Republicans have long positioned themselves as the party of small government and big business.
Yet, in pursuit of its political ambitions, the GOP has also aligned itself with cultural conservatives who are deeply-rooted in hard-line Christian principles. This holy alliance has driven the party to legislating from strict Scripture, pushing discriminatory, hateful policies that dictate even what happens inside the bedroom.
During the next legislative session in Kentucky, lawmakers are expected to consider passage of a bathroom bill and so-called religious freedom legislation — freedom to discriminate against the LGBTQ community.
And, as history has shown in other states, those bills are bad for business.
So for you members of the GOP, it’s time to decide: Who are you? What do you stand for?
The past proves it is disastrous for a state to be both pro-business and anti-fairness. So which is it, pro-business, or pro-social conservative?
The good news is that believers in equality have important support: Big business has demonstrated it will reject intolerance perpetrated by the social conservative movement. The market has spoken, and discrimination is beyond American business’ saturation point.
In North Carolina, the legislature passed HB2, the bathroom bill, which manufactured a homophobic, predatory canard about why transgender boys and girls should not use school facilities. That law led to the loss of billions of dollars as major companies, conventions and sporting events boycotted the state. The Associated Press reported the law would cost the state $3.76 billion dollars in business over the next 12 years, if not repealed — likely an underestimation.
The largest loss was a $2.66 billion expansion of a PayPal facility… and 400 new jobs with it. Even the morally-deranged NCAA found a sliver of conscience, relocating all of its championship games out of North Carolina until the law is repealed. The NBA moved its All-Star game. Deutsche Bank canceled $500 million in plans for the state.
The list goes on.
Across the river in Indiana, in 2015 then-Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which instantly became known as the “license to discriminate.” To their credit, Hoosiers, businesses and — well, generally everyone outside of the Indiana evangelical community — came out in opposition of the bill. Faced with public outcry, Pence and lawmakers worked hastily to revise the law, but the damage had been done.
According to Indianapolis’ nonprofit tourism organization, up to a dozen conventions were canceled, costing $60 million in business. Angie’s List dropped plans for a $40 million expansion to its headquarters, which would have yielded 1,000 jobs over five years.
The evidence is clear: Religiously-motivated, socially-conservative, discriminatory policies are bad for business.
And now these odious bills may be coming to Kentucky.
It’s hard to imagine Kentucky Christians won’t be aggressively pursuing these policies in the name of God. After all, this is Gov. Matt Bevin’s Land of Pray The Problems Away, where a replica of Noah’s Ark gets tax breaks, and anti-gay marriage County Clerk Kim Davis and righteously-homophobic judges are elected.
But our poor state cannot afford to trade business for religious beliefs… not that the government should be in the business of religion in the first place.
The latest estimate is that the Commonwealth’s pension system is about $40 billion in debt — deemed the worst in the nation.
In the upcoming session, lawmakers will face daunting challenges, from repairing the pension system and tax reform to education and Bevin’s Medicaid reform scheme — the outcome of which will impact Kentucky for years. Engaging in pulpit politics would only undermine other efforts and take us backward with North Carolina and Indiana.
Now it is up to members of the Grand Old Party to decide: Pro business, or policies from the pulpit?
You can’t have both.