Indiana Forward

I recently read an article that identified pluralism as the great challenge of our time.

Most Americans no longer live among people who look, pray and think as they do; we are no longer surrounded by people whose minor differences offer no challenge to the assumptions that ground our worldviews.

Will our tribal differences allow us to create genuine, supportive communities?

Psychiatrists can probably explain why some people are comfortable in a diverse environment and others are threatened, but that diversity is an inescapable aspect of modern life. The challenge facing lawmakers is how to craft rules that respect the right of threatened folks to hold their beliefs while protecting the targets of their disapproval or hatred from harm.

I recently posted about a letter to the editor from four Indiana legislators opposing a hate crimes bill.The tone of that letter made it abundantly clear that lawmakers who wrote it see the bill as criticism of  their belief that certain Hoosiers are unworthy of explicit protection. (The LGBTQ community was the clear, if unidentified, target of their “righteous” enmity.)

A very different perspective was offered by Michael Huber, who heads the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, and Ann Murlow, CEO of United Way of Central Indiana. In a column written for the Indiana Business Journal, they reminded readers that Indiana is one of only five states without a hate crimes law.

It’s a blind spot in our justice system and a flaw in our business climate that becomes more conspicuous with each passing year.

Nationally, reports of crimes motivated by a victim’s unchangeable characteristics—such as race, religion, sexual orientation and gender identity—increased 17 percent from 2016 to 2017. Stories of violence and vandalism from across the state show that Hoosiers aren’t immune to this trend.

The column reported on the establishment of a coalition called Forward Indiana by members of the business, nonprofit, education, faith, government and philanthropy communities.

That coalition understands that an inclusive bias-crimes law is good for people, employers and our state. The Indy Chamber has also reactivated the statewide Indiana Competes coalition, extending its anti-discrimination mission to make the business case for action against bias crimes.

Together, we represent thousands of companies, civic organizations, religious and social service groups, and individuals from all walks of life in support of a strong law with a clear list of personal characteristics that reflects the diversity of modern-day Hoosiers.

Simply put, we want Indiana to reject hate without loopholes or ambiguity.

Indiana Forward recognizes that failure to declare, in no uncertain terms, that government will forcefully protect its citizens from crimes motivated by the bigotries of other citizens would send a positive signal to self-righteous haters.

Huber and Murtlow are also absolutely right when they point out that passage of a hate crimes bill that is not inclusive, a bill that surrenders to theocratic demands to exclude certain citizens from its protection, would be an endorsement of the position that it is acceptable to hate members of that group.

If we go to the Statehouse ready to exclude some of our fellow citizens— trading equality for expediency—any victory would be a hollow one that surrenders any claim to real leadership….

If Indiana passes a bias-crimes bill in 2019 that pointedly excludes gender identity, it would only amplify the negative perceptions that hinder our economic development efforts.

No one wants another Religious Freedom Restoration Act; our partners still struggle with the fallout as they try to appeal to skilled workers, attract conventions and convince employers that Indiana is an inclusive and inviting state.

But the lesson of RFRA isn’t to avoid controversy, it’s that discrimination is bad for business and wrong for Indiana. Leaving gender identity out of bias-crimes legislation would leave us on the defensive, limiting our ability to welcome a diverse workforce and the business opportunities that follow.

It’s not enough to lead with an affordable business climate when human capital is also a top priority. Passing a watered-down bias-crimes law would force CEOs to rethink Indiana as a competitive place to recruit and retain talent.

We shouldn’t squander this opportunity to lead with hesitation or half-measures; the General Assembly should pass a strong bias-crimes law that doesn’t leave any Hoosiers behind.•

In other words, let’s bring Indiana into the 21st Century.


  1. Not all the politicians “serve” constituents who live in modernized cities such as Indy or Ft Wayne. Most districts have been carved up by the very same people to neuter the power of the Ds who live in the cities. In effect, their desire for power has now caused them to be beholden to their rural Theocratic voters.

    Essentially, what is more important: 1) DIVERSITY; OR 2) AN R VOTE IN THE STATE’S CHAMBERS?

    History has shown that the owners of Indiana prefer to maintain control of the state. Modernizing Indiana is NOT an issue. Taking a stand against bigotry isn’t as important as allowing polluters (our owners) to take advantage of Hoosiers.

