Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Letter to the Editor from the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council on the Need for Vigilance to Guard Against Anti-Semitism and Hatred

This morning, The Indianapolis Star printed a letter to the editor written by Greg Maurer (co-chair of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council’s Israel Committee), Lindsey Mintz (Executive Director of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council), and me (in my capacity as past-president of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council). I’m reprinting it here (in case it should, at some point, be taken offline or wind up behind a paywall):

As Jewish families sat down to their Passover Seder this week to retell the story of the Jews’ exodus from Egypt, our hearts once again were heavy with the sadness of yet another senseless act of violence. As Jewish communities around the world celebrate our freedom from slavery, we know too well that we are still not free from the hatred and violence that require our constant vigilance.

Sunday’s shooting outside two Jewish communal institutions in Overland Park, Kan., by a white supremacist with a long history of promoting violence against Jews has demonstrated once again that anti-Semitism is not a thing of the past, and its putrid effects extend beyond the Jewish community.

Intolerance, hatred and violent acts against Jews are significant realities today. The Jewish community, like other minority communities, remains a target for the disaffected and for those to whom conspiracy theories have the ring of truth; but as we bear witness to this violence, we must recognize that it becomes incumbent upon all of us to help make sure that hatred is not allowed to take hold or force us to live in fear.

On the evening of April 27, we will mark the beginning of Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day. In Indianapolis, the Jewish community organizes several ways for people to honor the memory of the 6 million Jews and many millions of non-Jews who perished through a week of remembrance programming, including the State of Indiana’s 16th Annual Observance & Names Reading Ceremony April 30 in the Statehouse Rotunda.

But simply remembering the Holocaust is not enough. Although the mandate of “never again” has proven difficult to realize, the lessons of the Holocaust are more urgent than ever. The dangers of prejudice and racism, the consequences of indifference and silence, and the need to protect the vulnerable should command us to action.

We need to work together — all of us — to be sure that the hatred that fueled the Holocaust, the hatred that fuels genocides around the world, and the hatred that fueled the murders at two Jewish facilities in Kansas has no home here or anywhere.

When our children are young, we can help prevent the development of prejudice from taking root by seeking out books, programs and teachers that promote respect for diversity, address bias and encourage social action. As our children grow up, we need to maintain open lines of communication that will help us identify if — and when — our kids are grappling with bullying or cyber-bullying in school. And every day we can model behavior worth emulating: when you see intolerance or hatred directed toward anyone, make your voice for peace and respect echo loudly over the voices of hatred and the silence of indifference.

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Man’s inhumanity to man is not only perpetrated by the vitriolic actions of those who are bad. It is also perpetrated by the vitiating inaction of those who are good.”

This year during Passover, the bitter memory of Egyptian slavery will mix with the bitterness of Sunday’s act of terror, hatred and anti-Semitism. As the Indianapolis Jewish community stands in solidarity with the families of the victims, and the entire Kansas City community, we will pray for the redemption of all humankind, as we do each Passover season.

One of the best parts of being involved with an organization like the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (of which I served as president from 2008-2010) is the opportunity to collaborate with other (usually) like-minded people to address important issues. This letter is a perfect example of just such a collaboration. I’m pleased that I was able to lend my voice and name to this letter and I’m thankful for the input of Greg Maurer, Lindsey Mintz, and others in the drafting process.

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Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Sen. Mike Delph Lashes Out … Again

Earlier this year, when the Marriage Discrimination Amendment (HJR-3) passed the Indiana Senate but without the controversial second sentence (prohibiting things substantially similar to marriage), Sen. Mike Delph (R-Carmel), took to Twitter to unleash a hours’ long, overnight rant. A few weeks later, he was at it again. In his tweets, Sen. Delph not only showed a profound misunderstanding of how the Federal judicial system works (going so far, if I recall, as to argue that Federal Courts don’t have the power to find laws to be unconstitutional) but he also attacked a number of local journalists (by name), a prominent local businessman and philanthropist, and several prominent local churches (who, apparently, weren’t acting Christian enough for Sen. Delph).

