Critics cry discrimination as Senate passes bill to allow religious hiring options

By Andi TenBarge
TheStatehouseFile.com

INDIANAPOLIS – Tensions were running high as lawmakers debated and then passed a bill that the author says won’t discriminate against individuals based on their religion but critics say will.

If signed into law, Senate Bill 127, authored by Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, would allow faith-based organizations that receive state contracts to hire people based on their religion. It would also allow organizations to require employees to agree to sign a tenet form, which says that work done for the employer must follow specific religious beliefs.

The bill was authored in response to Indiana Wesleyan University requesting grants to help train employees. The request was denied by the state attorney general’s office last year because the office determined that the tenet agreement violated the school’s contract with the state.

“It’s not a legal license to discriminate,” Holdman said. “It just says we’re going to pull ourselves in line with federal law that allows for this kind of carve out, this kind of exemption, for faith-based organizations.”

Holdman said the bill is modeled after Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964. But Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Portage, thinks the proposal goes beyond federal law.

“Are they going to be able to ask, ‘Are you willing to conform to the teachings of the Catholic Church?’ This is outrageous,” Tallian said.

The bill passed the full Senate 39-11 and now heads to the House for consideration.

Andi TenBarge is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.

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