Sunday, April 05, 2015

Being Frank about politics -- the art of politics is not always pretty

I'm sure everyone who follows politics is aware of "Christmas Tree Bills."
I first heard the term at a meeting sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce many years ago. Elected officials reported to those in attendance what was happening in Indianapolis that year. 
One state senator talked about Christmas tree bills and the term captured my imagination. 
A Christmas tree, of course, starts out as a single tree and then is "decorated" with lots of baubles and lights to make it prettier. 
Likewise a Christmas tree bill starts out as a single entity, for one purpose, a purpose someone believes is very noble, a much needed piece of legislation. 
Then, other politicians see the popularity of the bill as a means to sneak some of their pet projects through the General Assembly and on to the governor's desk. 
It seems to me the recent religious freedom act in Indiana is a classic example of the subterfuge politicians use. While not a Christmas tree bill, and while the intent was very good, a bill is a legal document and the wording is crucial. 
I covered a Republican Club meeting a few months ago. The main speaker was promoting the bill that became the religious freedom act. 
His presentation made sense in my humble opinion. 
Hobby Lobby and other companies should not have to pay for insurance that provides birth control when the company owners don't believe in birth control. Yet, Obamacare was requiring business owners to violate their religious beliefs in just such a way. 
The bill was to protect business owners from expensive court battles to defend their personal beliefs. 
The speaker at that meeting acknowledged there was some unfounded concern that gays could be denied service if the bill passed.
One state representative in attendance said he had not read the bill in question but supported the principle stated by the speaker. 
I wrote the report on the meeting. I was the only reporter at that meeting. No one said anything about it. The story was published.
Then, - wham! - the whole world exploded when the bill was signed into law. At least, that's the way it seemed. 
I have to believe that the simple idea of protecting business owners in a bill was the opportunity some politicians saw to advance their own agendas. 
Because Hobby Lobby got involved because of what the owners saw as a violation of their religious faith, I have to believe the Indiana bill  as it was passed by the General Assembly and signed by the governor was indeed a threat to minorities and the opportunity for bigotry to raise its ugly head. 
If so, Indiana has been rightly called out by people in other states and the law needed to be fixed at the least or repealed. 
Was it a necessary law? 
I'm sorry if big companies have to spend money collected from their customers -- us --to defend their religious liberty in a court of law but sometimes our religious commitments cost us. 
Our recent holiday demonstrates what it cost one Man and He said His followers should follow his example. 

Frank Phillips is a reporter for The Brazil Times.