    Case in point, we are the ONLY state with four super polluting coal-burning plants. This is due to the Koch brothers who own coal and Duke Energy who burns the coal to sell energy to surrounding states. The state has given them the green light to pollute at will. Our only protection has been the EPA and we try to ignore them as much as possible.

    Science knows all about the harmful effects of pollution so where are all our liberal colleges on this stance. Nary a word. You don’t read anything by our science professors in the newspapers. Why is that?

    The EPA is now run by an energy lobbyist so guess what they are about to do? That’s right, Trump’s EPA says Mercury is over-regulated making it “too costly to produce.” You can hear Mike Pence, the Koch owned puppet whispering all the way from Washington about this.

    And speaking of the EPA, I just heard a promo commercial from the folks taking on the sewage/stormwater division in Indiana bragging about how their project will clean up the waters in Indianapolis.


    The project was ordered by the EPA in the 1972 Clean Water Act–over 50 years ago. Water customers get to pay for all of this foot-dragging because the offering of federal assistance has long declined.

    So, who has benefitted from dirty water for the last 50 years? This “avoidance of a cost” provided a subsidiary to major employers including Hoosiers themselves at what level of public health cost and the cost of buying bottled water vs drinking from their faucets for free?

    As it warms up, get ready for the Ozone warnings blamed on who else…Hoosiers. The Weather App all last year would tell us how Hoosiers can lower their ozone emissions. Yes, they are blaming US for the pollution of Duke Energy and the Koch brothers.

    It’s a fine example of propaganda used in this state. You know who else greatly benefits?

    IU Health and ALL other health providers, especially those who specialize in cancer treatment. 😉

  2. I will hope for the best but expect the worst out of our state legislature that is mostly old white men.

  3. If hate crimes increased 17% between 2016 and 2017, and the majority of states have hate crime legislation, it is hard to see that such legislation is much of a deterrent to such crime. What is apparent is that states with such legislation signal their acceptance of diversity and openness to others and opposition to bigotry and racism. Those states will always lead, always blaze new trails, always attract the best and the brightest of the youth of the country. Indiana as usual drags behind as it wallows in ineptitude, ignorance, and intolerance.

  4. “Honest To Goodness, Indiana”….look at your calendars and see how far the rest of the world is into the 21st Century and how far behind the times you are keeping us. And to what end; what is it you are saving from our continuing behind-the-times history that is of use today…or in the future?

  5. It seems sometimes that Indiana is struggling to get fully engaged in the 20th century. Now you ask to move it to the 21st?

  6. The hate crime law should protect everyone or else it is worthless to all. If legislators can exclude one group by law, then it would come as no surprise that they would do it to another at some point. “First they came for …..” Who among us would like to be the one left with no one to speak?

  7. What I find most appalling about today’s Republican Party ie; Party of Trump is the fact that they are still running for office and getting elected based on stoking those fears, and promoting hatred in their political dialogues.
    It’s driving people out of the GOP and feeding the AntiFy factions in our nation.

  8. It makes me sad and angry that it boils down to what is good for business–follow the money–and not just doing what is civil, humane, and decent. And still they claim the cloak of Christianity while turning their backs on the very people Jesus would defend.

  9. It makes me sad and angry that it boils down to what is good for business–follow the money–and not just doing what is civil, humane, and decent. And still they claim the cloak of Christianity while turning their backs on the very people Jesus would defend.

  10. I wonder how much hate crimes have increased in other states where there are hate crime laws. I wonder how many of our judges in the judicial system increase the length of prison time for the offender when they know it’s a hate crime. I wonder Sheila if you know anything about our judicial system’s response to hate crimes.

    Even if we pass a hate crimes bill, will it , I wonder, serve as an effective deterrent? I hope so.

    At the end of the day, I still believe that only love will overcome hatred and bigotry. It’s too bad we can’t make those 4 representatives sit in a circle with those of us who are in the LGBTQ community and give them a chance to just listen to us, especially those of us who have been assaulted or maybe PFLAG members should go to their office and talk to them.

    I will be praying for those 4. As it says in the Sermon on the Mount, “Love your enemy. Pray for those who persecute you.”

    Thanks Sheila for all your support. It means a lot to me.

