeared with Pence in the photo taken at the first bill signing, along with “supportive lawmakers, Franciscan monks and nuns, Orthodox Jews and some of the state’s most powerful lobbyists on conservative social issues,” according to USA Today.
Gettinger declined to speak for this story. Last year, he explained his opposition to “homosexual acts” to the Indianapolis Star: “One cannot be more certain of something being inappropriate if it’s called an abomination in the Bible,” he said. “Those are not my words. Those are the Bible’s words. Those are God’s words.”
Critics of the bill say that it was not promoted to assure religious freedom, but to hold fallback position after the U.S. Supreme Court in 2014 let stand a circuit court’s decision to strike down Indiana’s ban on gay marriage.
“Given who was at the original signing, saying they didn’t mean to discriminate against gays was a little hard to buy,” Friedland said. “Most people saw it as a reaction to the frustration that gay rights have moved too far.”
“It’s part of this trend after Hobby Lobby,” the Supreme Court decision that decided that a corporation can be considered a person under RFRA, said Rachel Laser, deputy director of the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement.
Laser and others interviewed for this article differentiated the Indiana RFRA — and others under consideration in Arkansas, North Carolina and elsewhere — from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed under President Bill Clinton in 1993.
“It was to be a shield for religious people. It allowed a boy who wants to wear his yarmulke in school or the Catholic priest who wants to give communion wine to his child parishioners. These new RFRAs are intended to be used as a sword to discriminate,” Laser said.
Nineteen states have RFRA laws on the books. Asked why Indiana was singled out for attention, Sklar said one reason was that it had more potential than others to be discriminatory.
“In the Indiana law, what a person entails is much broader. And Indiana did not have the protections for LGBT persons in place that other states do.”
Although the fixed RFRA does not make gays a legally protected class, it does say they cannot be discriminated against.
“This is the first time that a state law makes a positive reference to LGBT Hoosiers,” Sasso said. “The only good thing to come out of this is the outrage of the community that forced the governor and legislators to revisit this.”
On April 9, Indianapolis diners at any of four restaurants owned by Patachou Inc. can support gay rights at what owner Martha Hoover calls a “sit-in.” All proceeds for a $50 four-course meal will go to Lamda Legal, a civil rights group supporting LGBT communities.
The event is an example of how Jewish entrepreneurs are joining others in the business community in opposing discriminatory legislation.
“If you allow any discrimination, who controls the leap to what comes next?” Hoover said.
She calls the Republican backing of RFRA “both a miscalculation and a tremendous lack of leadership. It did catch them off-guard and suggests how out of touch they are.”
That disconnect is particularly strong with young adults, said Rabbi Leonard Zukrow of Temple Beth-El, a Reform congregation in Munster, an Indiana town in suburban Chicago. “This is not an issue for them. Young people in Indiana are worried about jobs.”
“Our tradition speaks to inclusiveness,” he added, and quoted from the Passover Haggadah: “To all who are hungry come and eat.”
Indiana’s apparent lack of hospitality is ill-advised “for a state that is not a leading state for business opportunities,” Friedland said.
Following the passage of the “fix,” the governors of New York, Washington and Connecticut canceled their travel bans to Indiana.
The fix does not mean all is well in Indiana, Hoover said.
By “signing one law,” Pence “has damaged the state,” she said. “Our concern is, how long lasting is the damage?”
Earth Day & Bill Penzey
UPDATE: Treeper Tourets writes –
I wrote to Spice House to suggest that some of Mr. Penzy’s customers were unhappy about his behavior. She wrote:
“No kidding. What business owner who really likes his customers would care so little about losing them? On the plus side for us, we have had lots of people jump ship to us, so I kind of hope he keeps writing those wacky newsletters! My parents, Ruth and Bill Penzey, Sr. started our business, The Spice House, in 1957 and we own the original company. We are all about the top quality spices and the freshest hand ground and mixed seasonings. Our politics are very different than Bills, but that is irrelevant as our opinions about anything other than food, have no part in our business. We would never use our company as soap box. So please give us a try and encourage your friends to do the same.
