Adolf Hitler had a warning for the Indiana legislators who passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
A warning they should have heeded–but didn’t.
It all started on June 22, 1941.
On that date, Hitler ordered his powerful Wehrmacht to invade the Soviet Union.
Less than two years earlier, in August, 1939, he had signed a “non-aggression” pact with his longtime arch-enemy, Joseph Stalin.
Since then, his army had conquered Poland, Norway, Denmark, Holland, Belgium and France.
Adolf Hitler with his generals
Now, he believed, it was time to “settle accounts” with the Soviet Union.
Only there could Germany obtain the “living space” it “needed” for its expanding population.
So at 3 a.m. on June 22, 1941, Hitler once again launched an invasion.
At first, Hitler–no doubt like the Indiana legislators–felt giddy with excitement.
Turning to Alfred Jodl, his chief of operations of the Wehrmacht, he said: “We have only to kick in the door and the whole rotten structure will come crashing down.”
German soldiers marching through Russia
But soon afterward–almost as if he had just looked into the future and seen that he had none–he told an aide: “At the beginning of each campaign, one pushes a door into a dark, unseen room. One can never know what is hiding inside.”
That certainly proved true for Hitler.
Within four years, he was dead and his once-powerful army was reduced to a disorganized rabble.
And now the law of unintended consequences–what can happen when you “push a door into a dark, unseen room”–may be coming true for Indiana.
On March 26, its governor, Mike Pence, signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
This will allow any individual or corporation to cite its religious beliefs as a defense when sued by a private party.
Officially, its intent is to prevent the government from forcing business owners to act in ways contrary to strongly held religious beliefs.
Unofficially, its intent is to appease the hatred of gays and lesbians by the religious Right, a key constituency of the Republican party.
In short, a bakery that doesn’t want to make a cake to be used at a gay wedding or a restaurant that doesn’t want to serve lesbian patrons will have the legal right to refuse to do so.
The bill was passed overwhelmingly by both chambers of the Republican-controlled state legislature. And signed into law by a Republican governor.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence
“Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,” Mike Pence said in a statement on the day he signed the bill.
“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.”
Bill-signing ceremonies are usually highly public events. Governors–and presidents–normally want their constituents to see them creating new legislation.
Yet for all his praise for the bill, Pence signed it in a ceremony closed to the public and the press. The media were asked to leave even the waiting area of the governor’s office.
It’s almost as if Pence sensed–like Hitler–that he was about to push open “a door into a dark, unseen room.” And this may well be the case.
Through that door may soon march the First Church of Cannabis.
The day after Pence signed the Act, church founder Bill Levin announced on his Facebook page that he had filed paperwork with the office of the Indiana Secretary of State.
Its registration had been approved–and Levin was ecstatic: “Now we begin to accomplish our goals of Love, Understanding, and Good Health.
“Donate $100 or more and become a GREEN ANGEL.
“Donate $500 or more and become a GOLD ANGEL.
“Donate $1000 or more and become a CHURCH POOHBA.”
And Levin had a personal comment for the governor who had made it all possible:
“Dear Mikey Pence…
“DUDE!.. keep crapping all over the state.. and I will plant a seed of LOVE, UNDERSTANDING and COMPASSION in each pile you leave.. and it will grow into a big skunky cannabis tree. Crap away Mikey.. Crap Away…”
No doubt many Indiana legislators are furious that their effort to attack gays may have brought legal marijuana to their highly conservative state.
But worse may be to come.
Since 9/11, Right-wingers such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity have warned that Muslims are trying to impose Sharia (Islamic law) on America.
And now Indiana’s legislators, in elevating religion above the law, may have pushed upon that door “into a dark, unseen room.”
Ironically, this may not be so far removed from the goals of the Republican party as many think. Both the party and adherents of Sharia agree:
- Women should have fewer rights than men.
- Abortion should be illegal.
- There should be no separation between church and state.
- Religion should be taught in school.
- Religious doctrine trumps science.
- Government should be based on religious doctrine.
- Homosexuality should be outlawed.
What will happen when some Muslims in Indiana claim their right–guaranteed in Islamic religious law–to have as many as four wives?
And when they claim that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act protects that right?
Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy nightmare.