Indiana Faces National Criticism for Religious Freedom Act

Article by Luke Carberry Mogan | esPResso Staff Writer

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Gov. Mike Pence Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

On March 26, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law. The bill will allow individuals and companies in Indiana to freely exercise their religious beliefs. It also gives businesses an opportunity to discriminate against members of the LGBT community and refuse service to them.

The bill faces opposition from LGBT equal rights activists. Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard worked immediate damage control before Pence signed the bill, communicating his own disagreement with the law. Ballard has issued an executive order warning companies they must still abide by Indianapolis’ human rights ordinance. The ordinance prohibits business entities from discriminating against people for reasons including sexual orientation and identity. The Huffington Post quoted Ballard on characterizing Indianapolis: “Our city thrives because we have welcomed and embraced diversity…RFRA threatens what thousands of people have spent decades building. And I won’t allow that to happen without a fight.”

Online news network The Young Turks’ host Cenk Uygur raised the issue of the potential financial loses Indianapolis could face with the passing of the Religious Freedom Act. He cites Gen Con, a convention for tabletop gaming, bringing in over $50 million to Indianapolis every year. Convention organizers threatened to move the event to another city if Governor Pence signed the bill. Business review website Angie’s List canceled its estimated $40 million office expansion in Indianapolis because of the law. Marc Benoiff, CEO of cloud computing company Salesforce.com, announced his company will “cancel all programs that require customers or employees to travel to Indiana.”

Performers such as the band Wilco and comedian Nick Offerman have altered their tour dates and canceled shows in Indiana. Statements have been issued by Indiana’s representative teams within the NBA, WNBA and NFL that they openly welcome all of their fans. “Star Trek” actor and LGBT activist George Takei has launched a boycott of Indiana, calling the Religious Freedom Act, “Bigotry, cloaked as religious protection,” according to MSNBC. “Scrubs” and “Garden State” star Zach Braff tweeted this picture in response to an Indiana pizzeria strictly refusing to cater a gay wedding.

USA Today notes that Indiana has hired public relations firm Porter Novelli to help save its reputation. Porter Novelli has been behind anti-smoking campaigns, advised Blockbuster Video and raised awareness on issues including HIV and climate change. Amid this controversy, Indiana wants to make it clear that the state is full of good people. Indiana’s new campaign to save its reputation sends mixed messages to people with the real potential of harmful consequences to come with the passing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

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