By Tom Ehrich

Little by little, the more-direct sun of spring is vanquishing the snow of this long winter, and grass is starting to emerge.

Something similar is happening in Indiana, where the darkness met behind closed doors to conspire against certain citizens in the name of religion.

Hatred prevailed for a time. But the more-direct sun began to shine. People took notice of what the Republican-controlled legislature and cowardly governor had done.

They began to speak out. Starting with leaders in the tech community (Salesforce, Apple) and, to my amazement, pillars of the sports establishment, citizens throughout Indiana and the nation condemned the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act as little more than legalized discrimination.

Leaders of universities playing in Indianapolis this weekend for men's basketball honors and later for women's honors have spoken out against the law. Several states and cities, as well as numerous corporations, have banned official travel to a state where their employees and customers might face discrimination.

Politicians have joined the protest, including even the Republican mayor of Indianapolis. Now the governor himself is said to be exploring ways to "walk back" the legislation.

Religious leaders are acting. The Disciples of Christ is reconsidering plans to hold their national convention in Indianapolis. The head of Christian Theological Seminary, in Indianapolis, issued an eloquent condemnation of the RFRA as offensive in many ways, but especially because it violates the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Social media posts on the situation in Indiana are so numerous that there is hardly room left for cat videos.

This is what happens when the people speak. The direct sun of actual voices melts the wintry darkness of imagined outrage, as conspiracy theories, religious paranoia and angry-God scenarios are revealed as the fulminating of a small "base" inside the right-wing religious bubble.

Indiana's odious law might come or go, and the state will continue to reel under ridicule and disdain. But a tipping-point has been reached. People who know they have voice realize they need to use it for good, not just for commerce and amusement.

Social media mean more than cuteness. They are where people give voice to views on politics, public morality and religion. Anyone who thought religion was dead in the US has only to read the millions of social media posts on this religion-themed event.

Corporate leaders like Apple's Tim Cook realize they have an obligation to be community leaders, not just experts at separating people from their money.

University and college leaders -- always attentive to wealthy patrons -- realize they can't schedule endless fund-raising calls. They need to bring the academy's ethical, intellectual and political voice into the public square.

Even big-time athletic leaders like NCAA basketball, NFL football and NASCAR have a civic obligation. They need to do more than collect tickets and demand public funds to build new stadiums.

I take this as a hopeful moment. The religious right-wing is being exposed to a more-direct sun, and people of good will aren't sitting back and waiting in safe comfort for the bigots to run out of steam.

Comment