Now that the legislative session has ended and the controversy surrounding same-sex marriage and the Marriage Discrimination Amendment has subsided (at least for the moment), Sen. Delph has apparently decided that the time was ripe to dive back into the subject matter by penning an accusatory and error-riddled screed that was published in yesterday’s issue of The Indianapolis Star. I’m going to reprint Sen. Delph’s column in its entirety below in order to respond to some of the claims that he makes. But go ahead and click on the link so that The Indianapolis Star gets the benefit of traffic to their website.

Opponents of Christian values don’t fight fair

With the flurry of federal litigation regarding Indiana’s marriage statute, a law that has been on the books since 1986, it appears that our Hoosier society is on the verge of walking through a door never negotiated. Homosexuality is probably the most discussed sin in a sea of hundreds. This Christian certainly stands in the front of the line of those in need of mercy and grace. But what the litigation suggests is indeed profound in terms of how our society orients itself and more important governs itself.

“Homosexuality is the most discussed sin”? Really? Not, oh, I don’t know, murder? Theft? Adultery? In my house, it’s probably shrimp. Or haircuts. And, before I go any further, it’s worth noting that we’re only, it appears, talking about sin as defined by certain religious traditions. Oh, and we’re talking “sin” as opposed to “law”.

You see principles of self-government were always predicated on a strong moral foundation usually anchored by our value system based in large part on the Bible. Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Back then, it’s hard to imagine these rights included gay marriage or civil unions. Especially when the Creator referenced is the same Creator from the Bible, the same Bible that references homosexuality as “an abomination in the sight of God.”

I agree that it is difficult to imagine that Thomas Jefferson thought of gay marriage as one of the rights that he was addressing in the Declaration of Independence. Then again, it’s also hard to imagine that Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, meant “all men” and not just “white men”. And clearly, when Jefferson wrote “all men” he meant men and not women (who, of course, didn’t get the right to vote until 1920). Or think of it this way: The Supreme Court’s landmark decision in 1967 that a state could not ban interracial marriage came from a lawsuit in which the defendant was Thomas Jefferson’s very own Commonwealth of Virginia. So, I wonder whether Jefferson’s view of the right to the “pursuit of happiness” was meant to exclude just gay couples, or gay and interracial couples. I guess that his list of people who were exempted from the right to the pursuit of happiness got edited out of the final draft. On the other hand, if we believe that Jefferson was making a broad, hopeful statement about equality and the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all, then it’s hard to understand how he would have objected to treating two people, who want nothing more than to share their love and happiness with one another as being equal to “all men”.

Sen. Delph also makes the claim that the “Creator” referenced by Jefferson “is the same Creator from the Bible”. Maybe. Or maybe not. Historians and theologians are quite divided on this subject. I don’t want to go too far astray here, but Jefferson, like many of the Founding Fathers, was a deist who rejected the notion of a deity with direct influence over the affairs of man. And Jefferson, in particular, rejected all supernatural elements of the Bible (going so far as to edit his Bible to remove all supernatural elements!). Thus, it is no coincidence that the Declaration of Independence refers to a “Creator” and to “Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God” but never directly references G-d or Jesus or even Judeo-Christian principles. However, in their zeal to convince others that America is, indeed, a “Christian Nation”, people like Sen. Delph have tried to co-opt the Declaration and the Founding Fathers for their purpose. (For more on this subject, I recommend both Liars for Jesus and Alan Dershowitz’s Blasphemy: How the Religious Right Is Hijacking Our Declaration of Independence.)

One other thing worth noting here: Sen. Delph talks about self-government being “predicated on a strong moral foundation usually anchored by our value system based in large part on the Bible.” Um, no. Not really. Our self-government and laws have very little to do with the Bible, notwithstanding the efforts of folks like Sen. Delph and other members of the religious right and Christian nationalist movement. When Sen. Delph went on his first Twitter rant, he seriously claimed that our legal system was based on the Ten Commandments:

Our penal code comes in part from the 10 Commandments. Thou shall not steal. Thou shall not murder….

To which I replied:

Oh, so that explains why we prohibit other religions and other gods, right?

Sen. Delph didn’t understand the snark that I was throwing his way:

Not sure where you got that from but whatever

So I tried to help him understand:

You said penal code was based on 10 Commandments. In fact, that’s false. Penal code has some …

… similarity to many civilizations’ laws. But our penal code omits many elements of 10 Commandments…

… because of their religious elements. Our penal code has as much to do with the Code of …

… Hammurabi as the 10 Commandments.

