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So Does Connecticut Have a RFRA Like Indiana’s?

by Categorized: Uncategorized Date:

1855 Colton Map of Indiana - Geographicus - Indiana-colton-1855
Yes and no. Mostly no.

You’re going to read this often in the commentary about Malloy’s travel ban. It’s in the comments to this article.  And it’s in this disingenuously worded piece of commentary. The argument made is: how can Malloy object to Indiana when Connecticut has essentially the same law?

Believe me, I came to this question with an open mind.  It would have amused me if Connecticut were caught in an act of ahistorical hypocrisy, and I like being amused. In a different way, it would please me to say that our law is not like Indiana’s. I’m happy either way. So let’s look at the facts.

Connecticut’s law is relatively old. It dates back to 1993.  You can read the text here. The law is restricted to interactions between the government and a person, and it says that the government can’t burden the person’s “exercise of religion” except in furtherance of a compelling government interest and even then only when the burden is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. That’s the whole law. You could say it screams out for court cases that will define terms like “exercise of religion” and “compelling government interest.” You could not say that it goes out of its way to define those terms on one side’s behalf. I was halfway into writing this post when Dan Klau, an actual lawyer, published his own take on it. He gives you some of the 1993 history here. 

The Indiana law — read it here –is, of course, the modern, updated version.  But that does not, in this case, mean “sleek.” The Indiana law is clunked up with new language, and most of that language is based on lawsuits from the intervening years. The purpose of the new language is almost invariably to make it easier for the party claiming religious injury to prove its case. Let’s pull this out of the realm of the abstract. Let us imagine that I am a communicant of the Church of the Giant White Serpent (CGWS). My church believes that blacks are inferior and that physically disabled people bear the mark of Cain. The First Amendment allows me to belong to such a distasteful church, provided I don’t go around inciting wrath. But now I would like to go a little further. I would like to open a lunch counter, and I would like to run it along the lines of my beliefs. What does the new Indiana law do for me?

1. Perhaps the biggest difference between Indiana and Connecticut is that the Indiana law does not restrict itself to state vs. person conflict. Instead it says I may make my argument  “as a claim or defense in a judicial proceeding, regardless of whether the state or a political subdivision of the state is a party to the judicial proceeding.”  At my CGWS lunch counter, I make blacks sit separately and I don’t let disabled people in at all. It’s my religion! The Connecticut law deals only with my rights vis a vis the state, but the Indiana law arms me against complaints from private parties. I can kick out the guy in the wheelchair, and I’m on firmer legal ground, even if he sues me. In Connecticut, I don’t really have any spelled out rights until the Attorney General shows up and tells me I have to seat African-Americans and blind people alongside my regular customers.

2.   But wait. There’s more. Indiana’s law affirms that I can assert that my exercise of religion has been burdened “whether or not compelled by, or central to, a system of religious belief.” So I don’t even have to prove that my intolerance toward blacks and the disabled is a central tenet of the CGWS, just that it’s in the mix somewhere. (So don’t fall for the argument that Indiana’s law has a higher burden of proof because it uses the phrase “substantially burdened” while Connecticut’s does not. The Indiana law is in other respects explicit about how insubstantial the burden can be. Also, see item 3. )

3. What else can Indiana do for me? Well, it can say that I don’t have to prove a burden to seek relief. I can claim I am “likely to be substantially burdened.” What does that mean? I have no idea, but I hope my CGWS attorneys will argue that even the possibility that someone — a government agent or a private party — will show up and claim I’m in the wrong is more than my pretty little white head should have to bear.

4. The Indiana law spells out four forms of relief.  Go ask Klau what that means.  It’s certainly different from the CT law.

5. Is that it, Indiana?  I mean, I’m just a little guy, a lunch counter owner whose religion contains important teachings about the pernicious nature of blacks and disabled people. What chance do I have if the government shows up claiming that it has a compelling interest in making me serve these children of a lesser god?

In Connecticut, that killjoy George Jepsen is probably going to shut down my racist lunch counter with the argument that it is not an exercise of religion. It’s just a damn lunch counter. George would say I’m not exercising my religion when I’m making and selling sandwiches.

