TIME faith

How John Paul II Became One of the Longest-Tenured Popes Ever

John-Paul II
Francois Lochon—Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images Pope John-Paul II in Zaire in August 1985

April 2, 2005: Pope John Paul II dies at age 84

Pope John Paul II’s death on this day, April 2, ten years ago, brought an end to the second-longest Papal term (26 years and change) since Peter’s reign. But it could have been much shorter if a trio of unrelated assassination plots had been successful.

The first nearly was: In May 1981, less than three years after John Paul was elected, he was shot by a Turkish terrorist while riding in an open Popemobile, greeting visitors in St. Peter’s Square. According to TIME’s account, “The Pope had apparently been hit by two bullets, fired from only a few yards away. One shattered the two joints of the ring finger of his left hand, ricocheted and grazed his right arm. The other blasted into his abdomen, passing completely through his body and ripping up the Pope’s intestines but narrowly missing his pancreas, abdominal aorta and spine.”

Italian surgeons performed a white-knuckle, five-and-a-half hour surgery to save the Pope, removing several pieces of his intestine. When they were finished, the chief of surgery issued a cautious proclamation, per TIME: “The prognosis is reserved [because of the danger of infection], but there is hope that the Pope will recover and stay with us.”

He stayed, although his injuries would torment him for the rest of his life. And within a few days of the shooting, he had publicly forgiven his would-be assassin, Mehmet Ali Agca, who was pardoned by Italian officials in 2000 at the Pope’s request.

A year after Agca’s assassination attempt, the Pope visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal to “fulfill a vow of gratitude to the Virgin Mary,” per TIME, for having saved his life. As he climbed the basilica’s steps, a man lunged at him with a 16-inch bayonet. A security guard wrestled the man to the ground within an arm’s length of the Pope. This time, the assailant was an archconservative Spanish priest opposed to “the liberalizing reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), especially its modernization of the 16th century Latin Mass,” as TIME attests.

Even Al Qaeda once had John Paul in its sights. In 1995, when the Pope visited the Philippines to celebrate World Youth Day, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (who later masterminded the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks) and two co-conspirators planned an assassination attempt that was foiled when a fire broke out in their apartment and authorities found bomb-making materials and other incriminating evidence, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The motive behind the most damaging attack — Agca’s — has never been firmly established. At first the shooter said he was acting alone, but later claimed he had been following orders from Soviet and Bulgarian secret services, according to Newsweek, which adds, “A 2006 investigation led by an Italian parliamentary commission corroborates said claim; the investigative team said the attack had been orchestrated by former Soviet Union leaders ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’ ”

Pope John Paul II’s forgiveness alone may not have been enough to make him a saint, but it was remarkable enough to the world, and to Agca, when the Pope paid him a cordial visit in his Roman prison cell in early 1984. Thirty years later, not long after John Paul II’s canonization, Agca placed two dozen white roses on his tomb.

“A thousands thanks, holiness. This is a miracle that goes on,” Agca said in Italian, per Newsweek.

Read TIME’s original account of that first assassination attempt, here in the TIME Vault: Hand of Terrorism

TIME Religion

3 Counterintuitive Lessons From Passover

David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles.

A man in a desert alone is not free

1. You are an Egyptian. The Passover story is of a people liberated from slavery. When we celebrate Passover, we naturally identify with the Israelites, the oppressed, and not Pharaoh, the oppressor. But the Egyptians of the Bible also had to make ethical decisions. In our lives, we are constantly surrounded by those who serve us — waiters, clerks, housekeepers, hotel maids, bag boys, people who sling peanuts at the ballpark. Obviously they are not slaves, and we are not oppressors. But they are in our economic power for a moment, and how we treat people who serve us is a powerful indicator of our moral posture.

I counsel people who are dating to pay attention to how their date treats the waiter. Passover is a reminder: No amount of money entitles one to be a jerk. Don’t only identify with the oppressed. Remember what it is like to be an Egyptian in the Passover story.

2. Elijah isn’t here, so you have to be. Each year we open the door for Elijah, who in the Jewish tradition is the herald of redemption. Traditionally it is the youngest child who opens the door. As adults watch each year, an interesting transition takes place. At first, the child believes Elijah might walk in the door. Then year after year, the belief diminishes, and until a still younger child comes along, the tradition becomes rote. Children grow too old to believe redemption will walk in the door.