  11. the internet? if we look at our hand,theres a i phone in it. in there in a world of endless time and place, is the answer..many write those answers,and we follow suit,as our ethics,mind,upbringing,job,freetime,etc commands the interpeted answer. we have to digest,in a moments need,the reaction to,whatever… we base our answer,hopefully,constructively,and maybe in some cases,(except mcevil and his mob and trumps mafia) a compassionate answer. ( o.k. prosecutor,you feel different) we can and will at times spout off,and argue,and get out foot stepped on. or forget,who we are,,human… before the advent of the mass communication world, we had to stiffle,and think(imagine that) before we spoke. maybe we need to look back,and think..o.k. so im not the best one to say that, but im fighting for people who are getting run over by something they can barely see.. but others may depend on you,taking time to answer..

  12. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the five states without hate laws are Republican-dominated states. In today’s Republicanism, there is no room for anything that deviates from the strong father, authoritarian model for straight, white males and their domination of the political and social agenda.

  13. Hopefully rural politics more isolated empowered by latent Pence Theocracy and Eric Miller’s continued Advance America far right lobby agenda. Indiana is not alone. Kudos to Chamber of Commerce for taking a strong stand.

  14. Good grief, need I remind you all that your congress just passed Sunday alcohol sales last year? Hate crimes will come in about 2050 at this rate along with legalizing medical marijuana. You guys are the only smart ones left in Indiana and you can’t carry the burden for the rest of us so we had to leave to survive. Sheesh.

    And Todd asks why there aren’t any articles in the papers? They are GOP/Koch owned!

  15. Your comment: “Most Americans no longer live among people who look, pray and think as they do; we are no longer surrounded by people whose minor differences offer no challenge to the assumptions that ground our worldviews.” Is not true in my experience. If you travel to the more rural/smaller towns of Indiana they are exposed Only to people who look, Pray and think as they do. These folks are in the majority unfortunately; they firmly believe in fake news and all liberals are liars, hedonists and atheists……..

  16. Re: TB’s comment about hate crimes increasing regardless. This could indicate LGBT-Q people feel safer than previously about outing themselves by reporting the crimes.

  17. Bring Indiana into the 21st century? What and totally skip the 20th century? Or did we actually ever get to the 19th?

  18. The question is what are the legal limits to living at the expense of others? We know that the very purpose of government is to proscribe and enforce rules that establish those limits in order that we each respect the rights of others. We also know that hate is an emotion that we can’t legislate because humans are who they are; we are the products of our emotions. What maturity teaches most of us is how and when to act despite what we feel. However if a crime is based on that emotion the salient point is that because it’s motivated by something that some of us can’t control, it’s more likely to be repeated or emulated by others with similar emotional maturity make up. To me it’s obvious that, if we look at law enforcement as our ability to limit or reduce crime, such a crime deserves greater consequences .

    What if some of us look at some others as less deserving of protection under the law though????

  19. The Chamber of Commerce is right but for the wrong reasons. They see only a bottom line rationale for inclusion and hate crime purposes when there are far better moral and ethical grounds than profit making for favoring any criminal or civil legislation designed to punish hate, red-lining in housing etc.
    Racial hatred, of course, is a two-way street, depending upon who represents the majority in a given society. Thus I can well imagine a situation, for instance, when driving while white is an offense in the Congo by racist police, just as driving while black or hispanic can be an offense here as defined by racist police.
    I think racism is baked in and learned behaviour at the same time, but however we came to believe what we believe, we can unlearn behaviour and try to unbake what is baked. We in reality have no choice; we are headed for a multiracial society as certain as sunup in the east, so we can either accommodate or resist such change. I have voted for accommodation.

  20. Carol Fischer – everything you said is also true in my rural area. They have no intention of wanting to change or move forward. They would like the rest of the world and “liberals” to just leave well enough alone.

  21. Nita K @ 9:46 am: “It makes me sad and angry that it boils down to what is good for business–follow the money–and not just doing what is civil, humane, and decent.”

    Civil, humane, decent, if these qualities existed in American Politics we would have Universal – Single Payer Heath Care.

    I grew up a Catholic and now I am an Agnostic. Too many of the churches today in America are wrapped up in Mega-Buildings, Land Ownership and all the trappings of extreme wealth. Organized Religion here in the USA is silent on the fact that millions of Americans are without Health Care or have at best inadequate Health Care.

    The Chamber may be going in the right direction but, it is not for altruistic reasons.

Comments are closed.