Indiana Senate Committee Advances Religious-Based Hiring Bill

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An Indiana Senate committee unanimously approved a bill that will require the state, local governments and public utilities in Indiana to include a provision in their contracts that would allow contractors who receive taxpayer money to discriminate in their hiring practices based on religion.

Senate Bill 127 would allow a “religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society” to give preference in employment to people of a certain religion. It would also allow those organizations to require “all employees and applicants conform to the religious tenets of the organization.”

The Committee on Civil Law advanced the measure to the full Senate for consideration.

The proposal from state senator Travis Holdman (R-Markle) aims “to restore the ability of Indiana Wesleyan University, a Christian college with a Merrillville location that hires employees on the basis of religion — as permitted by federal law — to continue receiving state workforce training grants.”

“The Indiana attorney general’s office recently determined the school’s religious lifestyle mandate, which prohibits employees from engaging in homosexuality, premarital sex or smoking, and discourages dancing, violates state contracting requirements that forbid employment discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin, disability or ancestry,” the Northwest Indiana Times reports.

The bill would be effective for contracts signed, modified or renewed after June 30, 2015.

Similar so-called “religious freedom” bills are being proposed in Indiana and other states. One such proposal would ban state laws that “substantially burden” a person’s ability to follow their religious beliefs. The bill “extends the definition of a ‘person’ to include religious institutions, businesses and associations,” according to the AP.

Opponents deride the proposals as legally recognized discrimination of minorities.

“Why is it that right-wing definitions of exercising their rights so often involve depriving others of theirs?” writes Frank Arnold of Lafayette.

Image Credit: Kathryn Decker, flickr

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