Senate Bill Protects Longstanding Practices Of Religious Organizations in Indiana

Since 2006, Indiana Wesleyan University has had the opportunity to help retrain almost 100 Hoosiers whose jobs have been sent overseas. The $1.4 million in financial aid for those adult students came from the federal Trade Adjustment Act and was administered by an agency of Indiana government.

A year ago our students began to be denied access to these funds despite the fact we are a faith-based university that is legally permitted to make religion a preference in our hiring.  We turned to our legislators to see if we could find a long-term solution.

The result was Senate Bill 127, which was approved by the Indiana Senate earlier this week and now moves to the Indiana House of Representative.  This Bill would safeguard our longstanding practice in Indiana of allowing religious organizations to contract with the state to provide services for the public good.

This morning I sat down with a reporter from Indianapolis television station Fox59 to express our support for this legislation and to explain the reasons we believe it is important to us and to our state.

Indiana has long been blessed with a rich network of religious organizations that serve the public good.  In our case, Indiana Wesleyan University serves Christian students, but we also serve people of other faiths and of no faith.  All are welcome at IWU.  While we hope that all will encounter the love of Christ and gain an appreciation for Judeo-Christian values while they study with us, we seek to treat all who come to us with respect and care regardless of their faith.Indiana Wesleyan University - Chapel

We are grateful for the efforts of Senator Travis Holdman and Representative Kevin Mahan to safeguard in law the longstanding practice that has enriched the life and competitiveness of our state.

Not surprisingly, media attention often follows closely on the heels of controversial legislation. That is especially true when the issue is alleged discrimination by a religious institution that has a significant presence throughout Indiana.

Despite the concerns raised by the bill’s opponents, it is important to recognize that this bill does nothing more than permit a longstanding practice to continue.  It provides an umbrella of coverage for religious organizations across a broad spectrum, such as hospitals and child service providers, to continue serving the public good.

Further, the hiring practices that are at the root of the concerns expressed by some have long been protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, and by Executive Order 13279.  Our right to prefer religion in our hiring practices has been tested in numerous court cases over the years and has been upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.   It is not as though we can do this outside of any guidelines or controls; we are still subject to all other laws that prohibit discrimination in hiring.  We must act as good citizens.

In summary, we support this legislation because it protects the right of religious organizations to contract with the state to provide services for the common good.  We believe this is good for all the citizens of Indiana.