THE SANTA CLARA
April 9, 2015
After Indiana Governor Mike Pence passed a bill on religion that was justifiably met with uproar, I was ready to give up on the future of American politics. Pence’s response to protests, however, has me singing a different tune.
For the past couple of years, my overall optimistic view of the future of human civilization has been dampened by certain aspects of American culture. One of these aspects is the slow but sure reduction of the everyday voter’s voice in U.S. society. On topics ranging from marijuana legalization to gay marriage, to defense and education spending, I see the view of the average U.S. citizen being drowned out by the much louder voices of avaricious corporations and the self-serving members of the “one percent.”
These empirical observations are backed up by years of Congressional approval records. When the people’s endorsement of their legislative leadership is roundly at its lowest point in decades, there is a clear misalignment of interests. A misalignment that has me throwing up my hands in frustration. A misalignment that has me hesitant to continue my optimism toward the future.
That is, until recently.
Unless you’ve been in a cripplingly nostalgic, post-spring break haze for the last week, you’ve undoubtedly heard of, or perhaps been a part of, the uproar surrounding Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The act, signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, was ostensibly passed as a sort of mirror to the federal bill of the same name, enacted by Bill Clinton in 1993.
Among other things, the bill stated that “a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion…(unless it) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” When combined with the bill’s loose definition of “person,” it becomes clear that the broadness with which this bill was written harbors some seriously dubious ramifications.
Ever since the act’s inception on March 26, the media, social or otherwise, has been set ablaze regarding the bill’s contents and how it leaves abundant room for potential discrimination against the LGBTQ community. What most people don’t know is the aftermath of this large-scale social bombardment. On April 2, a mere seven days after the bill’s enactment, Governor Pence signed into law an amendment containing numerous changes to the original bill.
These newly enacted changes contain completely different wording, which renders the likelihood of such backwards discrimination essentially impossible. In response, parties all the way from initially outraged corporations like Salesforce Inc., to LGBTQ community figures like actor George Takei are expressing their satisfaction with the amendment. Me? I’m expressing my satisfaction for something different.
Disregarding the fact that the new bill is still by no means perfect, and disregarding which side of this debate will be absolved by history, the main thing that I’m taking away from Governor Pence’s backslide into sanity is quite clear. Legislators attempted to pull one over on the American public, and the response was so powerful in message and scope that those legislators scurried away with their tails between their legs.
In the end, democracy won out over political posturing. If this continues, perhaps we’ll be alright after all.
Tyler Brown is a junior economics major.