While that seems a sad coda to a beautiful dream, it has a powerful positive dimension as well. In the absence of supernatural redemption, we are responsible for the uplifting of those who are fallen, feeding those who are hungry, comforting those who are bereaved. Our responsibility is greater in the absence of a messianic presence. A Hasidic rabbi who once claimed that everything had a good dimension was asked: “What about atheism?” His response was that when someone approaches us for help, we should all be atheists — not believing there is any supernatural help. The burden and the privilege of helping is ours.

3. Freedom is not the absence of obligation. The famous Passover phrase, “let my people go,” is abbreviated. The full sentence is, “Let my people go that they may serve me.” Here we see Isaiah Berlin’s famous distinction between being “liberated from” and being “liberated to.” To be liberated from oppression is the beginning of freedom, not its end or aim. True freedom is abundance of opportunity, not absence of obligation. A man in a desert alone is not free. Standing in a developed society with a thousand obligations but also a million possibilities, that is freedom.

Passover encourages us to understand that our lives are not about sloughing off responsibilities. Service to God, to one another and to what is best in ourselves — those are freedoms. They enable us to maximize the capacities of our own souls.

Tomorrow, people will sit down to seders all across the world. There is a deep lessons in the ceremony: We are responsible for the choices of power. Until the day when redemption arrives, we have it in our hands to mend this broken world. And true freedom is also found in service, in uplifting obligations, and in celebrating together the gifts we have been given.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

What’s the Origin of the Easter Bunny?

It doesn't come from the Bible

Easter is the Christian celebration of the resurrection of Jesus, but the seasonal chocolate eggs and the bunny who delivers them are nowhere to be found in scripture.

The exact origins of the Easter bunny are clouded in mystery. One theory is that the symbol of the rabbit stems from pagan tradition, specifically the festival of Eostre—a goddess of fertility whose animal symbol was a bunny. Rabbits, known for their energetic breeding, have traditionally symbolized fertility.

Eggs are also representative of new life, and it’s believed that decorating eggs for Easter dates back to the 13th century. Hundreds of years ago, churches had their congregations abstain from eggs during Lent, allowing them to be consumed again on Easter. According to History.com, in the 19th century Russian high society started exchanging ornately decorated eggs—even jewel encrusted—on Easter.

MORE Masses Brave Rain for Pope’s Easter Message in St. Peter’s Square

But how did the Easter Bunny begin delivering eggs on American shores? According to History.com, the theory with the most evidence is that the floppy-eared bearer of candy came over with German immigrants:

According to some sources, the Easter bunny first arrived in America in the 1700s with German immigrants who settled in Pennsylvania and transported their tradition of an egg-laying hare called “Osterhase” or “Oschter Haws.” Their children made nests in which this creature could lay its colored eggs. Eventually, the custom spread across the U.S. and the fabled rabbit’s Easter morning deliveries expanded to include chocolate and other types of candy and gifts, while decorated baskets replaced nests. Additionally, children often left out carrots for the bunny in case he got hungry from all his hopping.

Bunnies aren’t the animal traditionally associated with Easter in every country. Some identify the holiday with other types of animals like foxes or cuckoo birds.

Read next: How the White House’s Easter Egg Tradition Got Rolling

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TIME Religion

Pope Francis’s Divorce Dilemma

TIME Books

Somebody is going to feel betrayed no matter what he does

Though one probably should be cautious in using such language about a religious leader, Pope Francis seems to have painted himself into a “damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t” corner with regard to a mounting Catholic debate over divorce.

Whether a result of cunning, naiveté, or simply the inescapable dynamics of a trying to change a divided church, Francis has created a situation in which somebody is going to feel betrayed no matter what he does.

In a nutshell, Catholicism teaches that marriage is between a man and a woman (hence “no” to gay marriage), permanent (hence “no” to divorce), and must be open to children (hence “no” to birth control). Despite his reputation as a maverick, Francis has made clear that teaching will not change.

Yet there’s long been debate about how to care for believers living beyond the official boundaries, especially those who divorce and remarry outside the Church.

Under church law, such folk should be denied the sacraments of communion and confession. In practice, some priests and bishops over the years have quietly encouraged them to come anyway. It’s particularly tempting when the person isn’t at fault for the breakdown of the first marriage – for instance, a woman whose husband walked out – and who now has children in a second marriage.

