Despite concerns about a proposed Indiana immigration law that may necessitate a change of location, plans are underway for this year’s Big Tent event, scheduled to meet June 30-July 2 in Indianapolis.
Organizers are urging Presbyterians to register for the event but to delay making travel arrangements until May 2, when the final location will be determined.
The Indiana legislature is considering Senate Bill 590, which many describe as “Arizona-type” legislation. The bill would allow law enforcement officials to check a person’s immigration status in some situations, make the harboring or transport of an undocumented immigrant illegal in some cases and require that all communication by the state and its employees be in English.
Last year’s 219th General Assembly voted to “refrain from holding national meetings at hotels in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color or Hispanic ancestry might subject them to harassment due to legislation similar to Arizona Law SB 1070/HB2162.”
“We really see it as an issue of hospitality,” said Kerry Rice, manager of General Assembly Meeting Services. He added that the church can’t hold an event where its guests will be subject to possible detention or harassment. “We need to stand in solidarity.”
Rice encouraged Presbyterians to register for Big Tent before the May 2 decision. If a new location makes participation impossible for some people, their registration money will be refunded. Travel plans should not be made until after the location is finalized.
Meeting Services has several other viable options for Big Tent locations if Indiana is ruled out, Rice said, adding that no specifics can be released until a final decision has been made.
Begun as a biennial event in 2009, Big Tent brings nine Presbyterian conferences to one location, offering participants a chance for worship, fellowship and education within several groups in one weekend.
For more information on the Big Tent and a possible location switch, visit the Big Tent webpage.