04/6/15

People You Prefer

It’s amazing how infrequently the news cites or links to original source material. The hardest part of posting today was finding the dang statutory language.

In relevant part the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) stipulates that

a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion . . .[unless it] (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Guess what? This is literally already the law.

Indiana didn’t make these words up. And they aren’t words without meaning. “Substantially burden” and “compelling governmental interest” and “least restrictive means” are legal terms of art.

It’s called strict scrutiny. Strict scrutiny is the test courts must apply to any governmental action (law) that attempts to regulate the free exercise of religion. It’s literally already what is required by the United States Supreme Court. See Wisconsin v. Yoder, 406 U.S. 205 (1972); Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, 508 U.S. 520, 546 (1993).

That’s why the federal RFRA analog to the Indiana bill has been deemed constitutional. It’s just not applicable to the states and that is why twenty some states have passed their own version, including Indiana.

But, in the wake of protest over it, the Indiana legislature has agreed to compromise language, which specifies that the new religious freedom law cannot be used as a legal defense to discriminate against patrons based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Well what about race or national origin? Or pregnancy or sex? Can Indiana’s RFRA justify disparate treatment on account of those characteristics? Well those immutable qualities are already protected from discrimination either by constitutional interpretation or specific federal statute. It’s not necessary to accuse Indiana’s RFRA of enabling discrimination on those grounds because it is understood already that it can’t. But, no such comparable protection yet exists for sexual orientation and gender identity, thus the necessary specificity.

So, here’s the amazing result. The public pressure on Indiana’s RFRA has transformed a law that was simply an echo of the legal status quo into literally an affirmative protection for sexual orientation and gender identity that did not previously exist (at least expressly).

I think in wrestling that’s called a reversal. And pin.

Regardless of the legal merits and effects, the cultural ones continue to be sort of ridiculous. On both sides. The controversy over RFRA sure involves a whole lot of can’t. You can’t eat here. You can’t tell me I can’t eat here.

I know there is some mutually-exclusiveness between the positions, but I sure would just prefer that both can. The religiously orthodox or shortsighted bigots can exercise discretion over their business interests and the LGBTQIA community can take their business and prodigious wealth just about anywhere else. I don’t believe this is going to result in significant exclusion.

When the equal access battle was fought for racial minorities in this country 50 years ago, there was no cultural capital on that side. To have waited on a cultural tide or the greed of capitalism to erode the segregation wall would have been a long, tortured wait.

It’s not the same cultural or economic ecosystem that the LGBTQIA community faces. First, our economy is so pluralistic, for every one fundamentalist burrito spot that denies you, there is an organic burrito, gay burrito, sports burrito, actually mexican burrito, or anti-burrito burrito restaurant to direct your appetite and dollars. Second, the momentum is now all on the LGBTQIA community’s side. The people who would deny service on these grounds are officially outliers. That’s not a value judgment; it’s just true. As a business person you’re somewhere along the following spectrum: (1) wildly, enthusiastically Andy Dick pro-gay; (2) gay friendly; (3) neutral; (4) personally uncomfortable but professionally ambivalent; (5) personally and professionally intrepid; or (6) passionately, comfortably Chik-Fil-A against-gay. (That’s not fully fair to CFA; I don’t even know a public enough name for this camp; which is the whole point.) I just don’t think the number and quality of the businesses desiring to publicly be (6) can be that significant. It’s just generally not very cool anymore or good for business. That’s not to say there isn’t financial opportunity in bigotry; there is. There’s just a whole lot more in non-bigotry.

And, speaking of the hipness of the relative positions, it has officially flipped. It wasn’t sexy to be an abolitionist or a non-segregationist. It definitely wasn’t cool to stand beside AIDS victims in the Eighties. But, as soon as it’s cool to be for a particular civil right, you’re on the wrong side of the issue. That’s the whole point. The community being denied the right is, by definition, marginalized not popularized. If you actually gain cultural cache among the masses by being so outspoken on a topic, you’re not a hero or martyr; you’re bandwagon. So no one should be patting themselves on the back for the most obvious possible observation that deep proponents of the RFRA are probably and mostly bigots on this topic. But, if you really count yourself a civil libertarian, the fight is now officially on the other side. People are entitled to be wrong. And, live wrong lives in furtherance. Let’s please not forget that.

I wanted to rank my favorite Easter candy just because I like ranking things. Growing up, I spent most of my Easter mornings trying to brandish various candies to my father but blinded by the Damascus Road movie camera flash. It looks like interrogation footage. Seriously.

5. Jelly beans. And, not just Jelly Belly snobbery.
4. Giant bunnies. Anything oversized at seven years old gets top 5 billing.
3. Whoppers Robin Eggs. Because someone still has to stand up for malt.
2. Mini Cadbury Cream Eggs. Am I the only one who gags trying to eat the original?

aaaaaaand

1. Grayson Allen. A delicious Easter candy too??! What can’t this kid do?

What are the chances that the vintage Paas image I chose for today would advertise “Gay Calicos”? 98. 100%?? Seriously. Total happenstance.

paas

Written and performed by sintax.the.terrific. Music produced by Dalama Jones.

