INDIANAPOLIS - The presidents of DePauw, Butler and Indiana University released statements Sunday condemning Indiana's religious freedom law and asking for state leaders to address the legislation immediately.
Saying he stepped into the controversy with "a certain degree of apprehension," Butler President James Danko said he was nevertheless compelled to do so after hearing from the community, prospective students, parents and employees.
"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," Danko said. "No matter your opinion of the law, it is hard to argue with the fact it has done significant damage to our state."
The law has prompted businesses – among them Salesforce and the Indianapolis-headquartered Angie's List – to pull millions in planned investments from the state.
DePauw University President Brian W. Casey echoed Danko's statement, saying that while he wanted to avoid chilling discussion on the school's campus, "legislation that has the effect of either encouraging or condoning discrimination, however, must be addressed."
IU President Michael A. McRobbie focused on the immediate effects of the law on Indiana's reputation.
"The recent passage of the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act has brought significant negative attention to the state of Indiana throughout the nation and indeed the world, because the law is widely viewed as signaling an unwelcoming and discriminatory atmosphere in our state," McRobbie said. "The damage already done to Indiana’s reputation is such that all public officials and public institutions in our state need to reaffirm our absolute commitment to the Hoosier values of fair treatment and non-discrimination.
The national backlash prompted Gov. Mike Pence to appear on This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday to address critics of the law.
Danko said he was compelled to reaffirm Butler's "longstanding commitment to reject discrimination."
"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," Danko said.
Pence told Stephanopoulos on Sunday that, while he will work with lawmakers to "clarify" the religious freedom law, he had no plans to change it.