religious intolerance act

For years, you have heard people in the South say: “Thank God for Mississippi!”

They meant that were it not for that state, their own state might rank 50th out of 50 states in some category. Mississippi has traditionally ranked 50th in educational attainment, family income, education and other indices. These other states of the South were mighty pleased that their own state didn’t rank below Mississippi. Of course, their state might rank close to Mississippi, but not dead last.

But now, we have a new phrase: “Thank God for Indiana.”

Mike Pence of Indiana - Anti-Gay Crusader
Gov. Mike Pence – Anti-Gay Crusader (DonkeyHotey)

Indiana seems to be the poster child for the most divisive legislative bill passed this year, a state that has had its governor sign into law a bill that seeks to promote religious freedom, but many people feel legalizes discrimination.

And it’s caused major corporations and non-profits (think NCAA, located in Indianapolis) to speak out publicly against the bill, asking for scuttling of the measure.

Not only Indiana, but now Arkansas has a similar bill. And not to be outdone, certain legislators in Georgia were working on Thursday (the last day of the 2015 General Assembly) to push through a measure strangely similar to the Indiana and Arkansas bills. Altogether, some 20 states also have passed such bills. Ironically, there is already a national bill, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by President Bill Clinton, that guarantees every American these rights. However, apparently the way the state religious freedom bills are worded has caused the uproar about this.

However, up until now, there has not been a hue and cry against state religious freedom bills as has happened first in Indiana, and shortly after in Arkansas. North Carolina’s Legislature is also looking at a similar religious freedom bill.

Something highly coincidental and questionable, nearly smelly, is going on here. How is it that 20 states have adopted similar bills? How do they all contain similar language? Where did the push for these measures come from? We suspect that the ultra conservative American Legislative Exchange Council has something to do with this. This group continually seeks to eat away at individual rights and work for a more limited government, lower taxes, free markets and conservative measures.

What pleases us is that major American companies, from liberal Apple Computer to most-conservative Walmart, have had the upstanding temerity to sound out on religious freedom bills. You seldom see such major companies doing this. We think this is a good sign. We were also pleased that the governments of three states, New York, Connecticut and Washington, have banned governmental travel to Indiana. That’s taking action!

One of the non-profits most directly in the middle of this hullabaloo is the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), as it holds basketball’s Final Four in Indianapolis this week. This group has recognized the problems with Indiana’s Religious Freedom Law, and was not slow in speaking out against it. While the NCAA has other problems, we must applaud their position on this measure.

As an aside, our position in seeking to limit Georgia to having legislative sessions only every other year speaks to this problem. The more often the Legislature will meet, the more possible it is that some yokel of a legislator will introduce insane and unreasonable measures. Limiting the legislature can’t hurt anyone.

This year’s legislative session ended Thursday without a house vote on the measure. For now, thank God for Indiana.

Editor's Note: This story first appeared at the Gwinnett Forum. Image: Mike Pence - Anti-Gay Crusader by DonkeyHotey via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack

Elliott Brack is a native Georgian and veteran newspaperman. He published the weekly Wayne County Press for 12 years; was for 13 years the vice president and general manager of Gwinnett Daily News, and for 13 years was associate publisher of the Gwinnett section of The Atlanta Journal and Constitution. He now publishes, in retirement, Web sites on Gwinnett County,, and Georgia news,