Sen. Delph then pointed, once again, to the two Commandments that are a part of our penal code:

Thou Shall Not Steal, Thou Shall Not Murder….penal code is heavily infl. by the OT.

In response to Sen. Delph’s tweet about the influence of the Old Testament on our penal code, I tweeted:

Penal code outlaws shrimp, mixed fabrics, haircuts, and other religions?

Penal code permits slavery, stoning, and so forth? Do we punish those who don’t tithe? Do we …

… prohibit women from speaking in churches? No. Our penal code has very little do with the Bible.

And then others on Twitter started having some fun, too (reformatted for readability):

  • Kyle Thompson: So stealing and murder are legal in countries without a Christian majority population?
  • Juli: Prohibitions for theft/murder transcend Christianity & even humanity. Laws not from OT.
  • Dr. Merkwürdigliebe: I take you have never studied non-Christian cultures and history.
  • nathanframpton: those laws wouldn’t exist outside the OT??? Common sense laws.
  • Steph Mineart: But the OT cribbed heavily from earlier Hindu ten commandments theft, murder, most of ten commandments were laws before OT existed
  • talmun: Right. Steal and murder. What else you got? Is it illegal to covet? or say “Goddamn”?
  • Brian Stovall: Or perhaps it’s based on common sense/humanitarianism. Christians didn’t invent kindness.
  • Andrew Blejde: THEOCRACY- like Iran. Let’s gooooooo.
  • Doug Masson: Treaty of Tripoli ratified by an early Senate states US wasn’t founded on the Christian religion.
  • Eric Fudd: Yeah, no society ever came up with forbidding theft and murder before the 10 Commandments. What? You mean we can eat shellfish and don’t have to stone disobedient children? Rats. Which 10 Commandments? The one forbidding cooking kids in mothers milk?
  • Jackola: those are basic human ethics practiced by all religions&ppl. Don’t claim so much credit.

I responded:

Better question is whether it’s the version that prohibits graven images, like a man on a crucifix.

Not surprisingly, Sen. Delph didn’t respond (at least not directly) to this thread or reply to any of the further queries and criticisms of his claim. (That was actually par for the course during his Twitter rants; he’d make an unsupported claim or allegation and, when challenged with facts or by someone who knew what they were talking about, he’d either ignore that particular conversation thread or just block the person who was getting the better of him.)

Anyway, I hope you see my point regarding Sen. Delph’s claim that our “strong moral foundation” is “usually anchored by our value system based in large part on the Bible”. And I hope you recognize how offensive that claim is to those who come from different religious or faith backgrounds (or none) because, in essence, Sen. Delph is implicitly suggesting those who don’t have a value system anchored in the Bible don’t have a strong moral foundation. So take note, Native Americans, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, atheists, Mormons, and everyone else who isn’t a Christian or Jew: It appears that Sen. Delph is questioning your “strong moral foundation”. I’d also note that America was really the first modern nation without a state church to tell us what’s wrong and what’s right. And we seem to have done OK.

Rights come from God and are inalienable, meaning they cannot be taken away by man, or more important, by government. Governments are instituted among men to protect those rights. Not even courts have the power to create or remove rights. So how can a right exist that does not come from our Creator and what modern rights do we honestly believe are divinely inspired as opposed to invented and imposed by a left-wing orthodoxy?

No, Sen. Delph, rights don’t come from G-d (or at least not all rights). Even Jefferson only said that people are “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (emphasis added). Thus, for example, I don’t see any reference to the right to bear assault rifles but I do note that marriage is pretty close to that core principle of happiness (at least I hope it is!). Moreover, the Declaration may have made that point about rights being inalienable but the Declaration of Independence is not a governing document of the United States. For that we have to look to the Constitution which, guess what, sets out rights (and limits others). Thus, for example, while the Bible may have condoned slavery, the Constitution specifically took away the right to own slaves. And how are rights added and subtracted from the Constitution? By the governed, who have the right to amend the Constitution. Also, don’t forget all of the other sorts of ways in which men and government do take away rights, including life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, on a daily basis. We imprison — and sometimes execute — felons. We tax people. We prohibit them from doing all sorts of things that might be seen to be infringements of their liberty or pursuit of happiness (why can’t you take a gun on an airplane, have sex with your neighbor’s toddler, stone your disobedient child, or light up a marijuana cigarette?).

