CNN is reporting that Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana Senate Bill 568 ("The Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act") into law earlier today (Thursday, March 26, 2015):

Indiana's governor signs bill allowing businesses to reject gay customers

pkg religious freedom bill nuts and bolts_00001916
Bill allows businesses to reject gay customers

Washington (CNN)Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law on Thursday a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of "religious freedom."

The bill has sparked an uproar among gamers and church groups that hold their conventions in Indianapolis and businesses that are threatening to pull out of the city.

Even the NCAA -- which is less than two weeks from hosting its men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis -- was critical, saying the organization is "committed to an inclusive environment where all individuals enjoy equal access to events" as it hinted the bill could damage the city's reputation as a host of major sporting events.

Jason Collins, who last year became the first openly gay active NBA player, asked Pence in a tweet whether it is "going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come" to the Final Four in two weeks.

Still, Pence signed it in a private ceremony in his office Thursday. In a statement explaining his decision, he pointed to President Barack Obama's health care law -- which triggered a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby to ensure the company wasn't required to cover birth control through its employees' health insurance plans.

"The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action," Pence said.

The move comes as Pence considers a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination -- and just a year after Pence and socially conservative lawmakers lost their first policy battle against gay Hoosiers. In 2014 they had sought to amend Indiana's constitution to ban same-sex marriages -- but were beaten back by a highly-organized coalition of Democrats, traditionally right-leaning business organizations and fiscally focused supporters of Pence's predecessor, former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels.

This year, though, the Republican-dominated state House and Senate both approved the "religious freedom" bill -- in part because it didn't receive the kind of public attention the gay marriage ban had drawn until it was already close to landing on Pence's desk.

Pence said in an interview with the WIBC radio station in Indianapolis on Thursday that the new law became controversial "because of the way some in the media have reported this."

Without referencing gay rights directly, he insisted that "this is not about any contemporary issue."

"This was a measure that frankly, Indiana should have enacted many years ago," Pence said. "It gives our courts guidance about evaluating government action and puts the highest standard -- it essentially says, if a government is going to compel you to act in a way that violates your religious beliefs, there has to be a compelling state interest."

Indiana doesn't currently have a law on the books protecting Hoosiers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. But a dozen counties do -- and opponents of the "religious freedom" law have said they're worried the new measure will be used to allow businesses to get around those local rules.

"The way the media has covered this in certain quarters -- I understand the concern that people feel," Pence told WIBC, pointing to the early-1990s congressional adoption of a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

If Pence decides to mount a dark horse presidential bid -- which looks increasingly unlikely as candidates like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker court the same supporters he would need -- the "religious freedom" bill could give him a boost among GOP primary voters, especially in socially conservative states like Iowa.

That right wing support had slipped after Pence, who built reputation during 12 years in Congress as a die-hard social conservative, broke from his party's orthodoxy earlier this year as governor and launched an expansion of Medicaid coverage -- with some conservative tweaks -- under President Barack Obama's health care law.

But signing the "religious freedom" bill could also badly damage his prospects in a general election, where polls have shown that voters increasingly oppose policies that discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Proponents have argued the bill doesn't target gays and lesbians specifically -- but that it does protect businesses that don't support same-sex marriage from having to provide services for those ceremonies.

Other states have passed similar laws. Eighteen others have similar measures on the books, and social conservatives have been re-energized in their push for "religious freedom" laws after the Supreme Court's decision in a health care-related case that allowed Hobby Lobby and other businesses to opt not to provide insurance coverage for contraception.

Also fueling the push: The Supreme Court's expected ruling in June on whether same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected and therefore legal in all 50 states.

But Pence and Republican lawmakers are running into intense criticism -- too late to stop the legislation from advancing, but in time for Pence to feel pressure to veto the bill rather than signing it into law.

They'd hoped it would become Pence's "Jan Brewer moment" -- a reference to the Arizona Republican governor who vetoed a similar bill last year, saying "it could divide Arizona in ways that we could not even imagine and no one would ever want."