But the new Indiana law includes, in its definition of a (possibly burdened) person “a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity that: (A) may sue and be sued; and (B) exercises practices that are compelled or limited by a system of religious belief held by: (i) an individual; or (ii) the individuals; who have control and substantial ownership of the entity, regardless of whether the entity is organized and operated for profit or nonprofit purposes.” Whoa!  This is certainly not in the Connecticut statute. I am engaging in protected religious exercises when I’m making and selling (or refusing to sell) liverwurst sandwiches. Who knew?

In conclusion, anybody who tells you Indiana and Connecticut have the same RFRA law is a big fat liar.

Now, if my lunch counter refuses to serve gay couples, yet another difference kicks in which is not contained in the two laws. Connecticut affords specific protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation — oh God, please, don’t make me explain “quasi suspect classification!” — whereas Indiana does not.  I suppose you could say that the new Indiana RFRA strengthens the capacity of business to discriminate against gays, as opposed to creating a whole new capacity. (Klau, any thoughts?)

What you cannot say, however, is that our beloved Porcupine has failed to note the similarities between the Connecticut and Indiana laws. They are not the same laws — in intent or letter.

 

Still Rubble-utionary!

by Categorized: Uncategorized, Year in Review Date:

Here is a new idea.

With no money for staff and upkeep of our once-proud state park system, why not knock things down and market the faux ruins?

A second concept, called an “ecological park,” would involve restoration of a historic building as a visitor center, while other buildings may be demolished or restored to a ruined state to preserve the spirit of the history of the property.

The great thing about this is idea is that when the park falls into neglect, nobody will be able to tell!

An “attractive ruin” is a building left intentionally in a ruined state intended to be evocative of the structure’s historical uses.

I like the name Pam Award.

 

Ogrodzieniec widok z wi?y obronnej.jpg
Ogrodzieniec widok z wi?y obronnej” by AisogOwn work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 pl via Wikimedia Commons.

 

Not In My Name, Please

by Categorized: Politix, Uncategorized Date:

Last year I wrote about the unsightly danger of Dan Malloy turning into a hockey goon for the national Democratic party.

Twelve months passed and — guess what? — here he is in full goon mode, lining up the same spindly opposition player.

“He must have been beaten up really bad on the playground. Really bad, I think,” Malloy told BuzzFeed News when describing Jindal’s demeanor and what he said was a similar sharp-elbowed persona on and off camera.

I cannot tell you how distasteful I find this. First, the smirking suggestion that kids who get bullied on the playground grow up to be men who merit our disdain is repellent coming from anybody  but especially from a man who has whined ad nauseam about the treatment he received as a misunderstood, disability-laden boy.  Make up your mind, Governor. Do wretched little creatures deserve our scorn or our understanding?

I also fail to see how this serves the people who elected Malloy. We elected him to do a job, and in no way does that job involve kicking Bobby Jindal around or carrying water for politicos in the other 49 states. In particular, I expect him to make at least some effort to work cooperatively with Republicans and forge compromises that serve everybody’s best interests.

Renting himself out as a Chris Christie-style jerk-provocateur, he is unlikely to do this.  He already has pushed the drama button — which is a mile wide and set on a hair trigger — of Minority Leader Themis Klarides. How does this help us, here in Connecticut.

Malloy and Klarides photos by Chion Wolf for WNPR

Malloy and Klarides photos by Chion Wolf for WNPR

themis_klarides

Northern Courage

by Categorized: Colin's Theories of Culture, Deep thoughts, Show ideas, Uncategorized Date:

Johan Christian Claussen Dahl - Nordiske landskapet
On days like the one we’re having here, it’s not uncommon to see one of us northerners post something on social media and see, in response, a comment from a transplant: “I wouldn’t know. It’s 76 today here in South Carogeorgialorida. So glad I’ll be out on my boat today instead of shiviering with the rest of you!”