Facebook Page https://www.facebook.com/thespicehouse
This week I placed an order with Penzey’s Spices, a company headquartered in Milwaukee, WI. Penzey also has retail stores in various locations, including the town where my daughter lives (which is where I first became aware of the company) and a place not far from where I live, so I have occasionally patronized their business.
They also have a catalog that they mail out periodically. Lately it has come to my attention that the owner of the company, Bill Penzey Jr., includes a “newsletter” in his catalog, which is his soapbox to lecture his customers about diversity and other topics close to the hearts of progressives.
Last year, Charlie Sykes wrote about it for AM Radio, WTMJ – Bill Penzey’s Idea Of Diversity: Lots of White People in Volkswagens :
We know that the owner of Penzey’s Spices is concerned about diversity, because he says he does… repeatedly. Make that obsessively. In recent company catalogues that purport to sell spices, Penzey has lashed out at white racist suburbanites who vote for racist Republicans. He knows that they are racists, because of the lack of “diversity.”
In the last year, Bill Penzey has offered letters denouncing the use of Indian mascots at Mukwonago High School and bizarre letter in May that denigrated the citizens of Waukesha for their ‘different way of thinking” and “race-based politics.”
Now, Penzey had doubled down:
Segregation is no longer some grim-faced governor standing on the steps of the Capitol shouting, “Segregation now-tomorrow-forever!” Segregation today has grown into a multi-step process. It starts with the new, more polished leaders who, with a smile, send ever-so-subtle messages that America is a whites-first nation. Next, AM radio personalities turn that smile to a sneer and pass it on to their listeners, who turn that sneer into anger. That anger does an amazing job of producing lopsided vote totals in places with little diversity, but it’s poison to everything that is good in our lives and a roadblock across the path of Kindness that leads to cooking.
Well, speaking of little diversity, local blogger Tom McMahon decided to take a deeper look at Penzey-land. He emails:
Bill Penzey mentioned “places with little diversity” in his firm’s Summer of Love 2014 catalog. But I went through all 64 pages of that catalog and could not find a single photo of an African-American in the whole thing. Sure, I found lots and lots of photos of white folks doing white people stuff, but no African-Americans. Why? Is he afraid they might scare off his lily-white clientele?
Read more : http://www.620wtmj.com/blogs/charliesykes/267078611.html
Wow. Wisconsin politics is really brutal.
Back to me and my recent order with Penzey Spices. Last night I received an email from Bill Penzey regarding his company’s celebration of Earth Day (it’s also available at their website). Most companies do celebrate holidays, Earth Day being just one of them. I also received one from America’s Test Kitchen regarding eco-friendly gadgets, for example. Bill Penzey takes it a step further, as you will see. Some text is bolded by me for emphasis:
Earth Day 2015 is exciting. We really are at the point where there are few obstacles left in our path before we start dealing with climate change in earnest. For the Earth Day issues of science and conservation, there are other websites that can speak better about the obstacles in those fields. As a website that promotes all the good things set in motion through cooking, the obstacle we think we can help with is anger. From the responses to the email we sent out asking for Earth Day help a couple weeks ago, we can say there is a fair amount of anger out there and it’s getting in the way of what needs to be done.
Some of the anger is at those still dismissing the science and instead believing the doubt. Some of the anger is at those working to maintain the profits of the old fossil fuel industry by promoting that doubt. But mostly the anger is at the politicians who know the science is real and still stand in the way of what needs to be done. It’s easy to justify the anger if the question we are asking is “What kind of person is willing to risk destroying the future of our environment to advance their political career?” Still this anger does little more than fuel their supporters. Maybe the kinder question might be, “What events in their lives left them willing to place their own political gains in front of everyone else’s needs?”
So for today and for Earth Day we are highlighting some stories and recipes from cooks who are facing situations that are all too often met with anger. Through their kindness and compassion these cooks are setting in motion a very different future.