The organizers of Gen Con, which draws thousands of gamers to Downtown Indianapolis restaurants and hotels each year, said they might move the event elsewhere if Pence signs the bill into law.

"Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state's economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years," Adrian Swartout, the owner of Gen Con LLC, told Pence in a letter.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which also holds a convention in Indianapolis, told Pence it could cancel its 2017 convention there, as well.

The chief executive of tech giant Salesforce told Pence that his company -- which had bought Indianapolis-based Exact Target for $2.5 billion in 2013 -- would abandon the state and its expansion plans there if he signed the measure into law.

And the Republican mayor of Indianapolis, Greg Ballard, broke with Pence on the bill, saying it would put his city's economy at risk.

"Indianapolis strives to be a welcoming place that attracts businesses, conventions, visitors and residents," Ballard said Wednesday in a statement. "We are a diverse city, and I want everyone who visits and lives in Indy to feel comfortable here."

So here's the thing about this, folks: This was probably written as an anti-gay bill. However, as it is written, it does NOT specifically mention homosexuals AT ALL. Nor does it mention whose religion it protects.  Not sure?  Here's the full text of the bill.  You can read it for yourself.

A BILL FOR AN ACT to amend the Indiana Code concerning civilprocedure.
Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Indiana:
SECTION 1. IC 34-13-9 IS ADDED TO THE INDIANA CODE AS
ANEWCHAPTER TO READ AS FOLLOWS [EFFECTIVE UPON PASSAGE]:
Chapter 9. Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Sec. 1. (a) As used in this chapter, "burden" means an action that directly or indirectly:
(1) constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by a person; or
(2) compels a person to take an action that is contrary to the person's exercise of religion.
(b) The term includes:
(1) withholding a benefit from a person;
(2) assessing a criminal, a civil, or an administrative penalty against a person; or
(3) excluding a person from a governmental program or denying a person access to a governmental facility.
Sec. 2. As used in this chapter, "compelling governmental interest" means a governmental interest of the highest magnitude that cannot otherwise be achieved without burdening the exercise of religion.
Sec. 3. (a) As used in this chapter, "exercise of religion" means the practice or observance of religion.
(b) The term includes a person's ability to:
(1) act; or
(2) refuse to act;
in a manner that is substantially motivated by the person's sincerely held religious belief, regardless of whether the religious belief is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.
Sec. 4. As used in this chapter, "person" means an individual, an association, a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a church, a religious institution, an estate, a trust, a foundation, or any other legal entity.
Sec. 5. As used in this chapter, "state action" means:
(1) the implementation or application of a state or local law or policy; or
(2) the taking of any other action; by the state or a political subdivision of the state.
Sec. 6. A state action, or an action taken by an individual based on state action, may not substantially burden a person's right to the exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a law or policy of general applicability, unless the state or political subdivision of the state demonstrates that applying the burden to the person's exercise of religion is:
(1) essential to further a compelling governmental interest;
(2) the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.
Sec. 7. (a) A person whose exercise of religion:
(1) has been substantially burdened; or
(2) is likely to be substantially burdened;
by a violation of section 6 of this chapter may assert the violation, or impending violation, as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the state or a political subdivision of the state is a party to the judicial proceeding.
(b) A person who asserts a claim or defense under subsection (a) may obtain appropriate relief from a violation, or an impending violation, of section 6 of this chapter, including relief against the state or a political subdivision of the state. Appropriate relief
under this subsection includes any of the following:
(1) Injunctive relief.
(2) Declaratory relief.
(3) Compensatory damages.
(4) Recovery of court costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
SECTION 2.An emergency is declared for this act.

So.  The next time you're in Indiana trying to buy kosher or halal meat and you aren't Jewish or Muslim, remember that the Jewish or Muslim butcher can deny you service because it would inhibit his freedom to worship as a Jew or Muslim.  Or when you want to buy a dreamcatcher at the New Age store, the clerk can deny service to you because you aren't a New Ager.  Or when you want to buy a book about paganism and the owner won't sell it to you because you're not a pagan.  It works both ways.  Sure, it will protect those Christians who don't want to sell cakes and flowers to gay couples planning a wedding because it inhibits the practice of their Christian beliefs; but it will also protect non-Christians who don't want to sell a Christian something because it would inhibit the practice of their religious beliefs, whether those are Judeo-Christian or not. Do you see how that works?  If anyone of any religion can prove that selling something to a customer is, for any reason, a burden, that person doesn't have to sell the customer the item.

