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April 5, 2015

Disciples Take Action To Move 2017 General Assembly

Last Thursday, the governor of Indiana signed into law Senate Bill 101, also known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) over the protests of business leaders as well as leaders of the Christian Church.

After the law was signed on Thursday, March 26, 2015, the moderator team met followed by a meeting of the Administrative Committee by conference call. The General Board convened on a conference call on March 31, 2015 and unanimously voted to seek another venue for the 2017 General Assembly. (Message to the Church) Further discussion will occur at the General Board meeting in April.

At this writing on Wednesday, April 1, (noon EDT) proposals for changes to the law are being circulated in the State House. These changes may introduce anti-discrimination language, but it is unclear what the outcome will be at this time.

This decision was not taken lightly. Many individual Disciples and congregations in Indiana have been vocal in their opposition to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). Religious freedoms are guaranteed in the Indiana Constitution and opponents agree that the law was not needed. Though based loosely on a 1993 Federal statute, the Indiana law broadens the possibilities for discrimination. Not all "RFRA" laws are created equal. The Indiana law, by including for-profit businesses as well as individuals, opens the door for business owners to refuse service to anyone they deem "other" whether Muslim, Amish, immigrant, LGBT or Jew - much like Jim Crow laws of a half-century ago. Other Indiana legislation protecting some citizens, but not all, from discrimination, increases the risk introduced by Indiana's RFRA. Using the authority granted by the General Assembly in 1995, the presidents of DHM and DOM joined Watkins in drafting a letter to the governor.

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