There’s no precise estimate worldwide, but according to Georgetown University’s Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, some 4.5 million Catholics in the United States are divorced and remarried without an “annulment,” a declaration from a church court that the first marriage was invalid.

During the more relaxed Pope Paul VI era in the 1970s, the Vatican signed off on what’s known as an “internal forum” solution, meaning that a Catholic makes a private decision in conscience to take the sacraments, approved by a priest acting as a confessor. Pope John Paul II in 1981 reasserted the communion ban.

In 1993 a handful of German prelates, including Walter Kasper, then the Bishop of Rottenburg-Stuttgart and today a cardinal, announced they would welcome the divorced and remarried to communion anyway. Their stance triggered a Vatican crackdown the next year by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI.

That’s where things stood until Francis, who’s sent mixed signals. In February 2013, the pontiff tapped Kasper to re-open a debate among cardinals about inviting the divorced and remarried back to the sacraments in at least some cases, but has also allowed several of his own aides to insist publicly that change is impossible.

Fueling controversy even more, Francis has called two summits of Catholic bishops, called “synods,” on family issues. A synod can’t decide anything; it can merely offer advice to a pope. But it’s a useful x-ray of where the world’s bishops stand.

During the first, held last October, battles lines were drawn for and against the “Kasper proposal” to loosen the rules, and signs are that the clash will be even more intense during round two this October.

In recent weeks, 500 conservative priests in the U.K. published an open letter asking the synod to defend the communion ban, prompting their more moderate boss, Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, to tell them to keep their advice out of the papers.

Cardinal Reinhard Marx of Munich, also a moderate, hinted that the German bishops might go their own way regardless of what the synod decides. His position was decried as “absolutely anti-Catholic” by fellow German Cardinal Gerhard Müller, the Vatican’s top doctrinal overseer, and better suited “to the counter of a bar” by another more conservative German, Cardinal Paul Cordes, a former Vatican official close to Pope Benedict.

Staunchly conservative American Cardinal Raymond Burke warned in a recent interview that “confusion is spreading in an alarming way.” In a speech to German bishops, Swiss Cardinal Kurt Koch actually compared calls to water down church teaching to the way some German Christians went along with Hitler.

Meanwhile, the influential Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of the Philippines, a Catholic rock star across Asia, came out in favor of making the rules more flexible. “Every situation for those who are divorced and remarried is quite unique,” Tagle said in a speech in the U.K. in mid-March. “We cannot give one formula for all.”

Though it’s common for Catholics at the grassroots to slug it out like this, cardinals doing so in full public view is unusual. It reflects a sense that the stakes are high, for a couple of reasons.

For one, Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI took a clear stand on the issue. If Francis were to roll it back, it could send a signal that all papal edicts are only temporary, undercutting the ancient dictum that “Rome has spoken, the case is closed.”

For another, the dust-up over divorce and remarriage often functions as a proxy for more contentious matters, such as women priests or birth control. If a pope is willing to break with the past here, some hope and others fear, perhaps change will come elsewhere.

Francis is a pope of surprises, making it difficult to predict what he’ll decide. It’s far easier to forecast that whatever happens, a sizeable chunk of the Catholic Church is going to be deeply disenchanted.

John L. Allen Jr., is the author of THE FRANCIS MIRACLE: Inside the Transformation of the Pope and the Church, published by Time Inc. Books.

TIME Religion

The Writing’s on the Wall for Christians

Organizers fire up a crowd of demonstrators gathered to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, in Indianapolis March 28, 2015.
Nate Chute—Reuters Organizers fire up a crowd of demonstrators gathered to protest a controversial religious freedom bill recently signed by Governor Mike Pence, in Indianapolis March 28, 2015.

Rod Dreher is a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative.

Is it necessary for the new majority, which has won the culture war, to drive religious dissenters out of the public square as pariahs?

The current fight over Indiana is a real handwriting-on-the-wall moment for orthodox Christians and other religious conservatives, who now understand that the Left’s culture warriors, having won the gay-rights conflict decisively, are determined to shoot the prisoners.

The reason Indiana is so shocking to those who oppose same-sex marriage — still 33% of the country, according to last month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll — is because of the modesty of the Hoosier statute.

The law does not guarantee a “license to discriminate” against gays and lesbians, a phrase that has been widely disseminated. Rather, it simply raises the bar for proving illegal discrimination in religion-related disputes a bit higher. All it does is grant believers the chance to make their case. It does not mean that they will prevail.

