Pastors protest against correction of religion law

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INDIANAPOLIS – Republican Gov. Mike Pence and legislative leaders failed to protect religious freedoms by approving an amendment to Indiana’s religious objections law, conservative church leaders said Monday.

Members of the Indiana Pastors Alliance gathered at the Statehouse to protest the fix to the original law, which drew boycotts and widespread criticism over concerns that it would allow discrimination against homosexuals, lesbians and others.

After companies rolled back conventions and some state governments banned travel within the state, Pence approved changes earlier this month that banned traders and groups from using it as a legal defense for refusing to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodation. It also prohibits discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or military service.

Reverend Ron Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Pastors Alliance, accused Republican leaders of giving in to what he called the “gay mafia” campaign to intimidate a community that is “anything but tolerant” .

“For Christians, sexual sin can never be redefined and treated as a civil right,” he said.

The alliance is a network of more than 500 conservative churches, clergy and Christian organizations that, according to its website, work “to advance and defend the cause of faith, family and freedom” through Indiana.

Johnson, who stood behind Pence the day he first signed the law, also issued an open letter to the governor and Republican leaders, House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate Speaker Pro Tem David Long.

In the letter, Johnson said Christian business owners have been threatened, attacked and fined for refusing to participate in same-sex marriages. He also said Republican leaders “have sold Christians’ religious freedoms to temporarily stifle the cries of special interest groups and alleviate the financial fears of big business.”

Two gay rights supporters attended Monday’s protest. One was holding a sign saying “Indiana welcomes everyone”. The other, carrying a rainbow flag, interrupted Johnson’s speech to give him a hug. “We’re not doing anything today to hate people who have sexual problems,” Johnson said after the embrace. “We love you.”

Long said the legislative review was only aimed at preventing the law from being used to discriminate against anyone.

“I think they misunderstand what happened and were misinformed about the law,” Long said. “It’s unfortunate. They have the right to have their own opinion, but they don’t have the right to review the truth.”

Bosma expressed no hesitation about the impact of the clarification bill.

“I focused on what I thought was best for the state of Indiana as a whole,” he said. “My faith tells me to turn the other cheek and will continue to do so.”

Posts seeking comment have been left for Indiana Equality, which promotes equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Indiana Pastors Alliance executive director Reverend Ron Johnson, pastor of Living Stones Church in Crown Point, Indiana, kisses Kim Saylor of Rainbow Picketing.  Photo AP / MICHAEL CONROY
Condy Holmes of Mechanicsburg, Indiana, holds a sign for a rally at the Indianapolis Statehouse on Monday against revised religious freedom legislation.  Photo AP / MICHAEL CONROY
Indiana Pastors Alliance executive director Ron Johnson, pastor of Living Stones Church in Crown Point, Indiana, speaks Monday at a rally at Indianapolis Statehouse against the legislation revised on religious freedom.  Photo AP / MICHAEL CONROY


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