And I reflexively think: I’d rather be freezing my cheeks off up here than wedged up against a d****ebag frothing with self-congratulation because he figured out it gets warmer as you approach the equator. I’d like to be warmer too, but not if it means being surrounded by people with no sense of irony, people who are more likely to be depicted in than entertained by Coen Brothers movies. To re-phrase “Repo Man,” sometimes it seems like the more you drive South, the stupider you get.

But that’s too easy, and it’s probably wrong to exalt one’s choices at the expense of a whole region of people many of whom are perfectly nice. Why the hell ARE we here? And then somebody sent me this essay, which feels more like the beginning of a conversation — and therefore a radio show idea! — than a solid answer.

Could northmanship be a thing? I mean, is there a connection that we make to truth and beauty here in the north? Of course, the north itself is retreating from us. One of McEnroe’s Immutable Theories of Culture is that the more we celebrate a thing, the more likely it is that it’s dying. And right now, we celebrate the north. I mean Joakim Zander is the new Henning Mankell who is the new Stieg Larsson. Iceland is hip. Cultural conservatives are shook about Lady Thor. Nordic pop and Canadian comedy. Holla!

I stray from my point. I wonder if there’s something mystical and meaningful about the cold and the darkness and the starkness. In which case, we should embrace it, rather than curse it. We should be content with the notion that Rilke is cooler than Jimmy Buffet. And not — as one voice in the Gould piece says — not throw away our North for a mess of pottage.

Often when I imagine you your wholeness cascades into many shapes. You run like a herd of luminous deer and I am dark, I am forest.

Malloy: I Look Better Through Beer Goggles

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duoche

Dan Malloy has adopted a peculiar strategy for the roll-out of his new fiscal plan. He shows up for his interviews armed with booze to press into the hands of the press.

This week, he visited Crazy Ira and the Douche, excuse me, the Chaz and AJ show and brought them tequila in celebration of his new vision: cheap booze, longer hours, free hookers and firecrackers. 

Pander much?

But wait, there’s more. Malloy then showed up for his “Face the State” appearance with a sixpack, and he and Dennis House proceeded to spend the entire telecast pounding brews and checking out babes discussing his budget plan.

Would any other CT governor whose name did not rhyme with Don Schmoland contemplate such a strategery?  I covered Bill O’Neill, who owned a dive bar, and he would not have done this.

I fear it’s part of the changing of the guard.  Malloy is no longer advised by Roy Occhiogrosso, his shrewd, transactional and sometimes excessively Sicilian vizier of yore. In place of Mr. O — at the Capitol and state central — is bunch of pop-collared frat-molded bros. It’s as if Malloy swapped out Vizzini for Otter and Bluto. So you get: “Dude, bring some beer.”

vizzini bluto

 

Blumenthal Re-Shafted

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Richard Blumenthal speaking with Scott SlifkaThe collateral damage from the whole Brian Williams mess is the revival of “the Richard Blumenthal case,” mentioned in about 75 percent of the Williams stories. There’s a kind of “stepped on” quality to the way the New York Times repeats the mistakes it originally made in its largely disgraceful reporting of the Blumenthal story.

So here’s Alessandra Stanley in today’s Times:

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut stumbled during his 2010 campaign when The New York Times found a videotape of him telling a veterans group in 2008 that he had served in Vietnam. He hadn’t. Mr. Blumenthal sought multiple deferments, and when he ran out of them in 1970, he won a coveted niche in the Marine Reserve in Washington.

That videotape was the biggest hammer Blumenthal got hit with when the Times broke the story on page one. In fact, it was ultimately discredited. Raymond Hernandez, whose reporting on this story was just horrible and hand-fed to him by operatives for Linda McMahon, had never seen the whole speech, just the part that was selectively leaked to him.

As the AP later reported, the full version of the speech “shows Blumenthal at the beginning of his speech correctly characterizing his service by saying that he ‘served in the military, during the Vietnam era.’ “

Now go back and read what Stanley wrote today. She’s repeating the original mistake because the Times institutionally “remembers” something that’s not really true.

I’m not offering an exoneration of Blumenthal. There were pretty clearly other more blameworthy occasions.  But it intrigues me that the Times, in the course of ripping up Williams, commits a similar offense of misremembering its own bad reporting as gospel.