INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 29, 2015) — Presidents of universities in Indiana are speaking out after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week. Questions remain about what Indiana’s new religious freedom bill means and the power it holds.
“I understand that there’s been a tremendous amount of misinformation, misunderstanding, I’m just determined to clarify this,” Gov. Pence said Sunday.
The governor said he would support clarification legislation, however, he said he won’t repeal the law.
The controversial legislation has generated reaction across the U.S., with large corporations, celebrities and other public figures releasing statements opposing it. Presidents from Butler and Ball State universities released statements concerning RFRA.
The president of Butler University, James Danko, released a statement on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act on Sunday. The statement reads:
As president of Butler University I am particularly sensitive to the importance of supporting and facilitating an environment of open dialogue and critical inquiry, where free speech and a wide range of opinion is valued and respected. Thus, it is with a certain degree of apprehension that I step into the controversy surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
However, over the past week I have heard from many Butler community members—as well as prospective students, parents, and employees—who have expressed concerns about the impact this law may have on our state and our University. As such, I feel compelled to share my perspective and to reinforce the values of Butler University.
While I have read a variety of opinions and rationale for RFRA, it strikes me as ill-conceived legislation at best, and I fear that some of those who advanced it have allowed their personal or political agendas to supersede the best interests of the State of Indiana and its people. No matter your opinion of the law, it is hard to argue with the fact it has done significant damage to our state.
Like countless other Hoosier institutions, organizations, and businesses, Butler University reaffirms our longstanding commitment to reject discrimination and create an environment that is open to everyone.
Today, more than ever, it is important that we continue to build, cultivate, and defend a culture in which all members of our community—students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the public—can learn, work, engage, and thrive. It is our sincere hope that those around the country with their ears turned toward our Hoosier state hear just one thing loud and clear—the united voice of millions who support inclusion and abhor discrimination.
Butler is an institution where all people are welcome and valued, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, gender, race, or ethnicity; a culture of acceptance and inclusivity that is as old as the University itself. Butler was the first school in Indiana and third in the United States to enroll women as students on an equal basis with men, was among the first colleges in the nation to enroll African Americans, and was the second U.S. school to name a female professor to its faculty.
I strongly encourage our state leaders to take immediate action to address the damage done by this legislation and to reaffirm the fact that Indiana is a place that welcomes, supports, respects, and values all people.
Ball State President Paul W. Ferguson on Monday released this statement concerning Indiana’s new religious freedom law.
“In the context of the current state and national conversation related to Indiana’s recent legislation, it is important to reaffirm that Ball State University has long been committed to a vibrant and diverse community and will not tolerate discrimination. The university expresses this in many ways, including our Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action Policy, which clarifies that Ball State will provide equal opportunity to facilities without regard to race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity/gender expression, physical or mental disability, national origin, ancestry, or age.”
Sue DeWine, President of Hanover College, released the following:
I cannot know the motivations of the groups who supported, the legislators who passed, and the governor who recently signed into Indiana law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). And I cannot be certain of all of the consequences, predicted or threatened, that are likely to follow from legislation that has provoked such a stream of disappointment and anger. But, I can point to consequences that are an affront to everything that Hanover College stands for as an institution of higher education.
Whether intended in its origins or not the Religious Freedom Restoration Act can have the effect of legitimizing acts of discrimination against other individuals, fellow citizens and visitors alike. Regardless of whether such actions occur, the legislation aligns the power of the state with attitudes of prejudice, discrimination, intolerance, incivility and an acceptance of inequality that are injurious, even poisonous, to the interests of Indiana’s educational, civic, commercial and religious institutions.
As President of Hanover College, I ask that Governor Pence honor the values of his alma mater. At Hanover College we celebrate inclusion, acceptance and openness to all persons. We do this not only because it represents the very best of what it means to be a Hoosier, but also because it is morally the right thing to do.
We also ask that Governor Pence work generously and meaningfully to ensure the freedoms and the dignity of all individuals, regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability, sex, gender identity or sexual orientation.
From the Office of Purdue President Mitch Daniels:
Purdue works hard every day to be an open and welcoming institution, and we stand by our university-wide policy on nondiscrimination, which prohibits “discrimination against any member of the University community on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, genetic information, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, or status as a veteran.”
We will continue our proactive and persistent efforts to ensure that all members of the University community feel welcome and supported.
While a longstanding Board of Trustees policy precludes Purdue taking institutional positions on matters such as the current controversy, we wish to take this opportunity to affirm our unwavering commitment to our principles and our opposition to any governmental measure that would interfere with their practice on our campuses.