What is so alarming about the opposition’s moral panic over the law is its inability to accept that there could possibly be a legitimate religious defense of discrimination at all. To progressives, we are all Bull Connors.

I understand that most liberals view homosexuality as entirely analogous to race. Abrahamic religion does not see it that way. Sexual expression has moral meaning that race does not. You don’t have to agree with Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and traditional Christians, but this goes down to the foundational beliefs of our religions.

We may be wrong. But the Constitution gives us the right to be wrong. It is a right so precious it was guaranteed in the First Amendment, alongside free speech.

Religious liberty, like free speech, is not an absolute right, but it is at the core of what it means to be an American. And like free speech, it matters more when the religious expression is unpopular.

Liberals seem ignorant of how plaintiffs with whom they would normally sympathize benefit from state religious freedom laws. In 2008, the ACLU filed suit against a Texas public school district to force it to accommodate Adriel Arocha, a Native American child who wore his hair long as a religious statement — this, despite the school’s conservative grooming policy. In 2010, a federal appeals court settled the case in Arocha’s favor, citing the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act in its ruling.

The very impetus for the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which was passed with enormous bipartisan support, was a case involving a tiny Native American sect of peyote users. The RFRA’s overwhelming backing came not because members of Congress favor drug use, but because they — and religious leaders both liberal and conservative — recognized that religious liberty means standing up for unpopular religious expression within constitutionally appropriate bounds. The peyote-users showed that the drug was key to their well-established religious practice, and that there was no compelling government interest in violating that practice. They were right. So are the Hoosier Christians who, in theory, would decline to bake a cake for a gay wedding.

That’s the other thing about the Indiana freakout: Where, exactly, are the many examples of businesses discriminating against same-sex patrons? If Indiana in 2015 were like Mississippi in 1956, that would be one thing. But the number of cases nationwide where this has happened has been small, involving rare instances in which a commercial service is arguably a form of coerced expression.

America has changed on homosexuality — for the better, in most cases. Refusing to serve gay customers is bad for business, which is why almost nobody does it. It is understandably offensive to gay couples to have, say, a baker refuse on religious grounds to make their wedding cake. But in today’s America, there are many more bakers who would love their business. Besides, a country in which gay rights is enjoying landslide approval is a country that can afford to give a modicum of protection — a day in court — to religious dissenters from popular sentiment.

But it’s an open question as to whether the country can afford the scorched-earth policy of the Left’s culture warriors. Is it really the case that 33% of the American people are Jim Crow bigots because of their sincerely held principles — principles that were nearly universal only a generation ago? As a practical matter, is it really necessary for the new majority, which has decisively won the culture, to drive religious dissenters out of the public square as pariahs?

Believe it or not, many of us orthodox Christians are grateful to live in a country where gays and lesbians are freer. But the illiberal liberalism on display in Indiana is absolutely chilling to us. And we know how vulnerable that leaves us and our institutions going forward.

This fear is real, it’s substantive, and it will have destructive consequences for the common good. An America where the majority casts aside religious liberty, and treats orthodox Christians as outcasts as gays were once wrongly treated, is an America in which it is hard to have faith.

It doesn’t have to be this way, but when the old-fashioned liberal virtues of compromise and tolerance for each other in our failings are construed by progressive Puritans as vice, it’s hard to have faith in a common American future.

Rod Dreher is a senior editor and blogger at The American Conservative and author of the forthcoming “How Dante Can Change Your Life” (Regan Arts), to be published April 14.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar: Indiana Is on the Wrong Side of History

Demonstrators gathered at the Indiana State Capital to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.
Nate Chute—Reuters Demonstrators gathered at the Indiana State Capital to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.

TIME columnist Abdul-Jabbar is a six-time NBA champion and league Most Valuable Player. He is also a celebrated author, filmmaker and education ambassador.

The state took a step toward establishing an American version of Sharia law

In the 1987 movie Moonstruck, Nicolas Cage plays a contentious man who, when confronted with his unreasonable and unjust behavior, shouts in defense, “I ain’t no freakin’ monument to justice!” That line echoes in my head when I think about Indiana’s hypocritical and anti-American Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). At its core, rather than being a monument to justice, RFRA is a step toward establishing an American version of Shari’a law.

