At its spring meeting held April 8-10, 2015, in Louisville, the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board approved the following statement regarding Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as it relates to holding the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium at Purdue University.
In light of Indiana’s legislative action to revise its earlier Religious Freedom Restoration Act so that it ensures adequate protection against discrimination, the Leadership Committee recommends that the PMAB reaffirm holding the 2016 Presbyterian Youth Triennium at Purdue.
We encourage leaders across the state of Indiana, and in other states, to create environments of safety and inclusion for all people. Further, we commend Purdue University for publicly assuring its unwavering commitment to non-discrimination. The state’s quick action to amend this law encourages us to believe we can continue our long relationship with Purdue University while sharing Christ’s love with people in the midst of struggle and change.
The Leadership Committee also wishes to commend PMA staff for its sensitivity to this politically charged issue and for working behind the scenes to ensure the youth and adults who attend Triennium have a safe and welcoming place to worship and witness to the love of Christ.
The statement comes after weeks of inquiry into the implications of the RFRA by the Presbyterian Mission Agency Board and the Presbyterian Youth Triennium planning team.
Following the passage of Indiana's RFRA, the Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Gradye Parsons, sent a letter on behalf of the denomination expressing concern over the potential implications the law offers for excluding from prosecution acts of discrimination based on religious values.
The March 31, 2015, letter began with the statement, “The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), rooted in the love of God through Jesus and guided by the charge to love thy neighbor, opposes any legislation that could enable discrimination and is eagerly awaiting proposed revisions to a problematic Indiana religious freedom law.”
Indiana legislators quickly revised the legislation as a host of Indiana-based companies, including Angie's List and the NCAA, reduced economic expansion plans, indicated they were considering relocation or expressed concerns about the economic impact of boycotts. The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) denomination, based in Indianapolis, threatened to relocate its next biennial convention, which draws 6,000 attendees, out of Indiana.
Parsons noted in the March 31 statement that no decision had been made but that an evaluation would take place, saying, “The PC(USA) affirms religious freedom and engages in ministry widely throughout the state of Indiana. Youth Triennium has been held for decades at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Over the next several weeks plans for the 2016 Triennium will be evaluated.”
Proposed changes to the RFRA were approved by the Indiana legislature April 2. The new language—influence by business leaders and the governor’s staff—makes modifications to the law to prohibit discrimination by businesses against gay and lesbian customers but does not include statewide protections against other areas of LGBT discrimination.