Sen. Delph also regurgitates a common right-wing talking point that demonstrates his fundamental misunderstanding of how our system works: “Not even courts have the power to create or remove rights.” You see, those on the right complain when courts (especially Federal courts) “create” new rights. But that isn’t what courts are doing at all; rather, courts are examining the Constitution and our other laws and determining whether something is included within an articulated right. Thus, when the Supreme Court decided that states couldn’t ban interracial marriage, the Supreme Court wasn’t creating a new right for blacks and whites to marry one another, but was simply articulating that the right to a choice in marriage was already a right guaranteed by the Constitution. And that is the core argument being made by those challenging statutes banning same-sex marriage. They’re not looking for a new right; rather, they’re asking for courts to recognize that marriage equality is already a right guaranteed by the Constitution and that existing right is being violated.

Sen. Delph asks “how can a right exist that does not come from our Creator”? Hmm. I’d suggest that slavery fits into this pretty well. We have a right to be free from slavery even though G-d gave specific instructions on who could be enslaved and how to care for a slave. Reading the Bible seems to suggest that G-d gave some people the right to own slaves and the right to take and enslave others in certain situations. So which is it? The right to own slaves or the right to be free of slavery? Or let’s take something closer to our political system: Voting. Remind me where G-d talks about the right to vote. I must have missed that chapter (you know, with all of the kings letting their subjects vote on the proper way to venerate G-d…; what? that chapter was deleted?). And it took about 75 years for non-whites to get the right to vote, another 55 years before women got the right to vote, and still 50 more years before suffrage was extended to 18 year olds. Did those rights come from the Creator or from our system of government? For that matter, are democracies and republics inherently Judeo-Christian formulations or are they, in fact, counter the historical “truths” of both Judaism and Christianity?

Finally, Sen. Delph asks “what modern rights do we honestly believe are divinely inspired as opposed to invented and imposed by a left-wing orthodoxy”. I’m not sure what he means by “left-wing orthodoxy” other than using that as a simple term to embody all of those with whom he disagrees (which, given how far to the right he’s tacked on many issues, would seem to include a huge swath of Hoosiers). As to the first part of his question, I disagree with the basic premise. “Divinely inspired”? Where does that notion even come from. Even if we assume that there is a “Creator” who has endowed “all men” with “certain inalienable rights”, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t other rights that weren’t similarly “endowed,” that don’t come from the mere fact of human existence, or that don’t flow from the consent of the people. For example, women have a right to be treated equally in terms of the financial benefits made available by colleges and universities for athletic programs (Title IX). I don’t think that was “divinely inspired”. Nor do I think that there was any divine inspiration in the notion that those with disabilities should have the right to reasonable accommodations in the workplace. What about the “right” to quality, affordable healthcare? Is that “divinely inspired” (and if so, why do Republicans oppose it so strongly…)? And it certainly isn’t “divinely inspired” to suggest that people have a right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment when the Bible specifically calls for an “eye for an eye”. And perhaps someone can explain how the G-d of the Bible has “divinely inspired” the right of people who worship another deity or no deity at all to do so freely and without the sort of divinely inspired punishments described throughout the Bible. I mean, the beginning of the Ten Commandments is all about not worshipping other gods yet here in America were give all people the right to the free exercise of their religion!

Probably the biggest mess of all was when the government started involving itself in marriage. Tax benefits, estate planning benefits, societal legitimacy are all things traditional marriage brings participants. Even so the stability of society from traditional two parent families has served our state and nation well for years. This is what we are walking away from in our unquenchable thirst for political correctness and false tolerance.

