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Indiana GOP: Contractors on Publicly Funded Projects Can Discriminate Based on Religion

Indiana GOP religious discrimination

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We are not exaggerating.

Indiana’s Republican legislature is taking its hard right stance on labor to a new level with the Senate passage of a bill that would allow contractors on publicly funded projects to discriminate based on religion.  The bill, SB 127, passed on a 39-11 vote with all but one Republican voting in favor.  The bill would allow public contracts to go to companies who have previously been barred for discriminating.

Specifically, the bill would allow contracts signed by a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society after July 1st, 2015 to require workers to abide by the tenants of the supported religion as a condition of their employment.

State Sen. Travis Holdman, sponsor of the bill, said that the changes would place the state law in line with federal laws:

(Holdman) simply wants Indiana government contracts awarded on the same basis as federal contracts, which permit establishments to maintain their religious identity while using taxpayer funds to provide social service programs.

He said Indiana Wesleyan University — which insists its employees only be Christian and follow a lifestyle mandate banning smoking, drinking, homosexuality, adultery, gossip, pornography, gambling and most dancing — recently lost a state workforce training grant for violating Indiana’s prohibition on religious discrimination by state contractors.

“We’re not asking for folks in Indiana to do any more than what our friends in the federal government are allowed to do with federal contracts,” Holdman said.

Opponents of the bill not only find it unfair, but believe it could lead to future legal issues.  State Sen. Karen Tallian said the bill was “an outrageous overreach by authorizing discrimination.”  She told the Northwest Indiana Times she worries about bad precedent being set:

“We are opening the door here to something that is going to be really litigious,” Tallian said. “This goes well beyond hiring a secretary for the church office.”

For example, Tallian said most of Northwest Indiana’s hospitals are Catholic-run — will the doctors and nurses and janitors be made to attend church? What about eating meat on Friday? What about using birth control?

“And then, who decides when a person has conformed to the tenets of the religion? A board at the hospital? The Diocese of Gary? The Spanish Inquisition?” Tallian asked.

“Who is going to be the person that makes this decision? And how are these prospective employees supposed to decide, or even know, what they have to conform to?”

The bill now moves to the Republican-controlled house.  It is part of a series of three bills advanced by the GOP which authorize various types of discrimination based on “religious freedom.”  The other two bills will be heard in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee next week.


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