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Indy, Carmel sued over anti-discrimination laws

Posted at 10:29 PM, Dec 10, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-10 22:29:58-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- The cities of Carmel and Indianapolis were hit with lawsuits Thursday accusing their anti-discrimination ordinances of being unconstitutional.

The lawsuits were filed by attorney James Bopp on behalf of two influential conservative lobbyists: Curt Smith, of the Indiana Family Institute; and Micah Clark, of the American Family Association of Indiana.

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Smith and Clark were two of the largest behind-the-scenes supporters of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act – in fact, Smith described himself in a March interview with RTV6 as one of the law's "architects." However, their lawsuit, filed this week in Hamilton County Court, directly attacks the exclusions and exceptions portion of the law (the so-called RFRA" fix") tacked on after weeks of statewide and national outcry.

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The suit claims the RFRA fix discriminates against religious organizations who adhere to a "biblical view of marriage and human sexuality." The Indianapolis and Carmel anti-discrimination ordinances are accused of doing the same.

"[The RFRA fix's] adoption was in response to protests against RFRA by those who want to force others to not just passively accept persons and conduct inconsistent with the biblical view on marriage and sexual relations but to compel active participation with, and support for, such persons and conduct regardless of a religious objection," the lawsuit claims.

While Carmel's ordinance was passed in October by a 4-3 vote, Indianapolis' has been on the books for years. Carmel joined other Hoosier cities – among them Columbus, Zionsville and Anderson (which passed a similar ordinance 8-0 Thursday night) – to pass such laws following the passage of the state's RFRA law this spring.

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According to Bopp, the RFRA fix and the local ordinances are designed to "persecute" people with biblical worldviews.

"This is taking us right back to England, where we had a state-imposed religion, where all other religions are denied legal protection," he said. "They are persecuted. They have the government going after them. That's exactly what we have here."

The lawsuit claims the RFRA fix stripped IFI and AFAI of heightened religious protections offered in the original RFRA law, and asks the court to invalidate it on those grounds. In particular, the groups say they are concerned they would be forced to hire, or unable to decline employment to, persons who do not share their evangelical Christian beliefs.

"IFI and IFA intend to only employ individuals who uphold the principles and precepts of IFI's and IFA's faith and share the same biblical worldview, which requires that such persons agree with, and practice, the biblical teaching on marriage and human sexuality," the suit says.

The lawsuit comes as Indiana Democrats are pushing for a law adding gender and sexual orientation into the state's anti-discrimination ordinance. A coalition of more than 150 businesses has signed on in support of the effort. So far, Gov. Mike Pence has not come out in favor or against such a bill.