“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27, NRSV)
The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), rooted in the love of God through Jesus and guided by the charge to love thy neighbor, opposes any legislation that could enable discrimination and is eagerly awaiting proposed revisions to a problematic Indiana religious freedom law.
We are deeply alarmed about the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act (RFRA) recently signed into law by Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and are concerned that its current wording could provide a legal excuse for individuals and corporations to use religious conviction as a reason to discriminate.
We are, however, pleased by a pledge from Pence on Tuesday to“fix” the law to make clear that it does not allow for discrimination and his charge to state lawmakers to pass clarifying legislation this week. We pray the governor and state legislators will be guided by a sense of justice and fairness as they work to craft new language.
The Religious Freedom and Restoration Acts goes back to federal interpretation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution asserting that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof …”
The federal government has similar laws, the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act and Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act, which limit governmental action that would substantially burden an individual’s right to the free exercise of their religion to those with a compelling governmental interest and the least restrictive means of accomplishing the compelling governmental interest. Many states also have passed laws similar or substantially similar to the federal RFRA.
The PC(USA) affirms religious freedom and engages in ministry widely throughout the state of Indiana. Youth Triennium has been held for decades at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Over the next several weeks plans for the 2016 Triennium will be evaluated.
We assume this law had good intentions. Yet the PC(USA) must advocate for those who may be impacted by the improper use of the legislation in its current form. This denomination stands firmly on its ongoing commitment to fight discrimination of any sort, including against people of color, immigrants, and the LGBT community.
We anxiously await the changes Governor Pence has promised; call on legislators in states with similar laws pending to incorporate language that articulates nondiscriminatory intent; and stand in solidarity with our sisters and brothers who are continually denied equality and justice.