April 10, 2015

Indiana bishops issue statement on state’s religious freedom law

By Sean Gallagher

Indiana’s five Catholic bishops issued a statement on April 1 regarding the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which Gov. Mike Pence signed into law on March 26.

In the days that followed, critics of the law across the state and around the nation claimed that it would open the door to discrimination against homosexuals or others. Defenders of the law subsequently argued that its purpose was solely to protect religious freedom from excessive government intrusion.

In response, Indiana legislative leaders negotiated a bill that clarified the law. Legislators passed it, and Governor Pence signed the clarification law on April 2. (Related story: Law clarifying Indiana’s RFRA raises unanswered questions)

In their statement, the bishops called for “mutual respect” to be shown in discussion of RFRA in order “to ensure that no one in Indiana will face discrimination whether it is for their sexual orientation or for living their religious beliefs.”

The bishops went on to note that every person is created in the image and likeness of God and so has an inherent dignity—which includes religious liberty—that must be respected by all.

They also stated that “the rights of a person should never be used inappropriately in order to deny the rights of another.”

In conclusion, the bishops expressed their support for efforts in Indiana both to defend the dignity of all persons and the rights of all people of all religions to be free from “undue burden from the government” in the practice of their faith.

Glenn Tebbe, executive director of the Indiana Catholic Conference, which represents the Church in the state on matters of law and public policy, expressed concern about the “polarization” of the discussion about the law.

He said that the bishops’ statement “was an attempt to bring people to a dialogue to help each other know that we’re not in conflict.”

“As the statement indicates, this isn’t an either-or kind of situation at all,” Tebbe said. “The Church’s support for religious freedom, as well as the dignity of all persons, is a fundamental principle of the Church. It’s not a matter of one or the other. It’s a matter of having both of them right beside one another.”

(To share the statement of the five Catholic bishops of Indiana regarding the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, log on to www.archindy.org/archbishop/rfra-2015.html.)

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