Here we go again. “This is what we are walking away from in our unquenchable thirst for political correctness and false tolerance”. Wow. Just … wow. No, Sen. Delph. Nobody is asking you to walk away from traditional marriage. You don’t have to divorce your wife and find a drag queen to marry (though one has to wonder after his Twitter rant and this column whether … no … sorry … not going there; no reason to get personal, as tempting as the joke was). Yes, traditional marriage brings benefits. To some. And those benefits aren’t going away! But why shouldn’t others be entitled to similar benefits (you know, the pursuit of happiness and whatnot)? But we do have families that don’t look like traditional marriages. Are those families lacking in “social legitimacy”? Really? Is society really less stable because not all families look like the Cleaver family? Perhaps Sen. Delph should spend more time worrying about the growing number of Americans who aren’t getting married or who are divorcing and stop worrying so much about people who want to get married.

Sen. Delph also forgets that governments started getting involved in marriage … well, not long after marriages started. After all, for much of history, many marriages weren’t about love at all. They were about economic decisions tying families or even nations together. How many European wars were fought or ended with political marriages and important factors?

Oh, and “false tolerance”? What the hell does that even mean? It’s “false” for me to think that consenting adults should be allowed to marry the person that they love? It’s “false” for me to believe that we should respect diversity and shun bigotry? It’s “false” for me to respect your religious beliefs even if I disagree with them? It’s “false” for me to think that I should judge you by the quality of your character rather than the color of your skin, the deity you worship, or the person you love? No. “False tolerance” is claiming to be tolerant while doing what you can to enact laws that will harm people who are different than you, something Sen. Delph knows a lot about (for those new to this blog, he was one of the prime proponents of harsh anti-immigrant bills here in Indiana).

Now there is evidence that not only will businesses be sued for operating according to their own faith traditions, but churches themselves can be sued if they refuse to ordain a union their God rejects. Social order has been inverted and no one knows the impact, not even the staunchest advocates for this hard turn to the left. I recall a lecture in Bloomington when I was in college by William F. Buckley. He was answering a question regarding the legalization of marijuana, something to which he seemed sympathetic. He said that until societies truly understand the social costs and benefits of public policy and know that the benefit outweighs the cost, they should tread carefully. No one knows the end of the path we now walk.

And here we come to the point where Sen. Delph leaves the realm of sane dialogue and enters the bizarre conspiracy world premised on bullshit. Let’s take the simple part first: “Churches themselves can be sued if they refuse to ordain a union their God rejects”. No. They can’t. Period. End of story. But the lie is good to scare people with a worldview like Sen. Delph’s. Think of it this way: When was the last time that you heard of a Catholic church being sued for refusing to marry a divorced woman? When was the last time you heard of a Jewish synagogue being sued for refusing to perform an interreligious marriage? When was the last time you heard of any church being sued for what it teaches or believes? Remind me again how many members of the Westboro Baptist Church are in jail for picketing soldiers’ funerals while holding up signs that say “God Hates Fags” or “God Hates America”. The First Amendment protects churches from being forced to conduct any sort of ceremony that isn’t within the framework of its views. And the First Amendment gives people the right to say pretty much any stupid, idiotic, or hateful thing that they want. So when Sen. Delph says that “churches themselves can be sued if they refuse to ordain a union their God rejects” he is simply making shit up. But it’s an scary idea that has resonance among the religious right, even if it’s completely wrong.

As to his point that businesses can be “sued for operating according to their own faith traditions” he is, once again, generally wrong. Now, that being said, I will acknowledge that some businesses have been sued for refusing to provide services to same-sex weddings. However, in each of those cases, the business isn’t being sued for “operating according to their own faith traditions”; rather the businesses have been sued for violating a democratically adopted law against discrimination in public accommodation. In other words, the communities where those businesses operate adopted laws that say not only can you not discriminate against people on the basis of color or religion, you also can’t discriminate against them on the basis of their sexual orientation. Moreover, I’d be curious to know whether Sen. Delph would raise the same concern about a business that didn’t want to serve blacks or Muslims and claimed that the refusal was in accordance with their faith traditions. I’ve written extensively on that issue, so I won’t rehash it here.

I’m really not sure what Sen. Delph means when he claims that “[s]ocial order has been inverted”. Is he arguing that the wealthy no longer have as much power within the social structure as they once did? Or perhaps his complaint is that whites are making up a decreasing percentage of the overall population while minority communities continue to grow. Or perhaps he’s just upset that so many once disadvantage communities (e.g., homosexuals) are now widely tolerated instead of shunned.