I know that sounds hyperbolic, in the tradition of, “If Obama is re-elected, the terrorists have won” or “If the pipeline isn’t approved, you’re Nazis because Hitler once nixed a pipeline.” However, in this case, the comparison is not so crazy. Shari’a law, when imposed on a population by force, makes a single religion’s teachings (often a single sect of that religion’s teachings) the law of the land. The mission is to force everyone to follow the teachings lest they be punished. Although RFRA supporters aren’t physically assaulting people, they certainly are attempting to punish those who don’t follow their own very specific interpretation of God’s teachings.

MORE Indiana Governor Urges Clarification of Controversial Religious Freedom Law

The U.S. Constitution is one of the greatest documents ever written because it has a clearly articulated mission of creating a country in which all people are given equal opportunity and equal protection in order to seek those opportunities. Simple, but sublime. One major component to the spirit of the Constitution is that we don’t promote any single religion above any other. To favor any religious teaching just based on popularity contradicts the spirit of the mission of the Constitution and is as direct an attack on the principles of this country as was the firing on Fort Sumter.

Indiana’s RFRA is also unfairly tarnishing the image of Christians. Christians have been at the forefront of fighting for equality since this country was founded. They were on the front lines of abolition, the Civil Rights movement, and in expanding LGBT rights. They risked their careers, families, and lives. Refusing service isn’t an expression of Christian love, but an example of shaming. Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount is a revocation of some of the harsher judgments of the Old Testament (“an eye for an eye”) in order to embrace all people as fellow travelers on the path to salvation. While most Christians want to help people along that path, Indiana’s RFRA supporters want to set up road blocks.

Indiana is roughly 80% Christian, so whom exactly is this law protecting? What religion is being “restored”? Practitioners of Christianity in Indiana are not in jeopardy of losing their right to worship or practice their faith. That means the only reason to pass such a law is to allow people to extend the practice of their faith to include discriminating against those who don’t share their values. That’s the kind of thinking that drove Christians out of Europe to found this country.

Some question why all the attention is suddenly on Indiana when 19 other states and the federal government have passed similar laws. Here’s why: (1) RFRA is similar to the other laws but has two fundamental differences. Indiana’s law allows for-profit businesses the same right as an individual or church to use this law to discriminate. And it protects the for-profit business from a private lawsuit claiming discrimination. (2) Just because someone else gets away with committing a bad act doesn’t mean we don’t punish the next person we catch. (3) The law is clearly a pouty response to gay marriage in the state; it’s an attempt to tell government not to interfere in private moral choices by passing a law that interferes in private moral choices. (4) It’s also clearly a thumbed-nose toward the cultural awakening taking place across the country in support of LGBT equality.

Finally, the main reason the bill’s supporters deserve this wrath is because they passed RFRA as a cynical political ploy to appease Indiana conservatives. Scrambling Indiana politicians suddenly protest that the law’s intention is not to discriminate. In fact, that’s its only reason to exist. Even if no one actually uses the law, it’s still a loaded weapon with one intended victim: Anyone Who Isn’t Us.

The politicians thought it would cost them nothing and gain them voter appreciation. Fortunately, it is costing them much more than they imagined. Angie’s List, Salesforce, the state of Connecticut, the cities of San Francisco and Seattle, and others are threatening to cancel buildings, conventions, and other business enterprises in Indiana. Also, the NBA and NCAA are debating how to express their outrage. Charles Barkley rightly called for the NCAA Final Four tournament to be held elsewhere.

People of all religions and races and ethnic backgrounds should join together to condemn this law and boycott the state because whenever we allow any discrimination, we make it possible for the infection to spread.

Maybe as a result of this economic pressure, Indiana lawmakers, like Nic Cage’s character, will proclaim, “You ruined my life!” To which we respond with the same words as Cher’s character: “That’s impossible! It was ruined when I got here!”

Read next: Indianapolis Star Urges Governor to ‘Fix’ Religious Freedom Law

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Religion

Connecticut Gov. Malloy: ‘Mike Pence Knew What He Was Doing’

Dannel P. Malloy
Jessica Hill—AP Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is interviewed by The Associated Press in his office at the State Capital before he is sworn in for his second term, Jan. 7, 2015, in Hartford, Conn.

Dan Malloy is the governor of Connecticut.

