The media’s coverage of an Indiana woman who cited the Bible as a child abuse defense ignored several key facts — including the defendant’s apparent inability to speak English, her liberal lawyer’s political activity and his ongoing lawsuit against Indiana Gov. Mike Pence — that flip the narrative on its head and raise questions about the lawyer’s motives.
Kihn Par Thaing, a 30-year-old Burmese refugee was arrested in February after authorities found 36 bruises on her son’s body — the result of Thaing beating her child with a plastic coat hanger.
Public records show that Thaing has required the use of an interpreter throughout preliminary court proceedings. A local Indianapolis newspaper reported that Thaing also relied on an interpreter when speaking to police.
National media coverage of the story made no mention of Thaing’s inability to speak English.
What generated headlines (and clicks), however, was that her lawyer claimed in a July 29 brief that Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by Pence exempted her from laws against child abuse. Legal experts have called that argument “totally implausible.” That argument was made in a July 29 motion to dismiss, which was rejected. (The actual trial doesn’t begin until October 29.)
Left-wing news organizations jumped at the opportunity to portray conservatives — Mike Pence in particular — as defenders of child abuse.
The Daily Beast ran a story on its front page that began, “Mike Pence’s signature law, Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is now being used to defend child abusers. And the abusers—one in particular—will probably win.” The story’s front page headline read, “Pence’s Law Is Good for Child-Beaters.”
The Washington Post headlined its coverage of the story, “She beat her son with a hanger — and said Indiana’s religious freedom law gave her the right.” The Post tagged the story under “Acts of faith.”
Huffington Post reporter Amanda Terkel claimed the case “shines an uncomfortable spotlight on the controversial law, which was signed last year by Donald Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R).” Terkel included in her a story a tweet from left-wing activist Chad Griffin, who called the case “A particularly horrifying example of why [Mike Pence’s] anti-LGBTQ law is dangerous and has no place in America.”
But left out of the coverage was any scrutiny of the man actually making the “totally implausible” legal argument — Indianapolis lawyer Gregory Bowes.
Bowes, a Democrat, served as an elected city official from 2004 to 2010, first as a city-county councilor and then as the Marion County assessor. In 2010, Bowes faced scrutiny for accepting $2,000 from a strip club owner while running for Marion County prosecutor.
Bowes’s website describes his services as “Providing litigation and appellate advocacy services in state and federal courts in Indiana, and representing victims of crime, negligence, and intentional torts such as battery, rape and child molestation.” Nowhere on Bowes’s website does he claim to have experience arguing religious liberty cases.
In 2014, Bowes ran for election to the Marion County Supreme Court. A survey of the Indianapolis Bar Association found that 57 percent of respondents — all of whom had had “direct professional contact” with Bowes — said they would not recommend Bowes for judicial office. Less than half said Bowes was ethical and 20.7 percent “strongly disagreed” with the statement that (speaking about Bowes) “This person is ethical.” He was defeated in the Democratic primary with just 5.1
Perhaps most interesting of all is that Bowes is currently suing Mike Pence, the man bearing the backlash of Bowes’s “totally implausible” legal argument.
Public records show Bowes is currently suing a handful of Indiana public officials — including Pence — in their official capacities over the rules governing the 2014 judicial election. Bowes lost the case in May of this year but has filed an appeal to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.
Although Bowes has been handling Thaing’s case since February, he only brought up the religious freedom defense in a motion to dismiss filed in late July — just two weeks after Donald Trump named Pence as his running mate. It’s important to note that just because Bowes used the RFRA defense in the motion to dismiss does not mean he will use it once the trial actually begins in late October. (The trial date has been pushed back several times already, and now falls just days before the Nov. 8 election.)
Bowes declined to comment to The Daily Caller.