I do appreciate the concern that Sen. Delph raises (citing William F. Buckley, Jr.) that we should tread carefully when we make societal changes. So query, then, just how much longer we should have waited before deciding that slavery was bad. We certainly didn’t know what the economy of the South would look like without slavery or how the electoral system might be impacted with newly freed slaves being the right to vote (of course, Jim Crow laws that kept those slaves from voting helped give us time to see what those impacts might be…). We didn’t have a lot of empirical evidence to determine how our electoral system would change with the adoption of women’s suffrage; perhaps we should have “studied” the issue for longer. Maybe we should have taken a few more decades to determine whether allowing blacks to sit in the front of our busses or attend public universities would lead to societal decay. A societal change like the legalization of marijuana is one thing; but getting stoned isn’t a “right” in the same way that being able to marry the person you love is. Treading carefully is one thing, but not when that care and “go slow” approach is a burden to the pursuit of happiness of a disadvantaged minority.

Perhaps we should consider this in the case of opening the floodgates to traditional marriage. No one with a soul wants someone harmed or discriminated against for being gay. But they also don’t want more than 200 years of social norms flushed down the drain without knowing the impact on the world. This is our dilemma. We are becoming a society and world without boundaries. Anything goes if it has a market.

If I’m not mistaken, Sen. Delph has just acknowledged that he doesn’t have a soul. After all, isn’t his advocacy in favor of the Marriage Discrimination Amendment a form of discrimination against people for being gay? And again with the changes to society? We flushed thousands of years of societal norms down the drain when we rebelled against Britain and formed a democratic republic in which “all men” were (at least in theory) said be have been created equal. We flushed thousands of years of societal norms down the drain when we outlawed slavery. We flushed 150 years of societal norms down the drain when we gave women the right to vote. We flushed norms down the drain by allowing interracial marriages. We flushed norms down the drain when we let blacks drink from the same water fountains and swim in the same pools as whites. For that matter, we flushed thousands of years of norms down the drain when we stopped killing people for blasphemy, when we stopped using firing squads, when … oh, you get the picture. But same-sex marriage? Well, that’s apparently just too extreme.

Our world and our society change. But a “society and world without boundaries”? Really? Of course not. But it’s another sound bite that sounds good ’n’ scary! How bout this: We keep as boundaries those things that will hurt other people? And no, it’s not “anything goes”. There is a market for child porn but because children are children and therefore not capable of consent, there is a boundary that prohibits child porn. I hope that you can see by now that Sen. Delph is simply flailing, looking for anything or anyone to lash out against in his overwhelming fear that gay couples might, rather than be shunned or ostracized, be viewed with tolerance and treated with equality. Oh, wait. that’s “false tolerance” isn’t it?

The liberal indoctrination is endless as we watch cultural elitists attack traditional values and bedrock American social norms. Mickey Maurer, owner of the Indianapolis Business Journal, and John Krull, journalism director at Franklin College and publisher of The Statehouse File (and former head of the ICLU), have used their positions and media outlets to promote intolerance of traditional social norms, including long held Judeo-Christian views. Political reporters Brian Howey and Jim Shella reinvent the chic diet of false entitlement, false rights and false fairness while attacking proponents of traditional values suggesting a seemliness and dirtiness for those who cling to their guns and Bibles. And they are all supposed to be friends of the American experience, friends of freedom when it agrees with their perverted worldview.

“Liberal indoctrination”. Right. Suggesting that people be allowed to love is “liberal indoctrination”. I guess anything short of Benghazi!, Repeal Obamacare!, Fast & Furious!, plus efforts to restrict access to abortion and birth control or efforts to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation fall into Sen. Delph’s view of “liberal indoctrination”. I’m curious who these “cultural elitists” are? Educated people? People who think discrimination is bad? Anyone who doesn’t listen to Fox News, Glenn Beck, or Rush Limbaugh? People who are tolerant (well of people who are aren’t complaining about being prevented from being intolerant…)? I’m curious to know what “traditional values and bedrock American social norms” are being “attacked”. Marriage? Once again, Sen. Delph seems to be arguing that allowing same-sex marriage will somehow harm traditional marriage. Yet I’ve still never seen a coherent argument explaining just how a same-sex marriage will harm traditional marriages. For that matter, I have to wonder if Sen. Delph considers people like Britney Spears (she of the 58-hour marriage) to be “cultural elitists” attacking “traditional values and bedrock American social norms”.

