Mayor Greg Ballard speaks out against religious freedom bill

Mayor Greg Ballard
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Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard is speaking out against a religious freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature this week.

The bill is headed to Gov. Mike Pence's desk. He is expected to sign the bill.

This is Ballard's statement:

"I had hoped the Statehouse wouldn't move in this direction on RFRA, but it seems as if the bill was a fait accompli from the beginning. I don't believe this legislation truly represents our state or our capital city. Indianapolis strives to be a welcoming place that attracts businesses, conventions, visitors and residents. We are a diverse city, and I want everyone who visits and lives in Indy to feel comfortable here. RFRA sends the wrong signal."

Along with Gen Con, one of the largest conventions Indianapolis has hosted, an Indianapolis-based church is reconsidering its decision to hold its 2017 gathering in the Circle City over concerns about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The Disciples of Christ holds its general assembly every two years, and the event brings in about 6,000 participants. It's set to hold the next meeting in Indianapolis in 2017. But in a letter dated March 25, 2015, the church's leaders say the passage of the RFRA is "distressing" and causing them to reconsider the location.

On Monday, the CEO of Gen Con, which brings 56,000 visitors to the city every year, wrote to Pence asking him to reconsider his position on the bill, which, according to opponents, will allow discrimination against homosexuals and other groups.

The church's leaders write, in part:

"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."