A 21st Century Henny-Penny Tale

Alas and alack! Oh, woe is me! Here in the heart of Chicken-dale, northwest Arkansas, home to millions of white-feathered birds who eventually get delivered in one form or another to the grocery stores … and after that, end up on platters at the center of our dinner tables … there’s a crisis of epic proportions going on!

A Crisis, I tell you! The magnitude of this crisis is stunning and beyond belief. Given the stories coming from the television news, the newspapers and various online hysteria-mongers, nothing so bad as this has happened since … what? Chick-Fil-A Day back in July of 2012?sky-is-falling-2

Please don’t get ahead of me here. To my knowledge this particular crisis has nothing to do with describing the former First Lady of Arkansas (the insincere, er, out of touch, er, polarizing, er, esteemed Hillary Clinton) as ambitious, calculating, disingenuous or any of the notoriously “sexist” words now banned by Clinton supporters who’ve identified the words as “coded sexism.” As serious a misstep as that would be to let slip one of the verboten terms in reference to HRC, this is not the current crisis of which I speak.

But this crisis has gone way beyond the horrors of that 2012 Chicken cataclysm, don-cha know? That was chicken scratch by comparison! It’s those religious zealots/ terrorists … no, no, don’t get me wrong, we’re not talking Islamic extremists – we don’t care about them!

I’m talking about THEM! You know exactly who I mean! It’s those fundies, those Bible-brandishing, Christo-philic fundamentalists who are intent to turn our country into a theocracy! This time, T. H. E.   S. K. Y.   I. S.   F. A. L. L. I. N. G. – F. O. R.   S. U. R. E. !!!

The reason, you ask? During the present session of the Arkansas General Assembly that has been conducted in Little Rock over the last couple months, said duly-elected legislative members are set to send to the Governor (for his signature) a piece of legislation known as HB1228.

chickenlittleNow, can you understand the momentous disaster set to befall mankind? This bill, designed to enact in Arkansas the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – when signed by the Governor Hutchinson, is surely going to send our state off the rails permanently!

Former AR Attorney General (who was defeated in his bid for Governor by Hutchinson) stuck his oars into the water, both in a Little Rock rally with supporters of the Human Rights Campaign and through a guest column in the newspaper earlier this month. He asserted HB1228 “would allow individuals and businesses across this state to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Arkansans, to women, to religious minorities – and to any other Arkansan who may face regular discrimination.

Another voice, Barbara Mariani, echoed McDaniel’s hysteria:  “members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community could be refused driver’s licenses, affordable housing, employment, financial aid and admission to state colleges.” According to Mariani, the legislation might even permit doctors to refuse life-saving medical care!

No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! No! How, oh, how can this happen?

I am in agony here … but in all fairness, blame (at least in part) for this debacle should be placed at the feet of then-Congressman Charles Schumer (D-NY) who introduced the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993. Schumer’s bill passed the House in March 1993 by a unanimous vote and when the legislation was taken up in the Senate, the vote was similarly one-sided, 97-3.sky-is-falling-web

Even a former Arkansan failed to save us from this bombshell! The insincere, er, out of touch, er, polarizing, er, esteemed former President Bill Clinton could have refused to sign the legislation! Why, oh, why did he have to attach his precious signature to this bill??!

Now wailing and gnashing of teeth aside, let me be perfectly clear on this point … even though this legislation has yet to be signed by the state’s chief executive, I know tons and tons of Christian and religiously-oriented people living in the state of Arkansas, none of whom is sharpening up a proverbial long-knife (or even waving around the much-maligned AR-15) to go hunting for the aforementioned “members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.” Like me, other good citizens of this state will pretty much continue their lives along the same path whether the Governor signs this bill or not.

Furthermore, since it is the state that issues driver’s licenses, oversees financial aid and admission to state colleges, etc., it seems beyond the pale (to me) that such hysteria could gain any traction. As to McDaniel’s statement about Arkansans who “may face regular discrimination,” I’m aghast. Regular? Really? Examples please?

But this is Arkansas and strange things are known to happen here. Religious freedom might be one of them, but when McDaniel noted they were gathering (for this rally) on Palm Sunday, people in attendance at the HRC rally laughed derisively, mocking McDaniel’s observation. That alone might be convincing enough evidence of the need for RFRA in Arkansas.

Renée