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Christian fundamentalist groups file lawsuit challenging local civil rights ordinances

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Local Christian fundamentalist leaders are challenging nondiscrimination ordinances in Indianapolis and Carmel, claiming those ordinances violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and religious freedoms guaranteed by the state and U.S. constitutions.

Attorneys for the Indiana Family Institute (IFI), Indiana Family Action, Inc. (IFA), and the American Family Association of Indiana filed the lawsuit in Hamilton County Superior Court Thursday afternoon. The complaint lists the city of Carmel, the Carmel city attorney, the city of Indianapolis, and the Indianapolis Equal Opportunity Advisory Board as defendants in the case.

The lawsuit also claims last year's amendment to the state's RFRA (Senate Enrolled Act 50, otherwise known as the "fix") excludes certain people from RFRA's protections and also violates state and federal constitutions. However the state and the Indiana General Assembly, which passed the legislation amendment, are not listed as defendants in the case.

IFI/IFA president Curt Smith and  American Family Association executive director Micah Clark actively worked to get RFRA passed in Indiana and were present when Gov. Mike Pence signed the original bill. The group leaders also made their disgust with the "fix" amendment known when it passed.

Specific to the legal complaint, IFI plans to resurrect its "Hoosier Commitment" program, a marriage education program that endorses and enforces the concept of marriage between one man and one woman was well as other Biblical teachings as interpreted by the organization. IFI, which is located in Carmel, claims the new city ordinance on non-discrimination would not allow the organization to deny access to the program to same-sex couples.

IFA plans to employ additional staff for the coming legislative session. The organization requires all employees to adhere to the same belief system on marriage and human sexuality and requires employees to sign a statement of faith indicating as such. The increase in staff would put the agency over six employees and into a category non-exempt from the nondiscrimination ordinance in Indianapolis.

Carmel's ordinance is just a few months old, however the ordinance in Indianapolis has been on the books for 10 years. It was passed with bipartisan support in the Bart Peterson administration. The ordinance was re-affirmed by Mayor Greg Ballard with bipartisan support last year during the RFRA upheaval that brought negative attention to the state.

The lawsuit seeks to have the nondiscrimination ordinances in both cities declared unconstitutional and unlawful under RFRA. The plaintiffs want any and all enforcement of the ordinances to be prohibited by injunction and declaratory judgment. 

 

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