PC(USA) anxiously awaits proposed revision to Indiana RFRA law

March 31, 2015

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 neighboropposes 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 lawsthe 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 IndianaYouth 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 formThis denomination standfirmly 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.

미국 장로교는 인디애나 주의 종교 자유 및 복원법 (RFRA)개정안을 우려 속에서 기다리고 있다

  1. I'd like to see less effort made to jump on board the latest headline and more effort made to help the church understand this cultural moment. What is the difference between acting on deeply held religious convictions and discrimination? The PCUSA divests from organizations that don't represent its values. Is this discrimination...or justice? Clearly the PCUSA thinks it knows. Perhaps it's time to model some tolerance and not simply assume the Indiana law is an exercise in discrimination against gays and lesbians. There is a delicate balancing act being played out in our time between the rights of some and the convictions of others. We can do better than being driven by the anxiety of the moment.

    by MICHAEL GARRETT

    April 2, 2015

  2. The action of the Indiana legislature should not have surprised anyone. Where were the business and religious leaders BEFORE the bill was enacted and signed. The significant departures from the comparable federal law were being pointed out well in advance as underlined by the most recent letter of February 27, 2015, signed by law professors from across the country sent out through Columbia University School of Law. Interestingly, eleven Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law professors has signed on to this letters EXCEPT for Dan Conkle. Conkle, a Presbyterian by the way, had been a major witness in support of the Republican Religious Freedom Restoration Act which both houses of the Indiana legislature approved and Governor Pence signed. Here is another instance where the Republicans sought out someone who would support their position. The approach has a familiar ring to it. similar to that of "climate change denial" or "racism denial" or "police brutality denial." One overlooks all the evidence or informed opinion to find that one that back your position and then "wonder what happened" or "blame the media", or "you label it." Maybe Presbyterians SHOULD look for new venues for major events OTHER THAN IOWA, TEXAS AND INDIANA. BUT WHERE?

    by Robert H. White, Jr.

    April 2, 2015

  3. So, based on these remarks, when pastors refuse to participate in SSM ceremonies, I am guessing that PCUSA will fight that discrimination? The freedom of conscience promised in the latest round of debate will, as predicted, disappear.

    by Todd Capitano

    April 2, 2015

  4. Reading the actual bill, it is about standing in legal proceedings, because as we have seen some people prefer to sue over talking. Let's reverse the situation, what if a prochoice business out of conscience chose to refuse to sell its wares to a prolife agency? or if the pcusa, which currently is propalestinian, chose to divest from Catepillar ( business in IL) out of conscience? oh wait that's not discrimination, that's justice. why can't we talk without jumping to conclusions and threatening to leave or punish those who strongly believe? No one is for discrimination. At the same time, all want to be protected for their beliefs. These are not easy waters to navigate--we need to talk and encourage peace. Let the bakers refuse to bake cakes and vote with your wallet. Let the people use their power to speak without organizing boycotts. No one wants boycotss of Cuba or Iran, let's not treat one another with any less grace. Can we, as believers, not find a way and be a model for others to get along? Not if we continue to bandwagon every publicity stunt. Think people, pray, talk.

    by relationships not reprisals

    April 1, 2015

  5. The Indiana Law basically holds that government sometimes has to infringe on religious freedom in order to pursue equality and other goods, but, when it does, it should have a compelling reason and should infringe in the least intrusive way possible. Hmm. What is wrong with that? It does not mandate any outcome. It just says there should be a compelling reason. The problem is that the left these days do not tolerate any reason that does not agree with their view. The so-called tolerant are in fact quite intolerant in the end.

    by Christopher Carlson

    April 1, 2015

  6. Dear Gradye, I am heartened by this response for the PC(USA) on our behalf. During this Holy Week in which we recount the ways that Jesus stood up non-violently to the Empire which was oppressive and violent, it is more important than ever that our denomination follow the way of Jesus. If Indiana is not willing to correct this harmful law, we MUST seek another place to send our Youth for the Triennium. If we do not, we are complicit and we are saying that discrimination is both legal and just. Please lead our denomination off of the fence of careful politics and onto the WAY of Jesus who would not stand for oppression of any kind and who regularly sat at table with those that the majority claimed were "offensive" in some way. Thank you. Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown, Pastor of Lincoln Park Presbyterian Church

    by Rev. Beth Buckingham-Brown

    April 1, 2015

  7. I would remind Rev. Tolar that even if there had been the possibility of such a vote on the Indiana issue it would still not have represented everyone. GA like Congress must use its' conscience. The Stated Clerk has been and is very adept at taking the pulse of the denomination - one that is still very divided on many issues. Bravo sir on helping us walk a line that includes many and helps us interpret the Gospel in today's knotty problems.