Today’s blong here:

Resurrection

01/30/15

Light Speed

Charles Hard Townes died, Thursday, at 99 years of age.

charles townes 2

You know the light saber? The “Luke, I am your father” light saber?

Only the most transcendent, gnarly piece of weaponized technology in the galaxy, light saber?

The “zzzuun zzzeen” light saber?

Our only hope?

Yeah. That one.

Townes invented it.

You know laser tag? Only the most futuristic, radical development in the history of photon war toys? The Red Ryder BB Gun of every boy’s ’80s Christmases? Yeah, that laser tag. Invented it.

You know laser pointers. The feline waterboard equivalent? Invented it.

You know laser eye surgery? The of-biblical-proportions, miracle surgery that gives sight to the blind? Like Jesus? Invented it.

Laser cutting, laser welding, laser engraving, laser mice, laser drilling, laser marking, laser peening (uh . . . yeah, that laser peening), optical tweezers, barcode readers, spectroscopy, raves, the laser discs, the band Electric Light Orchestra, and, yeah, you heard me, laser harps aka the infinite beam.

laser harp

Invented, invented, aaaaaaaaand invented.

Maybe not directly all of the above, but the man invented the dang laser. Did I also mention he went to my alma mater, Furman University, here in Greenville, SC? And, the namesake of my kids’ primary school? (Other Furman related song content here.)

fu me and j

Oh I hadn’t? Sorry. Yeah so, as it turns out, I went to the same school as the guy who invented the, um wait, what was it? . . . pet rock? electric toothbrush? Sham Wow? ohhhhhhhhhhhh that’s right THE LASER.

Some guy from Greenville, South Carolina doesn’t just bother to invent the laser one day. I mean Einstein. Or Blade Runner. Cobra Commander. Almost anyone but a Greenville boy. It’s like saying, “Oh yeah, Kenny, from second grade invented crude oil.”

You should discover or harness or wield a laser. You don’t invent it. A laser has to spring forth from the clandestine experiments of a mad scientist or a murderous villain in pursuit of world domination.

cobra commander

I mean forget the practical implications, like the aforementioned laser mice. No Star Trek??

And, Dr. Who? Forget it. No that-guy-from-X-men-that-shoots-lasers-out-his-eyes.

Did I mention he first invented the maser? A concentration of the microwave? What in the world is a maser? It sounds like something you say when you’re trying to one-up a friend.

Friend: “Hey I invented the rubber band loom!”

One-upper you: “Oh yeah? Well I invented the, um, the, uh . . . maser! That’s right. You know Maser Tag? Well. That’s me.”

But, here’s the weird part. You miss Townes if you focus on the laser (see what I did there?) or the maser or their numerous useful progeny. Remarkably, Townes real contribution was even greater than the now literally ubiquitous laser (and the not nearly as ubiquitous shameful maser).

He is the winner of both the Nobel Prize for Physics and the prestigious Templeton Award for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. The list of people who have received both?

The 14th Dalai Lama.

Mother Theresa of Calcutta

And Charles Hard Townes.

That’s the list. (Actually may be one or two more but who would want to confuse a good story?) I’ve seen longer lists of people who can recite pi to 50 decimals.

Townes’ real legacy is one of rigorous intellectualism in science and faith. A witness to both. An apostle of academics and a doctor of doctrine. His theology would offend some. And, so would his science. Which probably made him just about on the nose.

“Science and religion are both universal, and basically very similar,” he wrote. “The essential role of faith in religion is so well known that taking things on faith rather than proving them is usually taken as characteristic of religion, and as distinguishing religion from science. . . . It is just this faith in an orderly universe, understandable to man, which allowed the basic change from an age of superstition to an age of science.”

It’s interesting that the God of the Bible is depicted as light.

The light of the world.

A light unto our path.

Lamp unto our feet.

A Flaming Sword

A Burning Bush.

A Pillar of Fire

Tongues of Fire

A Fiery Furnace

The Transfiguration

Paul to Damascus.

A Chariot of Fire.

But, it is not said that God is like “the light of the world.” It is claimed that He is the light of the world. What if it’s not so metaphorical?

Pardon my crude physics.

At the speed of light mass is infinite. Infinite. And, to reach that outer speed limit — which you can’t coincidentally – requires infinite amount of energy. All that there is. And, if you miraculously arrived there, alive, traveling with your infinite self, propelled by all the energy in the universe, you would be surprised to find that time had simply stopped. Timeless. Sound familiar?

I like to think of light, and lasers, as translation points between two languages. God’s and ours. That would make Townes a kind of lamp interpreter. A luminary.

Townes was seated on a park bench in DC when he scribbled the conceptual maser on the back of an envelope. Going so far as to even describe it as a kind of “revelation.” I like to think in the great tradition of biblical prophets, and appropriate to his life’s work, that he went home on a Chariot of very concentrated Fire.

Performed by theipoetlaureate. Music produced by Dalama Jones.

Lyrics.

Today’s blong here:

Chariot of Fire

03/17/13

One Shining Moment

It took me most of the evening but I feel pretty confident about my pick:

Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) v. The Nashville Predators

SCAD cuts down the nets.

Performed by ipoetlaureate. Music produced by djclutch.

Today’s song blog here:

The Madness