Indy mayor, religious group join opposition

Indianapolis Business Journal

Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and a major religious group have joined a growing list of civic and business leaders expressing opposition to Indiana’s controversial religious freedom restoration bill, which will become law unless vetoed by Gov. Mike Pence.

Ballard issued a written statement Wednesday saying the bill “sends the wrong signal” about Indiana.

“I don’t believe this legislation truly represents our state or our capital city,” the mayor said in the statement. “Indianapolis strives to be a welcoming place that attracts businesses, conventions, visitors and residents. We are a diverse city, and I want everyone who visits and lives in Indy to feel comfortable here.”

The legislation, Senate Bill 101, would prohibit any state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs and has a definition of a person that includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Groups supporting the measure said it would prevent the government from compelling people to provide services such as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable for religious reasons.

Opponents said the law could provide legal cover for discrimination against gay people.

Also on Wednesday, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) wrote a letter to Pence that said the bill “will be a factor in whether we continue with our plans to hold an assembly in Indianapolis in 2017.”

The organization, a mainline Protestant Christian group that has been headquartered in Indianapolis for nearly 100 years, draws about 6,000 visitors to its general assemblies, which take place every other year. The organization has more than 625,000 members in 3,600 congregations.

“We find (the legislation) contrary to the values of our faith — as well as to our national and Hoosier values,” the letter said. “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.”