Faith, Hope, Basketball…. and Discrimination

Image of Dr. Ross
President and CEO
Mar 30, 2015

This being one of the most exciting windows of the annual sports calendar – March Madness – it is typically a high time on the big stage for the basketball-crazy state of Indiana, as they often host the exalted “Final Four” college championship tourney in Indianapolis.

But not this year.

This year, legislators in the state of Indiana passed a bill, recently signed by the Governor, which to the best of my admittedly non-legal scholar mind, is designed to legally protect the right of certain individuals to discriminate against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals in the state.  In the midst of a backlash of public opinion, the Governor issued a statement saying that the legislation needed to be clarified that it actually didn’t support discrimination against the LGBT community.


Further, this particular legislation – alongside other similar laws passed in other states – is powered by an argument based on religious freedom.  In other words, if your religious beliefs render you anti-gay, then it’s cool to discriminate.

Here in California, the use of religion as a justification for anti-gay treatment took an extreme turn when an attorney in Huntington Beach proposed legislation to make being gay a capital crime and proposing that it be legal to execute gay people for that crime if the state does not. While it is tempting to dismiss something so extreme as having nothing in common with proposals in Indiana and other states, California’s more extreme proposal targets the same population and uses the same justification of religious convictions currently being used in Indiana.  Does the fact that Indiana’s law does not advocate taking LGBT lives make it ok to take away all other rights, privileges, and benefits offered to every other resident and visitor to the state? 

As a church-going Christian, and at a moment in time where Palm Sunday meets Passover and Easter Sunday - and a powerful film called “Killing Jesus” debuts on millions of American televisions – I am at a loss to understand the utility of a moral-religious argument to pass a law that supports discriminatory practice in any form, against anyone.  All of this unfolding a half-century after Selma, as our nation celebrates one of the high water marks of the civil rights movement and the battle for social justice.

Marriage equality has been legally recognized in Indiana since October 2014.  By adopting this discriminatory legislation, Indiana has taken this nation a step backwards in the civil rights movement through the use of an all-too-clever and cowardly form of Jim Crow.  This form of legislation, and any similar types of legislation in other states, merit condemnation, criticism, and social action.

Enjoying the excitement of March Madness in Indianapolis will not be the same this year.  And unless this Indiana law changes, I hope the event is never hosted there again.  

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