Historic Christian Group Upset With Indiana's Potential Religious Liberty Law

The Republican-controlled Indiana legislature approved a bill that was created to protect the state's religious liberties. Indiana Governor Michael Pence (R) said he is "looking forward" to signing the bill into law. Yet, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) — or “DoC” denomination sent a letter to Pence asking him to reconsider.

This bill is modeled after the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) and grants people the power to use religion as a legal defense even if the state is not involved in the case. This means that business owners can refuse service to same-sex couples just by citing their religious beliefs.

The Christian Church has around 659,000 members in America, having been headquartered in Indianapolis for close to 100 years. The group also threatened to relocate its general conference, a large meeting scheduled to bring 6,000 people to Indianapolis in 2017 if the RFRA is signed.

DoC General Minister and President Rev. Sharon E. Watkins sent a letter that reads:

Purportedly a matter of religious freedom, we find RFRA contrary to the values of our faith – as well as to our national and Hoosier values. Our nation and state are strong when we welcome people of many backgrounds and points of view. The free and robust exchange of ideas is part of what makes our democracy great … Our members and assembly-goers are of different races and ethnicities, ages, genders and sexual orientations. They have in common that they love Jesus and seek to follow him.
We are particularly distressed at the thought that, should RFRA be signed into law, some of our members and friends might not be welcome in Indiana businesses – might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.

Todd Adams, Associate General Minister and Vice President of the DoC, also said “Any time you have laws that basically are permitting bigotry and hatred and wrapping it in the cloak of religious freedom, you are potentially excluding people who would want to come [to Indiana] and work for you."

In the past, public pressure has defeated state-level RFRA legislation. In 2014, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was set to sign a similar law. However, Apple, Intel, AT&T and American Airlines decried the measure, and the NFL threatened to move the Super Bowl if it was approved. Ultimately Brewer vetoed the bill.

Photo: New York Daily News

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