But he did it anyway

If we stand idly by while states legalize bigotry, we are responsible for allowing it to happen. Yesterday, Connecticut took action to stop discrimination against any of our citizens. I signed my 45th executive order, which made our state the first in the nation to ban state-funded travel to Indiana.

Uproar has occurred both in and out of the Hoosier State for good reason. The religious freedom law Republican Governor Mike Pence signed last week — deliberately lacking protections against discrimination for the LGBTQ community — will allow an entire group of citizens to be treated as second class.

The law is disturbing, disgraceful, and outright discriminatory. Governor Mike Pence knew what he was doing. He knew this legislation would allow discrimination against American citizens. He signed it anyway.

Codifying discrimination in our laws should be something we read about in American history, not on the front pages of today’s American newspapers and magazines. Fortunately, Connecticut has been joined by many elected officials, business leaders, and organizations across the nation who are standing up against this discriminatory law.

No person should be denied service at a lunch counter because of who they love. A landlord should not be able to deny housing to a person based on his or her sexual preference. No state, as a matter of public policy, should turn back the clock on progress by, in effect, legalizing and relitigating the same types of discriminatory laws and debates that took America centuries to overcome.

I am a person of faith who believes deeply in the right to exercise religious beliefs. But that’s not what Indiana’s law is about. It legally gives one private individual or business a blank check to discriminate against another. Packaging the law as a matter of “religious freedom” may provide a palatable political message to some, but ultimately Indiana is using religion as a legal basis for treating some Americans as second-class citizens.

To be clear, Connecticut has for two decades had a law recognizing freedom of religion. We celebrate it. But what separates us from Indiana is that we also have numerous statutes outlawing discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. We protect the rights of all our citizens.

Indiana doesn’t. And through what is a deliberate omission of those basic statutes that codify equality, Indiana has approved legal discrimination.

And for Governor Pence and Indiana, that’s just bad business — because it’s bad for business.

Apple CEO Tim Cook said it himself, penning an op-ed that called this law “dangerous” because it attempts to “rationalize injustice.” Business leaders from coast to coast are panning it. So is the NCAA.

All of it makes you wonder how many can so falsely and egregiously claim to be so “pro-business” while simultaneously implementing policies that are rooted in so much hate for America’s workforce.

Well, here’s my message to businesses in Indiana.

To the NCAA: Your LGBTQ athletes are always welcome in Connecticut. To Angie’s List, Eli Lilly, Yelp, Gen Con, and to all companies and leaders either overtly or privately questioning Indiana’s direction, please know that Connecticut is open for business— and will welcome those in your workforce for who they are. Everyone is treated equally under Connecticut’s laws.

As elected officials, we have a small window in time to impact lives in big ways. And it’s incumbent upon leaders to do what we’re supposed to: lead by doing what’s right for the people we serve.

Yesterday, Connecticut did that by standing up for progress and rebuking Indiana’s laws. I would encourage leaders across the nation, Democrat and Republican, to join us in standing up for action — and against discrimination.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME faith

Indiana Religious Freedom Law Breeds ‘First Church of Cannabis’

Marijuana plants are seen in an indoor cultivation in Montevideo
Andres Stapff—Reuters

Could the use of marijuana as a religious sacrament be protected under Indiana's new law?

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act is facing its first real test — after Governor Mike Pence signed the controversial law, an Indiana man successfully filed to establish the “First Church of Cannabis Inc.”

The church is based on “love and understanding with compassion for all,” according to its founder’s interview with the Washington Post, and its sacrament, naturally, is cannabis. The church doesn’t plan to buy or sell marijuana, which is still illegal in Indiana, but it will grow hemp.

The church’s founder Bill Levin considers most religious holy texts things of the past. In his church, parishioners should have a profound understanding of “The Emperor Wears No Clothes,” he said. The church’s followers, called “cannataerians” also have a set of guiding principles, the first of them: “don’t be an a—hole.”

It may sound like a joke, but the church’s establishment is a real product of the new Indiana law that limits the state government’s ability to impede on an individual’s religious beliefs. Because the church celebrates the drug under the guise of religion, its use could be protected under the law.

[Washington Post]


I Don’t Need a Financial Plan, Because the World Will End in Two Years

apocalyptic sky
Michael Turek—Getty Images

If someone believes we're in End Times, how do you convince that person to fix her finances?

As a financial planner, I’ve had a number of clients and potential clients who have felt comfortable enough to express their views about religion, politics, and society in general.