And then Sen. Delph decides to just go for it and continues the attacks on Mickey Maurer, John Krull, Brian Howey, and Jim Shella that he started during his Twitter rant (where he went after several other local journalists and radio personalities, too). Personally, I just love that Christian Mike Delph is going to lecture Jewish Mickey Maurer on “long held Judeo-Christian views”. I’m guessing that Sen. Delph doesn’t think much of the fact the Jewish views on — well, just about everything! — have undergone near constant evaluation, re-evaluation, and modification for millennia (since long before Jesus…). The Jewish Bible says that homosexuality (like shrimp, cheeseburgers, haircuts, and mixed fabrics) is an abomination. But several thousand years after those words were written, huge majorities of American Jews have decided that tolerance is more important and more biblical than denigration. And even though I’m not a biblical expert, it seems to me that a core component of most all faiths in the notion of loving one another and not acting in a way that will harm others.

Note further how Sen. Delph frames things: To “promote intolerance of traditional social norms” and the “chic diet of false entitlement, false rights and false fairness”. Really? George Orwell would be proud. Think about it: The act of promoting tolerance toward disadvantaged minority communities is, to Sen. Delph, the promotion of intolerance toward those who want to remain intolerant! This is a view that we’ve seen more and more in recent months with the rise of the “religious freedom” cudgel being wielded against those advocating for the expansion of rights; that is, it’s intolerant to not allow me to be intolerant of whomever I want. Or, to put it another way, to people like Sen. Delph, rights, entitlements (you know, like equality), or fairness with which he disagrees is “false” and those who advocate for those entitlements, rights, or fairness are the bad guys. The abolitionists were the bad guys, while the slave owners were the good guys; the women suffragettes were the bad guys, while the men opposing expansion of suffrage were the good guys; blacks fighting to be allowed into colleges or to sit at a lunch counter were the bad guys, while the poor downtrodden “whites only” colleges or “no negroes allowed” businesses owners, standing up for their traditional values, were the good guys. That’s the topsy turvy, Alice in Wonderland world of Sen. Delph and his ilk.

As to “guns and Bibles”, all I can say is that if you thump your Bible as a basis for bigotry, then you really have no business thumping that Bible. When you put guns up against tolerance, I know which may win, but I also know which is right. Interesting, isn’t it, to note that those who cling to their guns are not the ones who’ve been fighting for years, decades, or even centuries to be entitled to basic equality. We didn’t see African-Americans rise up with guns; nor did we see women brandishing firearms demanding their right to vote. And we don’t see the LGBT community taking up arms to fight for their right to be treated fairly. Nope. But we see many members of the straight, white, Christian majority “clinging” to the their guns apparently out of fear of losing their majority status or being forced to allow “others” to share in the vision of an America where all men are created equal.

I’m not really sure how it’s going to help a local politician with his political career to attack well-known and well-respected business leaders and philanthropists like Mickey Maurer (I wonder if Sen. Delph recalls that Indiana has a law school named for Maurer…). But attacking several journalists who have a very wide and broad audience? I’m not sure that The Indianapolis Star did Sen. Delph any favors by failing to edit out that particular paragraph. Perhaps that was by design.

It’s past time that we consider removing marriage completely from the confines of government, and let the church and other faith-based institutions marry according to their own belief systems and traditions. If I have learned anything over the last months in the HJR-3 debate, opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values don’t fight fair or with honor. They fight to win, and to date have been very successful. I have to give the devil his due. But the issue is still unresolved and thinking members of faith still have time to engage. There is hope for an outcome where we all can win. By then we may have a better understanding of the net social cost or benefit from the path we march down.

I want to break this final paragraph down into two parts, one of which I actually agree with. Sen. Delph suggests that we remove marriage from the confines of government. I think that’s probably a very good idea. Allow the government to recognize contractual relationships between people (call it marriage or union or whatever) and allow religious institutions (or non-religious institutions) to recognize some joining of couples under the purview and rules of those institutions. Have one, have the other, have both. But there really isn’t a reason for the government to be involved in marriage, per se. The government doesn’t recognize communion, bar or bat mitzvah, or any of a host of other religious-based events; why should marriage be different? However, to try to remove from the law the literally thousands of rights or obligations attendant to marriage would, in all likelihood, be completely impossible.

