Public Principles and Wine in Indiana

wine bibleI’ve always thought that if one’s biblical perspective informed them that homosexuality was immoral, the best course of action would be to not engage in homosexual acts. Likewise, if one feels reliably sure that the Bible instructs that God is opposed to sex out-of-wedlock, then the best course of action is to refrain from sex until married. But I’m old-fashioned.

It appears that some are so sure that their responsibility to their religious beliefs requires them not merely to abstain from acts that they feel run counter to their faith, but that they are also called to refrain from doing business with those that don’t hold their beliefs and furthermore believe that it is important that the state protects their choice to discriminate against others that don’t share their religious convictions.

Fair enough. The state of Indiana and many of its citizens appear to have taken this latter view. However, they are discovering that there are consequences to exporting their personal religious beliefs onto their neighbor as well as into their legal code. In response to Indiana and Arkansas’ recent passage of an extended form of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act a number of companies and associations and individuals have chosen to re-evaluate their business relationship with these states. In some cases these institutions are choosing not to do business in the state any more. In some cases they are choosing to withdraw plans to expand their business. Just as those who are appealing to their principles in supporting paths to protected discrimination, others are following their principles in response and choosing not to do business with these states.

Does it make sense for a winery in, say, California, to make a public stand against these states’ actions by announcing they will no longer sell ship wine to Indiana consumers and wholesalers and, in the case of Arkansas, sell and ship no more wine to Arkansas wholesalers for sale to its retailers and restaurants?

I think there are three important deterrents to a winery choosing to take a stand in this manner.

1. You Simply Can’t Afford to Take a Stand.
The cost of giving up these sales would result in too great an impact on their bottom line, making taking this kind of principled stand impossible or at least difficult

2. You’ll Lose Business When You Piss Off Customers That Disagree with You and Your Public Stand
No doubt taking a public stand against bigotry will certainly result in those who find bigotry less offensive than your big mouth to refuse to continue to do business with you or refuse to continue to buy your wine. And the problem is that you never know who is going to react. It just might be an important partner who you need.

3. They Don’t Believe Taking A Stand Will Make Have Any Impact
A very large company might make and impact and make a public splash by taking a stand against Indiana or Arkansas and increase attention to the nature of these laws they find abhorrent. But what of a little winery that would have little or no impact and little or no exposure if they announced a boycott of sorts aimed at Indiana and Arkansas. What difference would I make?

I understand reason number one. It makes sense to me. If my cutting off a state or two you will actually jeopardize your business and those who work for you and with you, then it’s perfectly understandable to choose not to take a stand. But, it’s a calculation in the end.

Reason number two is understandable also. The backlash could be big relative to your size and could damage your business and impact your family and the employees you cherish.

Reason number three eludes me. I don’t think it makes sense and I don’t think anyone considering the impact of taking a public stand against bigotry ought to take this reason into consideration. Everything makes an impact. It may be a small and slight impact. But impact it will have. And you never know upon whom your actions will have an impact. They may inspire a much larger, much more visible concern to take a similar stand (if that little guy can do it, so can I).

I have no doubt that a number of winery owners across the country have asked themselves if they too ought to take a public stand as they have watched this issue of the merits of the public accommodation of bigotry play out over the past few days. And I’m willing to bet that as wineries have considered what they can do, many have never gotten past point number three in their calculation of whether action is warranted. I urge these wineries to get past reason number three and move on to reasons number 2 and 1.

On the other hand, you could always ask, “What Would Karen MacNeil Do”?
(with apologies to Karen…I couldn’t resist.)



9 Responses

  1. Steve - April 1, 2015

    Will everyday citizens of IN boycott CA (the largest producer of wine in America) wines? Somebody could organize a boycott and then we have an some interesting issues.

  2. Jeff Lefevere - April 1, 2015


    Interesting post. As a lifelong hoosier who has chosen time and again to live in Indiana, I’m qualified to respond.

    I think one very crucial clarification needs to be made regarding your post. It makes no sense for a winery to punish a consumer by not shipping into Indiana or not doing business with a distributor.

    Pure and simple, this is right wing conservative political pandering that had zero consumer backing. This is not California where referundums hit the ballot. This is a bill created by Republicans, to appeal to Republicans.

    This bill was very hot topic for a week prior to it being signed and it hitting the national news cycle. Aside from small town rural areas, Indiana is a fine state with a number of medium sized cities with universities and the progressive thought that you might expect. This bill represents the vocal minority and the politicians that cater to them … and nobody else.

  3. Tom Wark - April 2, 2015

    Jeff! How are you?? You are missed.

    It’s always interestilng how certain kinds of bills see the light of day and eventually pass. Where they came from….Who introduced them….the politics, etc…It never escaped me for a moment that the RFRA originated on the right side of the road. And I know where I stand on this sort of thing. What I’m interested in is the calculation that goes into determining how to act in response if you own a business and find the RFRA the height of offensiveness.