Christians: is that the kind of person Jesus commands us to be?  The person who uses our religion to hurt other people when He told us to love God and love our neighbor?  If you think homosexuality is forbidden by the Bible, fine.  But just remember that Jesus says to love one another as He loves us.  Is refusing to sell someone a cake or flowers for his wedding, even if he is marrying a man, something Jesus would call loving?

When this backfires, and it will, it will be huge.  If you think it won't backfire, just remember that the Satanists in Oklahoma are building a monument of Baphomet in front of the oklahoma Statehouse in retaliation for the Ten Commandments being put up in front of the Capitol.  Because they can.  Because their freedom of religion gives them that right.

I really, REALLY hate it when people use Jesus as a reason to kill people.  Despite that, my own personal feeling has been that if people like this claim to know the same Jesus I claim to know, then those relationships with Jesus are between those people and Jesus.  And not really any of my business.

Until now.  I'm growing out of that belief as more and more people do and say stupid stuff in Jesus' name.

For example:

Starnes:  Well, I'm no theologian, but I suspect Jesus would tell that God-fearing, red-blooded American sniper, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, for dispatching another Godless jihadist to the lake of fire."  But, then again, I'm no theologian.

You're right, Mr. Starnes, you're no theologian.  Allow me to tell you EXACTLY where you got this whole thing wrong.

1. Jesus came to seek and save the lost.  Not kill the infidel.

Luke 19:10--10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save that which was lost.

Matthew 26:51-52 -- 51 And behold, one of those who were with Jesus reached out his hand and drew his sword and, striking the body servant of the high priest, cut off his ear.  52 Then Jesus said to him, Put your sword back into its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.

2.  A God-fearing person wouldn't be a sniper.

Exodus 20:13--13 You shall not murder.

Matthew 5:17-20--17 Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 22:34-40--34 Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"  37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[c] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[d] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

John 14:15-21--15 If you love me, keep my commands. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be[c] in you. 18 I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.19 Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. 21 Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.”

3.  Jesus doesn't want ANYONE being sent to the Lake of Fire.

John 3:16--For God so loves the world that He sent His only begotten Son, and whoever believes in in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

You know what? If you claim to follow Jesus, you don't get to throw around racist, homophobic, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, hate-filled speech and actions. You don't get to do that. And if you think you DO get to do those things, then you need to go back and read your New Testament again and again and again until you understand that it isn't Jesus filling your heart with hatred, but Satan.

 

I could probably begin this blog with a catchier example of what we need to rise up against, but then again, this is a pretty important little move on SCOTUS' part.

Let's talk McCutcheon, shall we? First, this article from The Washington Post from last October:

 

Everything you need to know about McCutcheon v. FEC

BY SEAN SULLIVAN

So what's this case all about?

Shaun McCutcheon is a conservative businessman from Alabama who likes to give money to political candidates and committees. He dished out thousands of dollars in donations last election cycle. He says he would have given more, if not for the law that says an individual can only donate a certain total amount each cycle to candidates and certain political committees. McCutcheon thinks the law is a violation of the First Amendment. The Republican National Committee, which joined McCutcheon in the case, agrees. From the perspective of the Federal Election Commission and those who favor tighter campaign finance restrictions, the limits are necessary to fight corruption.

How much can individuals give under the current law?

For the 2013-2014 cycle, individuals can give a total of $123,200 to candidates, national party committees and certain political committees, including a $48,600 limit on what individuals can give to candidates. There are also other limits. For example, an individual can only give $2,600 to a specific candidate for federal office, per election per cycle. While this case is focused on the aggregate limits, it's important keep all the limits in mind. (More on that in a moment.)

