From: Bishop Michael J. Coyner
Indiana bishop of The United Methodist Church
I have been observing the Indiana Legislature and the surrounding turmoil over the twin issues of “religious freedom” and “equal rights for all.”
In spite of the best efforts of many people, including religious leaders, to help the process move toward a meaningful solution, we appear to be in another turmoil like last spring. I continue to hope for a fair-minded compromise that will protect the civil rights of everyone (including LGBT people) while also allowing for the religious freedom that is powerfully protected in our Indiana Constitution.
I am not a lawyer or legislative expert, but it appears that none of the bills put forth at this time is receiving full support from all sides. Rather, we are seeing the same kinds of polarization that rocked our state last year. That is sad.
As I survey the situation, I find myself wanting to remind everyone of the first of the “Three Simple Rules” of our Methodist heritage, namely, “First, do no harm.” Whatever laws eventually get passed, the first consideration must be to do no harm to everyone involved.
I am sure there are gay and lesbian and transgendered people who feel harmed by the current status. I am also aware that many religious people who are fair-minded are worried that some of the proposed new laws may do harm to them. Fears are rampant on all sides, and so are those who are fear-mongering in their efforts to get their way.
Perhaps we all need to stop, take a deep breath and ask ourselves, “How can we avoid making a tough situation even worse? How can we at least do no harm?”
Unless better solutions and compromises are found that provide fairness for all, maybe it would be best for the Indiana Legislature to do nothing. Religious freedom is well-protected in our state Constitution. Issues of discrimination can be handled through our legal system (even though that is slow).
And certainly the public perceptions are changing in such a way that any business that truly discriminates is likely to be out of business soon. Hoosiers are by nature fair-minded and hospitable people. Hoosiers know that most religious people are not bigots. Hoosiers know that most people with differing sexual orientation or gender identity are not dangerous perverts. Maybe if the Legislature can’t find a legal solution, we should give ourselves time to allow Hoosier hospitality and common sense to prevail.
I don’t know the answers, especially the right legislative answers, but I do know that we must stop short of making things worse. All sides need to dial down the rhetoric. All sides need to listen to one another. All sides need to seek the best for everyone.
“Do no harm” is a pretty good place to start.