  4. The Drunken Cyclist - April 3, 2015


    It is the fine people of Indiana that elected these politicians (or at least allowed them to get elected). By hurting the pocketbooks of the fine people of Indiana, those outside the state are sending a clear message. Are they trying to influence the internal politics of the state? You bet they are. So the people of Indiana have a choice–elect politicians who fall more closely into the mainstream of social thought or suffer the potential economic repercussions.

  5. Jeff Lefevere - April 3, 2015

    Drunken: Probably best for me to not be drawn into your strawman. That said, your statement, “elect politicians who fall more closely into the mainstream of social thought or suffer the potential economic repercussion” is laughably elementary in reductive logic.

    • The Drunken Cyclist - April 3, 2015

      Jeff: Not sure which comment of yours was supposed to tweak me more. If you want to think that my comment was “laughably elementary” go right ahead. Right now, the rest of the country finds the conduct of the representatives elected in your home state far worse than that. You (collectively) voted for them, now you want to say this bill represents only a “vocal minority” yet the last I checked, it takes a simple majority to be elected in Indiana.

      I have no sympathy for those that idly sat by and let this happen.

  6. Jeff Lefevere - April 3, 2015

    Thanks for responding to the comment. Best wishes to you and to ensure I am crystal clear for the Internet record: I don’t support right wing conservative christian politics, I don’t support intolerance of any sort, and my worldview is progressive. Yet, I happen to live in a near suburb of Indiana’s largest metropolitan city, a blue swath in a largely red state.

    Should I be painted with the brush of bigotry from your looking glass because politicians pander to their tea party base, then so be it. It’s a naive viewpoint, perhaps as narrow as the notion we’re discussing.

  7. The Drunken Cyclist - April 3, 2015

    Jeff, I did not intend to suggest nor do I hope I implied that you should be “painted with a brush of bigotry.” Far from it–obviously, all the people of Indiana do not support this law nor those who wrote it, approved it, and signed it. But in a state that has only voted for a Democratic presidential candidate twice since 1940 (LBJ in ’64 and Obama, narrowly, in ’08), there seem to be more conservatives than progessives in the state. I think that is undeniable. All I was trying to question was your notion that this law was the result of the political manoeuvrings of but a few in the state. If that were true, it would seem to me that there would be a groundswell of opposition against it from within the state. Correct me if I am wrong, but it was not until there was considerable outside economic pressure that the governor so much as paused to reflect on the implications of the law he signed. Sometimes it takes at least the threat of economic hardship for some people to reconsider their ideological positions.

    If I offended you in any way, I apologize, but it seems as though we are on the same side of the bigger issue yet differ in the best way to affect change.

  8. Jeff Lefevere - April 3, 2015

    DC: I appreciate the discourse, the civility and the opportunity to close out here.

    The truth is that backlash against RFRA started in Indiana several days prior to its signing. It was a rushed bill in the first place because the state house was trying to push it through without getting too much scrutiny. Social media, local news outlets and the small business community all started vigorously speaking out. Gov. Pence went on media lockdown and signed the bill privately in the face of much local scrutiny.

    It wasn’t until after he signed that it turned into a national story. Aided by Marc Benioff, CEO of (has significant local operations) and the CEO of, headquartered here, both indicated vigorously that they would re-think their organizational positions in Indiana based on the new law. It didn’t help that the Mayor of Indianapolis (also a ‘publican) thoroughly denounced it, as well. Their two offices are about 2 blocks from each other in downtown Indianapolis. That led to Pence’s completely inert and inept Sunday morning circuit and it was game on for the national backlash that culminated yesterday in an amended bill and a tepid statement from Pence.

    From my view of the narrative, Indianapolis citizens started the fire, CEO’s with local business interest added gasoline and the national media stoked it. Not any other way. Perhaps that explains my umbrage with your comments.

    Just as there were people in the street in Ferguson protesting before the media flew in, so too did it happen here.

    Indiana is many things, not all of them flattering, but on the whole it is a welcoming, tolerant state known for its hospitality, particularly in Central Indiana where I live and in the NW of the state where there is a strong Chicago influence. It’s no San Francisco, but there is a healthy LGBT community that does not hide professionally or socially.

    Regrettably, Indiana is largely Republican. But, the politics here are moderate. In a state with significant universities (Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame, Butler, others) there’s an educated class who like low taxes, and don’t care about what you do behind closed doors.

    We had a long run with former Gov. Mitch Daniels who was fantastic fiscally and a moderate. Unfortunately, we replaced him with Pence who has aspirations of being President using the same blueprint that Ted Cruz is using. Pence’s career is pretty well ruined now, having been found out for the opportunistic tea party pandering fraud that he is and perhaps thats the silver lining in all of this.

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