(Chart via FEC Web site.)

Why do these limits exist, anyway?

Because of changes to the Federal Election Campaign Act in 1974 that instituted them and created the FEC, the body that oversees and enforces campaign finance regulations. The act was amended in the wake of violations in the Watergate scandal.

So if the aggregate limits are struck down, what will it mean?

A couple of things. For one thing, wealthy donors who can afford to make many donations will have greater influence when it comes to donating to candidates directly. Under the current aggregate limit of $48,600, an individual can max out at 18 federal candidates per cycle. Think of how much more they could give in total if they maxed out at 50 candidates -- or even more.

Secondly, as The Washington Post's Robert Barnes and Matea Gold explain, defenders of the limits worry that such a ruling could dramatically increase the power and size of joint fundraising committees, which harness the fundraising power of different political committees. For example, the Obama Victory Fund joined together the DNC and Obama campaign last election cycle.

In addition, those who favor limits also worry that such a ruling could lead to doing away with all limits, including the individual limits mentioned above. It's worth noting that in the current environment, there are already entities called super PACs that are not subject to limits on how much money they can accept from donors.

So what is the court going to decide?

It's not clear. But it looks like Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. will be key in this case. It's less clear where they will come down, compared to the other conservatives justices, write Barnes and Gold.

And then on April 2, 2014, this happened:

Supreme Court ruling in McCutcheon v. FEC

The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down limits in federal law on the overall campaign contributions the biggest individual donors may make to candidates, political parties and political action committees. Read the full story.

And this is what all of this means for us and for United States politics:

 

Robert Reich: SCOTUS is inviting an American oligarchy

If wealth and income weren’t already so concentrated in the hands of a few, the shameful “McCutcheon” decision by the five Republican appointees to the Supreme Court wouldn’t be as dangerous. But by taking “Citizen’s United” one step further and effectively eviscerating campaign finance laws, the Court has issued an invitation to oligarchy.

Almost limitless political donations coupled with America’s dramatically widening inequality create a vicious cycle in which the wealthy buy votes that lower their taxes, give them bailouts and subsidies, and deregulate their businesses – thereby making them even wealthier and capable of buying even more votes. Corruption breeds more corruption.

That the richest four hundred Americans now have more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans put together, the wealthiest 1 percent own over 35 percent of the nation’s private assets, and 95 percent of all the economic gains since the start of the recovery in 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent — all of this is cause for worry, and not just because it means the middle class lacks the purchasing power necessary to get the economy out of first gear.

It is also worrisome because such great concentrations of wealth so readily compound themselves through politics, rigging the game in their favor and against everyone else. “McCutcheon” merely accelerates this vicious cycle.

As Thomas Piketty shows in his monumental “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” this was the pattern in advanced economies through much of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. And it is coming to be the pattern once again.

Picketty is pessimistic that much can be done to reverse it (his sweeping economic data suggest that slow growth will almost automatically concentrate great wealth in a relatively few hands). But he disregards the political upheavals and reforms that such wealth concentrations often inspire — such as America’s populist revolts of the 1890s followed by the progressive era, or the German socialist movement in the 1870s followed by Otto von Bismarck’s creation of the first welfare state.

In America of the late nineteenth century, the lackeys of robber barons literally deposited sacks of money on the desks of pliant legislators, prompting the great jurist Louis Brandeis to note that the nation had a choice: “We can have a democracy or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few,” he said. “But we cannot have both.”

Soon thereafter America made the choice. Public outrage gave birth to the nation’s first campaign finance laws, along with the first progressive income tax. The trusts were broken up and regulations imposed to bar impure food and drugs. Several states enacted America’s first labor protections, including the 40-hour workweek.The question is when do we reach another tipping point, and what happens then?

Politicians don't have our backs.  This is not a representative government 'of the people, by the people, and for the people' anymore.  This kind of situation is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind when they set up a government of checks and balances.  Politicians and corporations are used to people voting on single issues like abortion and homosexuality, and expect us to not care what they are doing with our money to ruin the people in the middle and lower classes and the environment.