    by Elder Teddy J. Hogle

    April 1, 2015

  8. I wonder what it would look like if the PCUSA became a non-anxious presence? I wonder if words like "anxiously await" , "alarmed" and "must advocate" indicate an unhealthy haste? I wonder if implying that the Triennium may move venues because of legislation is a benefit to promoting peace? I wonder if "equality" is something which is to be within our grasp? I wonder how my attitude and those participating in the PCUSA can become more and more the same as that of Christ Jesus? I wonder why Jesus commanded Peter to put away his sword? I wonder if we can sit down with one another and move in directions of relationships as a priority to legislation? Just wondering . . .

    by Augustine Wright

    April 1, 2015

  9. As members of Second Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis, we are saddened by the recent action taken by the Indiana legislature and Governor. Our church is one of the largest in Indiana and PC USA. We welcome ALL those that believe in the resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ. The law should never have seen the light of day. However, I do have a significant problem with PC USA. I am still trying to find any reference in scripture where Jesus married a same sex couple. I read the four gospels and I still am unable to find any reference. We are concerned with the tone of the letter. Will a church that professes love and toleration for differences - love and tolerate a church within PC USA that does not adopt the new definition of marriage three, four, or five years hence? Do you believe that extortion should be utilized by the governing body (threatening to pull Triennium out of Indiana) and harm members of PC USA in Indiana? John and Mary Poulin

    by John H Poulin

    March 31, 2015

  10. I don't remember the outrage when this was a bi-partisan bill at the federal level signed by Bill Clinton. What has changed?

    by Glen Hallead

    March 31, 2015

  11. Hmmm ... so if a church in Indiana is sued for following the Book of Order's paragraph that says neither the Pastor nor the Session of a congregation has to say yes to a SSM, the PC(USA) will then back them up with legal help??

    by Reformed Catholic

    March 31, 2015

  12. Yea, but are you open and affirming. Do you have any gay and/or female pastors?

    by Barb

    March 31, 2015

  13. I wonder what the source is of these similar bills. I am assuming there is a coordination of efforts to have this agenda being pressed along a wide front.

    by Rev. Steve Spidell

    March 31, 2015

  14. Gradye, I was hoping this letter from the Office of the Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (USA) would be stronger - something that would suggest that, "...we find this piece of legislation signed into law by Gov. Pence to be reprehensible, scandalous, an overt act of injustice, a perversion of religious liberty, and an assault and insult on all who fight daily for freedom, justice, and equality in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." I would have also liked for you to ask Gov. Pence and the legislature to repeal this law. I think Dr. King once said, "...an unjust law is no law at all." Rev. John Steppert (Retired) Longview, WA

    by Rev. John Steppert

    March 31, 2015

  15. Thanks for getting involved. I like the iron fist in the velvet glove.

    by King J. Smith

    March 31, 2015

  16. A denominational post (on Facebook) cannot claim to speak for all members or pastors in that denomination. Especially in regards to what is happening in a political setting (Indiana). Please refrain from such posts unless the denomination has taken a vote on that specific item. We are a "representative democracy." Such posts are individual opinions. These opinions are not welcome in my eyes. Rev. Robert Tolar, Jr. Pastor in the PC(USA)

    by Robert Tolar, Jr.

    March 31, 2015

  17. Many of us in Indiana pray that regardless of sincerity of intent, or lack of the same, that this law is either changed or overturned by the legislature itself and the Governor. Absent that, it will be reversed by any methods possible. We need more than a polite statement that we "meant no harm". The law needs to protect not just promise.

    by LAWRENCE JACKMAN

    March 31, 2015

  18. Thank you, Gradye, for addressing this unfortunate situation with strength and clarity. Dennis Hughes

    by Dennis Hughes

    March 31, 2015

  19. Dear Gradye, Thank you for your prompt reply and witness on our behalf. It is powerful and assuring to hear our voice so clearly in the midst of our times. Peace, Ray

    by Ray Bagnuolo

    March 31, 2015

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