RFRA fallout felt in local communities statewide

HAMILTON COUNTY, Ind. (WISH) — The fallout from the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is being felt in communities around the state. In Fishers, Mayor Scott Fadness issued a proclamation regarding the bill. In part it simply states the city is and always has been inclusive and proud of its diversity.

Fadness said Fishers aspires to be a “smart, vibrant and entrepreneurial” community and he wants to make sure those looking to locate there – be it a business or a new resident – know they are welcome.

Launch Fishers caters to entrepreneurs working on high potential, high impact companies – its 465 members represent about 275 companies. Founder John Wechsler said they rely on creative talent to build the companies that are launching. He’s already seeing fallout from RFRA.

“One company that we were talking to out of California that was looking to expand here emailed Sunday night and said it’s definitely put on hold until this whole thing is sorted out,” Wechsler said.

Fadness is fielding similar calls from businesses.

“That are questioning now is Indiana a good choice,” he said. “Is Fishers a good choice?”

He isn’t waiting for the discussion to play out on the state level, however – opting to issue a proclamation.

“In Fishers we want to send the message to our businesses and our residents that we’re open for business,” Fadness said. “We’re inclusive of everyone and we’re going to continue to further this entrepreneurial culture.”

A culture that’s fueling economic growth – growth City Council President Pete Peterson hopes doesn’t fall victim to RFRA.

“I’m a little bit worried that it may not continue at the pace we want it to just due to how this law is kind of being perceived out in the nation and certainly by the business climate,” Peterson said.

A climate that’s hampering the ability to draw the best, brightest and most creative for companies such as Sticks and Leaves – which builds mobile and web applications.

The challenge that we are facing now is how can we really recruit effectively the talent that we need to run our business,” said co-founder, Yaw Aning.

Fadness hopes the proclamation stems the tide.

“Where we’re trying to take our community, in terms of being vibrant and entrepreneurial, this type of distraction detracts from that attempt,” he said.

The proclamation will be signed by the Fishers City Council Wednesday morning at 8.

In Carmel, Mayor Jim Brainard said he’s made it clear from the beginning that the state and Carmel welcomes people from all backgrounds and all beliefs.

“One of Indiana’s strengths is always been that we are hospitable and we’re welcoming and this law does not express the way people are in Indiana,” he said. “And we need to fix that as quickly as possible.”

Brainard said the state is “shooting itself in the foot” and needs to “be smarter than that” and hopes the legislature does something soon to remedy the perception that Indiana isn’t about Hoosier Hospitality.

A similar view from Noblesville Mayor John Ditslear who said his city “welcomes all people regardless of religion, gender, sexual orientation, race, or ethnicity.”

“We work hard to have a warm and welcoming community that people are proud to call home,” Ditslear said. “We foster a culture of acceptance in Noblesville and the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act will not change that Noblesville is a great place to live, work and play.”

Westfield sent a statement to 24-Hour News 8 saying, “The city of Westfield has gained a national reputation as one of the best places to live, work and raise a family. We have made significant strides in creating an enviable quality of life and in competing in the global economy. Discrimination has no place in our community.”