On March 26, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the controversial “Religious Freedom Reform Act” (RFRA).
The result was a backlash that spread across the country.
Butler President James M. Danko was the first university president to speak out against the law. (See President Danko discussing the “Religious Freedom” act on MSNBC here and here.)
This is the statement he issued on Sunday, March 29:
As president of Butler University I am particularly sensitive to the importance of supporting and facilitating an environment of open dialogue and critical inquiry, where free speech and a wide range of opinion is valued and respected. Thus, it is with a certain degree of apprehension that I step into the controversy surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
However, over the past week I have heard from many Butler community members—as well as prospective students, parents, and employees—who have expressed concerns about the impact this law may have on our state and our University. As such, I feel compelled to share my perspective and to reinforce the values of Butler University.
While I have read a variety of opinions and rationale for RFRA, it strikes me as ill-conceived legislation at best, and I fear that some of those who advanced it have allowed their personal or political agendas to supersede the best interests of the State of Indiana and its people. No matter your opinion of the law, it is hard to argue with the fact it has done significant damage to our state.
Like countless other Hoosier institutions, organizations, and businesses, Butler University reaffirms our longstanding commitment to reject discrimination and create an environment that is open to everyone.
Today, more than ever, it is important that we continue to build, cultivate, and defend a culture in which all members of our community—students, alumni, faculty, staff, and the public—can learn, work, engage, and thrive. It is our sincere hope that those around the country with their ears turned toward our Hoosier state hear just one thing loud and clear—the united voice of millions who support inclusion and abhor discrimination.
Butler is an institution where all people are welcome and valued, regardless of sexual orientation, religion, gender, race, or ethnicity; a culture of acceptance and inclusivity that is as old as the University itself. Butler was the first school in Indiana and third in the United States to enroll women as students on an equal basis with men, was among the first colleges in the nation to enroll African Americans, and was the second U.S. school to name a female professor to its faculty.
I strongly encourage our state leaders to take immediate action to address the damage done by this legislation and to reaffirm the fact that Indiana is a place that welcomes, supports, respects, and values all people.