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Indiana’s RFRA is distinct from others in several crucial ways

To The Daily Sun,

Mr. Ewing's latest rant misleadingly tries to equate Indiana's shameful "freedom to discriminate" law with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and the previous 19 state laws based on it. His letter is full of phony outrage, fueled by a persecution complex. But he conveniently ignores the crucial differences between the legislation that passed in Indiana and the others which make it a totally different creature.

1. The original RFRA applies to disputes between a person and the federal government. Indiana's also applies to disputes between individuals. People could use their beliefs as a defense against discrimination charges brought by other citizens. Or as a justification for discriminating against other people that would otherwise be illegal. Someone who believes in the old biblical "curse of Ham" interpretation might use it to refuse service to African-Americans. .

2. The original RFRA, and most of the previous state laws, provide protection only if a law substantially burdens a person's exercise of religion. The Indiana law only requires that a person think that their religious freedom is "likely" to be violated. That person can make up his own standards, as long as he claims that he's following his religion.

3. The federal law only grants its protections to people, non-profit organizations (such as religious groups) and, under the Hobby Lobby decision, "closely held" corporations where all owners share the same religious beliefs. Indiana's explicitly also includes for-profit corporations and public companies.

Comparing the RFRA of 1993 to Indiana's is like comparing apples to rotten oranges They are not the same. And Mr. Ewing can't try to hide behind what supporters of the original law said at the time it was passed. He should note that Senator Schumer, who he mentions, said that the new Indiana statute "in no way resembles the intent or application of the federal RFRA." It goes way beyond protecting religious freedom to give people and corporations a license to discriminate: against not only LGBT people, but also divorcees, women who have had abortions, people who eat shellfish, and more. Religion is not intended to be an excuse for someone to ignore equality under the law in our society. It is not a license for anyone to pick and choose whatever discrimination he favors. It is not a tool for people to make up their own laws and force others to bow to them. I wonder how Mr. Ewing would react if a Black Muslim store owner in Indiana had posted a sign in his window reading "Christians will not be served".

Ed Allard
Laconia

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Equalizing wealth will lead to higher standard of living for all

To The Daily Sun,

For a long time I have been wondering what has happened to America since I was young. Our quality of life is disappearing and I don't think people understand why. Politics and trends are so confusing that we are not even having the right conversations.

Here, in Robert Kuttner's paper, are some of the reasons. I have summarized this in a way that I hope people will understand.

Will the middle and working class be able to gain back their fair share of this country's wealth and political power? Currently, there is a huge discrepancy between the very rich one percent and the remaining 99 percent of those in the United States. Not since 1917 has this gap been so extremely wide. The general population does not seem to understand the magnitude of this problem. So, how can it be made right?

Kuttner, a professor at Brandeis University, wrote about this problem in an article that appeared in The Huffington Post. What follows are the points made by Dr. Kuttner as interpreted and summarized by myself. He lists seven reasons why it will be difficult for the 99 percent to gain back wealth and power they enjoyed in the 1950s and '60s.

(1) Discrediting of Politics Itself — The Republican Party has obstructed government to a point where the general electorate is confused and blame both parties for the dysfunction. In this atmosphere Republicans are rewarded as evidenced by the fact that they hold both houses of the U.S. Congress and the New Hampshire Legislature. The Republican Party promotes the transfer of wealth and power to the rich, or or percent.

(2) Missed Opportunity in 2008 — During the economic meltdown of 2008, new President Barack Obama supported the big banks and financial firms but did little for the 99 percent. A desire on the president's part to work with the GOP ultimately caused additional weakening of the middle class.

(3) Politicized Courts — With years of Republican appointments, the Supreme Court has become a "subsidiary" of the Republican Party. Two key (outrageous!) decisions by the Supreme Court tilted the field even more toward the one percent. Citizens United meant that the rich could essentially and easily buy candidates and sway elections in their favor. Also, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act has made it easier to suppress the voters most likely to vote for Democrats. The justifications for both decisions were mediocre at best and "criminal" at worst; simply bad law interpretation.

(4) Equalizing Institutions have Collapsed — The government used to be active promoting opportunities for all. Strong unions meant that even the less educated were paid well and labor laws helped the workers. Higher education was free; debt was not incurred by students wishing to better themselves. Financial institutions were well regulated. A trading system was in place that did not promote outsourcing. A genuinely progressive income tax was in place. Politics changed all this.

(5) The Structure of Jobs has Changed — Regular payroll career jobs have been replaced by short term part-time jobs or contract work with little benefits. These jobs are harder to organize into unions. Workers bargaining power has diminished.

(6) The Internalization of a Generation's Plight — The youth today seem to have adjusted to their living conditions. Home ownership is accepted as difficult, good jobs with benefits are in short supply, college grads are saddled with extreme debt, and pension systems are becoming rare. Senior citizens remember the way the past was — ask them.

(7) The Absence of a Movement — Even with the assaults on the middle and working class there is no movement to correct this unsustainable injustice. Many simply do not understand this extreme inequality or the problems which have caused it. The "Occupy" Movement did focus attention on the "one percent" concept; that was a start. Political conversation does not even include the devastating plight of the middle and working class. Ask Vermont U. S. Senator Bernie Sanders. He is right on target expressing the problems. Also, U. S. Senator Elizabeth Warren is aggressive in explaining pitfalls in today's society.

Again, these ideas were taken from Robert Kuttner. Learn more by visiting www.prospect.org/authors/robert-kuttner

The 99 percent needs to stop fighting amongst themselves and focus on making life better for all Americans by equalizing the shared wealth and power of this country. The current downward spiral must be stopped to allow America, once again, a higher standard of living for all.

Tom Dawson

Laconia

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