Indiana's college presidents call on leaders to "address harm done" by religious freedom bill

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Three university presidents issued statements Sunday urging Indiana leaders to address the "damage done" by the passing of the state's Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act

IU President Michael McRobbie, Butler University President James Danko and DePauw University President Brian Casey said they were reluctant to join the debate, but felt they had to speak up. Ball State President Paul W. Ferguson and Purdue President Mitch Daniels issued statements Monday afternoon.

Daniels' statement:
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.

Ferguson's statement:
"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."

McRobbie's statement:
"The recent passage of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act has brought significant negative attention to the state of Indiana throughout the nation and indeed the world, because the law is widely viewed as signaling an unwelcoming and discriminatory atmosphere in our state.

"While Indiana University hopes that the controversy of the past few days will move the state government to reconsider this unnecessary legislation, the damage already done to Indiana's reputation is such that all public officials and public institutions in our state need to reaffirm our absolute commitment to the Hoosier values of fair treatment and non-discrimination.

"For its part, Indiana University remains steadfast in our longstanding commitment to value and respects the benefits of a diverse society. It is a fundamental core value of our culture at Indiana University and one that we cherish. Indeed, in 2014 the trustees of Indiana University reaffirmed our commitment to the achievement of equal opportunity within the university.

"To that end, Indiana University will recruit, hire, promote, educate and provide services to persons without regard to their age, race, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, marital status, national origin, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status. Equally importantly, we will not tolerate discrimination on the basis of any of these same factors.

"These are not merely words written in a policy and soon forgotten. These are core values by which every member of the Indiana University community is expected to treat his or her fellow colleagues, students and visitors.

"I want to reassure the entire Indiana University community, including our students, faculty, staff and alumni, that each and every one of you is welcome and appreciated for the unique qualities that you bring to our community. We are all better as a result of our shared experiences, as different as those experiences in life may have been."

Danko wrote
"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."

Casey's statement:
"Several days ago, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Since then, we have all watched reaction to this bill and have seen the damage done to the State of Indiana, its institutions, and its citizens. We have heard from those who fear this law will lead to discrimination, and we have heard from business leaders who are concerned this law will damage their ability to attract leading talent to our state.

I am, by practice, reluctant to comment in any way on current political matters. As president of a university, I must do all I can to ensure that the free exchange of ideas is both protected and nurtured. I would not want any statement from me to chill discussion on DePauw's campus on any issue. Legislation that has the effect of either encouraging or condoning discrimination, however, must be addressed.

I join with other Indiana corporations, leaders in industry, and institutions of higher education and urge the Governor and the legislature to take all steps necessary to address the harm this legislation has caused. We must affirm that the State of Indiana is a place that welcomes and respects all citizens and visitors regardless of their race, religion, or sexual orientation."