The Indiana Senate recently (February third) voted in favor of Senate bill 127 which allows religious-affiliated organizations, i.e hospitals and universities that receive state funding, to discriminate against employees based on their religion. Not only does it allow these organizations to strictly hire employees who practice the same religion that the organization is affiliated with, but it also allows those organizations to require their employees to follow specific religious tenets.
The bill passed with a voting result of 39-11. The Indiana Senate is Republican-controlled with only ten senators being Democrats. Interestingly enough, all ten Democratic senators voted against the bill with only one lone Republican joining them. All senators voting in favor of the bill are Republican.
Senator Travis Holdman authored the bill in order to help Indiana Wesleyan University obtain state workforce training grants which they were denied last year by the Attorney General’s office last year because of their religious lifestyle and the fact it violates state contracting requirements against employment discrimination. Holdman claims that the bill is “not a legal license to discriminate. It just says we’re going to pull ourselves in line with federal law that allows for this kind of carve out, this kind of exemption, for faith based organizations.”
Personally, I agree with Senator Karen Tallian who made a statement saying “This is outrageous. How many tenets must you conform to? Do you have to go to church every Sunday? Can you eat meat on a Friday?” I understand religious based organizations all have their own beliefs and value systems, but discrimination based on religion or allowing these organizations to require certain tenets to be employed should not be put into law. Even if someone is part of the same religion as the organization, they may not practice in the same way.
Not long ago, I was interviewed for a position serving food to patients in a Catholic hospital. Part of the interview was dedicated to talking about the religious affiliation, and I was told that employees were not required to be Catholic or practice the Catholic Faith. However, I was asked if I would be comfortable around religious symbols that are part of Catholicism and people who are going to be constantly practicing the religion. I was also asked if I could be respectful towards the religion and the people who practice it. There was no religious discrimination present, simply mutual respect between all. I don’t think that the hospital always accepted employees of all faiths. At some point I’m sure they only hired people of the Catholic Faith and maybe they even only accepted patients who were Catholic. If that’s the case, then that particular hospital moved forward without religious discrimination – a freedom that is a right to all humans.