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Faith leaders: Put list back in Indiana hate crimes bill

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Faith leaders from across the state came together Thursday for a call to action on an Indiana hate crimes law.

The rally came just days after a gunman killed 50 people in two mosques in New Zealand. The way those religious leaders see it, Indiana needs a hate crimes law on the books that lists specific characteristics including race, religion, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. A measure before the Indiana legislature had a list of characteristics in February, and the governor told lawmakers to try again when they removed the list.

One lawmaker said Thursday she is uncertain if she will give the hate crimes bill a hearing in the committee she leads. If she does not, the measure could die in this year’s legislative session, leaving Indiana as one of five states without a hate crimes law.

“Ultimately, I feel frustrated,” said Senior Rabbi Brett Krichiver with the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation. “I am always honored and privileged to stand with our interfaith neighbors and to speak loudly our truth and to speak to the values we believe in.” 

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Leaders of different faiths stood together in the Statehouse to tell lawmakers to put the list of protected characteristics back into the hate crimes bill that’s under consideration. 

“It’s imperative that we have a hate crimes bill that specifically list the vulnerabilities that are particularly at stake right now,” said Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows of the Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis. “If we don’t name with specificity, we don’t have a strong bill.”

Bishop Douglas E. Sparks of the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Indiana said, “Violence against persons who are different than us — whether that be gender identity, sexual orientation, race, class, ability — those things are real.”

A majority of Indiana senators stripped the list of characteristics from the hate crimes bill because they believe Indiana’s current law already protects the various characteristics. 

John Girton, pastor of Christ Missionary Baptist Church of Indianapolis, said, “We must call on our legislators to no longer hide behind the dark veil of complicity.” 

State Rep. Wendy McNamara chairs the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code. McNamara has not yet decided if the hate crimes bill will get a hearing in her committee.

“We still have two weeks left of hearings,” the Republican from Evansville said. “I have 31 bills in that committee and lots of them require extensive work. I haven’t decided my agenda for the next two weeks. It’s still a fluid process, there’s always the opportunity.”