Indiana News

Religious leaders: Religious Freedom bill may do more harm than good

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Governor Mike Pence said he’ll sign the Religious Freedom bill Thursday. He’ll do it in a private ceremony despite calls for him to veto it.

Those calls are even coming from people in his own party.

Mayor Greg Ballard said in a statement the legislation, “sends the wrong signal.” Ballard’s opposition follows outcry from the business community that says the bill has an anti-gay message.

Now religious leaders say the bill could do more harm than good.

“It uses religion in a way that actually spreads hate rather than love,” said Rev. Bruce Gray with The Episcopal Diocese of Indianapolis.

“This is not the right way to go about it,” said Edgar Hopida, Communications Director for the Islamic Society of North America.

“This bill is a solution in search of a problem,” said David Sklar Director of Government Affairs for the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council.

The groups’ concerns are over the bill lawmakers say is designed to help them.

“Everybody wants the opportunity for people to practice the rights they’re supposed to have in this country,” said Rep. Jud MCMillin, R-Majority Leader.

The religious leaders say the bill opens up the door to discrimination

“It’s more of a freedom to discriminate bill rather than a freedom of religion bill,” said Rev. Gray.

Another calls it a slippery slope.

“Will create a slippery slope which will probably allow discrimination of people,” said Hopida.

Legal minds also question the bill.

“This law takes a sledgehammer to the entire body of Indiana law and could effect things in all sorts of ways that we can’t anticipate,” said Robert Katz, a First Amendment and religion and law professor at The IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law. “Its ironic to see conservatives advancing such a radical law that changes everything.”

The situation has religions concerned for the rights already granted to them

“This comes pretty much out of the blue in terms of any real need,” said Rev. Gray.

“That sends a wrong message for a multipluristic, multi-religious society like America,” said Hopida.

“Its ambiguity, gray-area that is created in this legislation will ultimately hurt the Jewish community more than it will help it,” said Sklar.

The city and state could suffer economic losses because of the bill. Gen Con, one of the largest conventions to come to Indianapolis, has threatened to leave if the bill is signed. The Disciples of Christ has also threatened to do the same.