But then Sen. Delph decides to really tell us that he lives in a totally alternate reality: “[O]pponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values don’t fight fair or with honor”. First of all: No. I started to offer a choice response, but then decided I’m a better person than that. So let me say this instead: I’m a supporter of same-sex marriage and I challenge you to show me how I haven’t fought fair or with honor. I’d suggest the same challenge with regard to any of the host of people who stood in the Statehouse to argue for their rights. How dare you tell them that they didn’t fight fair or with honor. I note that Sen. Delph makes the claim … but offers no basis to support it. Apparently, organizing with the business community, with churches, and with all sorts of other institutions and individuals is unfair. Apparently, refusing to sit idly by while you’re demonized is dishonorable. Apparently fighting back and standing up for equality and justice is wrong. At least it is in Sen. Delph’s inverted world. Now, I will acknowledge that in response to Sen. Delph’s Twitter rant, some people crossed a line and made personal attacks. That’s wrong. But those actions were in response to public statements by Sen. Delph; they weren’t a part of the organized effort to stop HJR-3.

You want to talk about not fighting fair? How about changing the number of a bill in order to confuse people? How about moving legislation out of a committee that was likely to kill it? Was that fair or honorable? How about lying to other legislators and Hoosier voters about what allowing same-sex marriage would do? How about lying about whether the second sentence of HJR-3 would ban civil unions or force universities to reconsider domestic partner benefit programs. Is that fair or honorable? Yet proponents of HJR-3 and opponents of same-sex marriage have done all of that (and much, much more). How about using your gay brother as a prop and then claiming that you don’t want to harm gay people? How about refuting nice things your brother said about you by telling a television station that he was on drugs? Is that fair or honorable? Accusing churches of not being Christian enough? Were you a supporter of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Sen. Delph? If so, how did that honor brave American soldiers who just happened to be gay? I could go on and on, but frankly I’m getting nauseous just thinking about it and about the tactics that homophobes have used to harm the gay community and to prevent our gay brethren from being treated with equality, not to mention fairness or honor. But I will suggest that calling supporters of same-sex marriage “the devil” is a bit like that proverbial pot and its kettle. I mean, it is satanic to argue that people be treated fairly, isn’t it?

Finally, your basic premise is, of course, flawed. You call those of us who support same-sex marriage (or who even simply oppose the Marriage Discrimination Amendment) “opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values”. I’m curious, to know Sen. Delph, whether you include in that grouping of “opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values” the numerous rabbis and cantors (including those from four of the six synagogues in the Indianapolis area) who opposed HJR-3? What about the clergy who stood up in the Statehouse to opposed HJR-3? Are they “opponents of traditional Judeo-Christian values”? You see, for many of us, one of the core bedrock tenets of “traditional Judeo-Christian values” is the notion of fairness and equality. Perhaps, sir, you are the real opponent of “traditional Judeo-Christian values”; perhaps, sir, you don’t have a fucking clue what those values really are. But I can tell you one thing: Real Judeo-Christian values don’t include hate, bigotry, homophobia, xenophobia, spreading falsehoods, fear-mongering, and the like; you know, the sorts of things that you seem to support.

Over the years, I’ve engaged in many good, positive conversations with Sen. Delph. We’ve disagreed, but we’ve managed to engage civilly and in good faith. However, with the claims on his Twitter rants and those in his Star op-ed, it seems clear to me that Sen. Delph has decided that he is no longer interested in a good faith dialogue and would rather try to scare people, demonize others, and invert the very notions of tolerance and intolerance. It is time for the people of Indiana to recognize that Sen. Delph is an embarrassment to our state, our legislature, and the civil society to which we aspire. He and his views should be put into the closet that he’s tried to hard to keep others locked in. We need to make views like those expressed by Sen. Delph become mere relics of a bygone era as we fight to make Indiana a beacon of tolerance rather than a last bastion of bigotry.


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