Sometimes their views have coincided with my own, and sometimes they haven’t. I don’t know who said you should never debate religion and politics, but my guess is it was someone who did.

Sometimes, however, these sensitive subjects are unavoidable, like in a conversation I had several years ago with a potential client.

We were in my office having a wonderful talk. This woman was extremely polite. She had a nice smile and a warm disposition. In fact, she could have easily won the award for World’s Best Grandma.

As our conversation moved along, I started explaining the importance of having a financial plan.

She politely allowed me to finish. Then, in a very nice voice, she told me that the reason she did not have a financial plan, nor want one, was because we were in End Times. She said that she believed in the Rapture and that it was near — within the next year or two.

I swallowed hard and thought, How do I respond to this?

At that moment it didn’t matter whether or not I shared her beliefs, because they were hers. I had to respect her and her right to believe.

I don’t remember the exact words I used after hearing her explain why she didn’t believe in financial planning, but I do know that I spoke with extreme caution. My response was along the lines of, “I completely understand what you’re saying, and I’m not disputing your belief. But my role is to help you plan for the what-ifs. In other words, what if your timing is off just a little?”

I knew if I pressed the point, I would be essentially trying to change her views about her belief in the future — a future she proceeded to describe in detail for me.

Our conversation ended cordially.

This woman did not become a client, but the experience was a lesson for me. My views about religion are unimportant when it comes to planning for my clients. What’s important is what they believe, and how their beliefs affect their outlook on the future.

As a financial professional, it’s easy to point a finger and judge others for their irrational behaviors and beliefs when it comes to finance. The reality is, however, that we are all subject to moments of irrationality.

Yes, this woman, it turns out, was clearly wrong in her forecast. After all, we’re still waiting for the Rapture.

But she’s not such an outlier. Someone who says he knows which way the stock market will go in the next year or two is not much different from a woman who says she knows the world will end in a year or two.

The difference is I’m not going to engage in a debate with a client about the timing of the world’s end. The ability to predict the markets? Now, that’s something I’m willing to argue about.


Frank Paré is a certified financial planner in private practice in Oakland, California. He and his firm, PF Wealth Management Group, specialize in serving professional women in transition. Frank is currently on the board of the Financial Planning Association and was a recipient of the FPA’s 2011 Heart of Financial Planning award.

TIME States

The Debate Over What Indiana’s Religious Freedom Act Is Really About

Demonstrators gathered at the Indiana State Capital to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.
Nate Chute—Reuters Demonstrators gathered at the Indiana State Capital to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indianapolis on March 28, 2015.

More than a dozen other states have considered similar measures this year, which critics tar as "anti-gay"

Opponents of Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act believe that while the law explicitly says one thing, it is designed to do another.

Supporters say the measure is meant to do just what it sounds like: make sure the government doesn’t impinge on the religious liberty of Hoosiers. But many gay rights advocates, politicians and civil liberty organizations believe the law will aid discrimination against lesbians and gays in the Midwestern state—giving businesses, landlords or employers legal grounds to treat them differently based on a religious opposition to homosexuality.

When Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law on Saturday, Indiana joined 19 other states that have similar “RFRAs,” while Indiana is one of 31 states that does not have a state-level non-discrimination law that covers sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The boogeyman that wants to attack religious adherents has just not arrived in Indiana,” says Jennifer Drobac, a law professor at Indiana University who signed a letter from academics expressing concern about the bill. “This is all coming on the heels of the same-sex marriage debate.”

The law prohibits the government from infringing on a person’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless the government has a “compelling interest” and that infringement is the “least restrictive” means of protecting that interest. The language of the bill defines a “person” as not just an individual, but essentially any business or organization.

Many religious freedom laws are modeled on a 1993 federal law signed by former President Bill Clinton. Pence has explicitly likened Indiana’s new law to that measure. Back then, Democrats lauded the bill as righting wrongs done to Americans who had been forced to follow the letter of laws that contradicted their beliefs—like a man whose religion forbids autopsies being forced to undergo that procedure, or an American Indian who loses his job for taking part in a ritual that involves peyote.

Notre Dame law professor Richard Garnett, who supports the law, says Indiana’s measure has the same aim of protecting such people. In an op-ed in the South Bend Tribune, he gives the example of a Muslim prisoner who should be able to wear a beard, as his religion dictates, despite prison regulations against facial hair. Garnett was among the signatories of another letter from academics expressing support for the bill and arguing that Indiana’s Constitution “protects religious liberty to a considerable — but uncertain — degree.”

