March 25, 2015
The Honorable Michael R. Pence
Governor of the State of Indiana
200 W. Washington Street, Room 206
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204
Dear Governor Pence,
We write with respect to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). We urge you to veto the bill.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been headquartered in Indianapolis for nearly 100 years. Although Butler University is no longer affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), its founder, Ovid Butler, was a Disciple and a noted abolitionist. The college, in keeping with our values, admitted women in a time when that was rare. We are the church that founded Christian Theological Seminary. Our offices are located on North Meridian. Our Indiana regional offices are located in Indianapolis as well.
Every two years our general assembly, a gathering of over 6000 people from across the United States and Canada, is held in a US city. In 2017 it is scheduled to be in Indianapolis as it was in 2009 and 1989. Like so many other host cities, we find Indianapolis to be a hospitable and enjoyable location for our people. Many of our leaders are citizens of this city, and we take particular pride when our selection process makes it possible to bring the assembly to our home town.
However, the recent passage in the state legislature of the RFRA bill is distressing to us. It is causing us to reconsider our decision to hold our 2017 gathering in Indianapolis.
Purportedly a matter of religious freedom, we find RFRA contrary to the values of our faith – as well as to our national and Hoosier values. Our nation and state are strong when we welcome people of many backgrounds and points of view. The free and robust exchange of ideas is part of what makes our democracy great.
As a Christian church, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow – one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table. Our members and assembly-goers are of different races and ethnicities, ages, genders and sexual orientations. They have in common that they love Jesus and seek to follow him.
We are particularly distressed at the thought that, should RFRA be signed into law, some of our members and friends might not be welcome in Indiana businesses – might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.
We are following closely the progress of this legislation. It will be a factor in whether we continue with our plans to hold an assembly in Indianapolis in 2017. We urge you to veto the bill.
Sharon E. Watkins
General Minister and President
Julia Brown Karimu, President
Division of Overseas Ministries
Ronald J. Degges, President
Disciples Home Missions