The leadership of the US Disciples of Christ church are reviewing their plans to hold their 2017 General Assembly in the state of Indiana after its Republican Governor Mike Pence signed into law a bill allowing wide ranging rights to discriminate by anyone who claims they have a religious objection.
The church’s biennial convention is estimated to be worth around $6 million to the state and the Disciples of Christ are now getting their lawyers to review all contracts relating to the 2017 General Assembly with a view to moving it out-of-state.
The church’s leadership say they are also looking to make sure that they review the laws of any state that hosts their General Assembly in 2019 to ensure it does not have any similarly discriminatory laws against LGBTI people.
‘The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) has been headquartered in Indianapolis for nearly 100 years [and] our Indiana regional offices are located in Indianapolis as well,’ the Disciples of Christ wrote in a letter to Governor Pence prior to him signing the bill.
‘Every two years our general assembly, a gathering of over 6000 people from across the United States and Canada, is held in a US city. In 2017 it is scheduled to be in Indianapolis as it was in 2009 and 1989.
‘However, the recent passage in the state legislature of the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] (RFRA) bill is distressing to us. It is causing us to reconsider our decision to hold our 2017 gathering in Indianapolis.
‘Purportedly a matter of religious freedom, we find RFRA contrary to the values of our faith – as well as to our national and Hoosier values. Our nation and state are strong when we welcome people of many backgrounds and points of view. The free and robust exchange of ideas is part of what makes our democracy great.
‘We are particularly distressed at the thought that, should RFRA be signed into law, some of our members and friends might not be welcome in Indiana businesses – might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.’
The Disciples of Christ warned that should Governor Pence allow the bill to become law it would affect where they chose to hold their General Assembly in future.
‘It will be a factor in whether we continue with our plans to hold an assembly in Indianapolis in 2017,’ they warned.
The Disciples of Christ have now issued a statement saying they have begun sorting ‘through the contracts, costs, and decisions around the 2017 General Assembly’ with a view to moving the conference to another state.
The Disciples of Christ’s stand on the bill received wide support on social media from church members.
‘So happy to be part of a church who is willing to take a stand on this matter!’ Disciples of Christ member Sharon Abbott Euley wrote on Facebook.
‘Governor Pence can deny all he wants but this legislation makes discrimination legal. Jesus does not teach to love only those who are like us. He teaches us to love ALL people.’
The Disciples of Christ church has around 630,000 members across North America across 3600 congregations.