MORE: What You Need to Know About Indiana’s Controversial Religious Objections Law

Opponents of the bill point out that more than 20 years from the time Clinton signed the federal law, the political context has changed.

Some social conservatives have championed religious freedom bills as way to exempt businesses like bakeries or florists from providing services to same-sex couples who are winning the right to marry in places where that practice isn’t politically popular. Lawmakers in Indiana worked but failed to pass a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage in 2014, months before the state was forced through court rulings to start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Advocates who oppose the law say it appears like a “Plan B.” Eunice Rho, counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, says that amendments to the bill that would make it clear that it can’t be used to undermine civil rights laws were repeatedly offered. “The proponents of the legislation proclaimed, over and over again, that this can’t be used to discriminate, this is about religious freedom. So we said, ‘Great. We’re in agreement on that. Let’s put it in the bill,'” she says. “And all of those amendments were voted down.”

In addition to Indiana, lawmakers in more than a dozen other states have considered “religious freedom” bills in 2015. Sometimes such measures crop up alongside non-discrimination legislation that LGBT rights advocates continue to push in legislatures across the states. While federal law prohibits discrimination based on attributes like sex and race, there is no federal anti-discrimination law that protects people on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The same is the case in 31 states, where there is no law prohibiting employers from firing someone or landlords from denying someone housing solely because they are gay or transgender.

In Michigan, the Christian Coalition’s Keith den Hollander recently testified against an LGBT non-discrimination bill and said it amounted to “religious persecution.” David Kallman, speaking on behalf of the socially conservative Michigan Family Forum, framed the stakes this way: “Why should that baker or photographer be forced against their religious beliefs and conscience to participate in [a same-sex wedding]? And if they refuse to because of their religious conscience, to be put out of business?”

Such opponents of non-discrimination laws sometimes seek “religious freedom” bills as a counter attack, giving that hypothetical business owner grounds to challenge non-discrimination laws and protections against being sued.

MORE: 5 Things to Know About Indiana Gov. Mike Pence

While Indiana has no state-level LGBT non-discrimination measure, several cities including Indianapolis do. Those are the places where such laws could go head to head in court when the act takes effect on July 1. Legal experts say it’s unclear how the courts in Indiana would rule. “It does not say that members of religious minorities will be successful if they seek exemptions,” Garnett, the Notre Dame law professor, wrote, “only that they are entitled to a day in court.”

Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel at Lambda Legal, which advocates for LGBT rights, also expresses uncertainty about what precedents might be set in court. But, she says, regardless of what happens in the legal sphere, there is also a “social effect” that could lead to more discrimination.

“People’s conduct is shaped by their understanding of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable in terms of human interactions, what the social standards are,” she adds. “That bill now embodies a state policy that religion is a legitimate reason for turning away customers because of who they are.”

As Indiana has dealt with backlash from passing the new law—ranging from grassroots protests to announcements that companies would be taking their business elsewhere—North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory said he wouldn’t be signing a similar bill. In Georgia, a committee meeting to consider a religious freedom act on Monday was canceled, for the time stalling a measure that already passed the state senate.

In Florida, a state that has passed a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the legislature is considering a LGBT non-discrimination bill. A group working to pass the measure released a study in late March suggesting that having an environment that is potentially “hostile” to LGBT people was costing the state around $362 million per year. Several organizations and businesses have expressed dismay at Indiana’s new law, which may end up being costly for the Hoosier State. Conventions are relocating, businesses are putting expansions in the state on hold and even the NCAA has expressed skepticism about the political climate.

Some Indiana politicians are calling for the state’s civil rights law to be updated so that people are explicitly protected on the basis of sexual orientation. Pence has meanwhile said he’s open to legislation that will further clarify what the new religious freedom law can do. Rho, of the ACLU, says there are few limitations about which acts the law could be used to defend based on religious conviction—whether it’s firing a woman for using the pill or kicking a couple out of an apartment for cohabiting before marriage.

“I’m definitely worried about gays and lesbians, but I’m also worried about women who want to access birth control,” says Indiana University’s Drobac. “This is a stupid law … We need to repeal this law immediately.”

Read next: Uproar Over Religious Freedom Law Trips Up Indiana’s Governor

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