It almost seems redundant to once again revisit the events in Indiana of several weeks ago. And I wouldn’t even bother, except that I’ve seen several items on the television and in the media that miss a very important part of the story.
In a nutshell – Indiana Governor Mike Pense signed SB 101 into law on March 26, 2015. The bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was a variation of a similar bill that 19 other states had enacted. There was a slight difference with Indiana’s version, however, since the bill carried with it a significant risk of discrimination or refusal of service state wide to the LGBT population.
Before the bill had even been signed, several large companies with business in Indiana threatened to withdraw from any further dealings with the state. The bill was signed despite those protests.
Within hours, social media had erupted in fury, and businesses and other municipalities began to announce a boycott of the state, including CEOs from Angies’ List, Salesforce Marketing, Apple, PayPal, Anthem Inc., Eli Lilly, Cummins, Emmis, Roche, Dow AgroSciences. Mayors of some other American cities would no longer allow their representatives to visit Indiana on the jurisdictional dime. As the potential loss of income and taxes mounted into the hundreds of millions of dollars, the Governor began to back pedal on his decision, first announcing that the bill was simply being misunderstood, and then admitting that they would be putting amendments into the act, in an effort to calm the troubled waters.
In the midst of this chaos, a video was released that quickly went viral on Youtube. The owner of a small mom and pop pizzeria was filmed saying that their business would refuse to cater gay weddings.
The story was that ABC-57 reporter Alyssa Marino walked into a random shop – Memories Pizzeria – in the small town of Walkerton (Population 2,300), and asked owner Crystal O’Connor how the business felt about Indiana’s new Act. Her reply was that she was in favour of it, noting that while anyone could eat in her family restaurant, if the business were asked to cater a gay wedding, they would not do it. It conflicted with their biblical beliefs. The question was entirely hypothetical, as the business had never been asked to cater a same-sex wedding.
The backlash was immediate. Within 24 hours, after numerous emails, phone calls, and threats from bodily harm to bomb threats, the business was closed.
But within hours of the reportage, a GoFundMe page had appeared, with donations being sent to the family to offset their financial downfall. The page was shut down after 3 days, when donations reached over $840,000 dollars.
At the time, I thought the funding page was set up by a journalist who actually understood and empathized with the chaos that poor couple had been sucked into, based on a response to a hypothetical and malicious question by an opportunistic media. If that was the case, and based on how eagerly the public will turn on anyone for any perceived racism, sexism or other ism, I could only wish the couple well, and applaud the journalist’s actions. It’s the little guy, the Joe Public, who often winds up used and tossed aside in a ‘scandal’ such as this, and my concern was that they not be left penniless for their inadvertent martyrdom to their religious beliefs.
If only that high-minded sentiment had been true. And here’s where so many reporting on the situation have dropped the ball. As it turned out, the entire stunt was cooked up by a contributor to Glenn Beck’s website The Blaze. The contributor, Lawrence Jones, set up the page, and is also a political operative who has worked with James O’Keefe from Project Veritas as an “investigator” who has been involved with other political grandstanding in the past, including an attempt to “expose” fraud among “Obamacare Navigators” in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Lawrence Jones did not altruistically set up the GoFundMe page to help the Pizzeria or its owners; the page was set up to create divisiveness and to establish an “us against them” mentality, pitting religious Christians and their beliefs against the 5% of the country who identify as non-heterosexual.
I learned a lot about the world, and myself, during that week. I learned that most of us who live in a technological world are hyper-aware of events in other parts of the world, over which we have little or no control. I learned that politically inclined, social media addicts – like myself – tend to leap to conclusions, and knee-jerk into a strong left or right position. Some of those addicts will respond to those events with far too much enthusiasm, ramping up from their role of “concerned citizen” to “potential arsonist’ in the blink of an eye.
We may be brimming with good intentions, and righteous beliefs, but those beliefs have to be tempered with the knowledge that there are human beings being effected by our enthusiasm. It’s a very fine line between standing up for our own rights, and taking rights away from others.
I also learned that those of good hearts have to be constantly on the defensive against those with radical ideologies, whether religious or non-religious, who seek to manipulate those kind hearts for their own gain, and perceived political support.
And the most interesting thing I learned along the way was that many of my friends who identify as LGBT were completely unaware of the bill, or any of the events that followed the bill’s signing. That in itself was sociologically fascinating – it would seem that the most incensed and obsessed torch bearers were not those directly effected by the bill. We who sprang into action were more concerned that those we love or care about, be they hetero or homosexual, be respected for their diversity and rights, as human beings. Human beings are not toys to be used as political playthings.
In every society, there is a wide spectrum of beliefs. The key to an advanced and civilized society is to respect EVERY member who dwells within. Pitting citizens against each other, especially for political gain, is a dirty ploy that should not be rewarded by putting those divisive elements into power.