How to Act Upon Your SWOT Analysis
So, you’ve finally got your hands on a completed SWOT matrix. You’ve identified internal strengths and weaknesses, as well as external opportunities and threats. You’ve begun to see your company in a whole new light.
Ideally, there are two stages of action you should take upon completing a SWOT analysis. First, you should attempt to match your strengths with your opportunities. Next, you should try to convert weaknesses into strengths. Let’s take a look how this works.
Acting On Your Strengths
One of the best things about the strengths you identified in your SWOT analysis is that you’re already doing them.
In our example above, the restaurant’s location, reputation, and seasonal menu are all strengths. This tells the fictitious company that it should continue to experiment with its popular seasonal menu. It also tells the company it should continue to develop and nurture the strong relationships with its regular customers that have strengthened the restaurant’s reputation in the community.
Essentially, acting upon your business’ strengths consists of “do more of what you’re already good at.”
Shoring Up Your Weaknesses
Acting on the weaknesses you identified in your SWOT analysis is a little trickier, not least because you have to be honest enough with yourself about your weaknesses in the first place.
Going back to our example, some of these weaknesses are very challenging to act upon. Going up against the considerable purchasing power of rival chain restaurants can be very difficult for smaller, family owned businesses. The restaurant is also struggling with its limited reach, the restrictions of a modest advertising budget, and is also failing to leverage the potential to increase sales by allowing customers to order food online through delivery apps like Foodler or GrubHub.
However, that’s not to say all hope is lost. It might be harder for our example business to compete with a chain, but there are plenty of other ways small companies can be more competitive – such as by developing strong, meaningful relationships with customers, which was not only one of the company’s strengths, but also something chain restaurants simply cannot offer.
The Opportunities section of your SWOT analysis is by far the most actionable, and that’s by design. By identifying opportunities by evaluating your organization’s strengths, you should have a ready-made list of targets to aim for.
In the example above, increasing consumer appetites for ethically produced, locally grown ingredients is a major opportunity. However, our restaurateurs cannot rest on their laurels – there’s still work to be done. In this example, this may involve investing in technical expertise to take advantage of the opportunities presented by food delivery apps, or sourcing locally grown produce more aggressively in an attempt to reduce costs.
It’s also important to avoid hubris or complacency in your opportunities. Even if you have an iron-clad advantage over every other business in your industry, failing to devote sufficient time, money, or personnel resources in maintaining that advantage may result in you missing out on these opportunities over time.
Every business’ opportunities will differ, but it’s vital that you create a clearly defined roadmap for capitalizing upon the opportunities you’ve identified, whether they be internal or external.
Anticipating and mitigating the threats identified in your SWOT analysis may be the most difficult challenge you’ll face in this scenario, primarily because threats are typically external factors there’s only so much you can do to mitigate the potential damage of factors beyond your control.
Every threat, and the appropriate reaction to that threat, is different. Regardless of the specific threats you’ve identified in your SWOT analysis, responding to and monitoring those threats should be among your very top priorities, irrespective of the degree of control you have over those threats.
In the example above, all three threats are particularly challenging. To compete with the prices of its chain competitors, our restaurateurs may be forced to either compromise on their values to secure cheaper ingredients, or willingly cut into their profit margins to remain competitive. Similarly, economic uncertainty is virtually impossible to fully mitigate, making it a persistent threat to the stability of our example restaurant business.
In some SWOT analyses, there may be some overlap between your opportunities and threats. For example, in the analysis above, the popularity of locally sourced ingredients was identified as an opportunity, and heightened competition was identified as a threat. In this example, highlighting the restaurant’s relationships with local farmers – further reinforcing the restaurant’s commitment to the local community and regional economy – may be an effective way for our restaurateurs to overcome the threat posed by the increasingly desperate chain restaurants vying for their customers.
When compiling the results of your SWOT analysis, be sure to look for areas of crossover like this and see if it’s possible to seize an opportunity and reduce a threat at the same time.