Media, public not invited to private signing ceremony for religious freedom bill

INDIANAPOLIS - When Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law Thursday, he did so in a private ceremony surrounded by members of the state's religious communities.

Notably absent? Members of the press.

While bill signing ceremonies are typically public events – RTV6 was among other news outlets invited two days earlier to a signing event for a right-to-try law – no media was allowed to be at the signing ceremony Thursday.

READ | Pence signs religious freedom bill into law

Media were also not allowed to wait outside the governor's office to talk to supporters in attendance at the signing.

A request to make supporters available for interviews after the ceremony was denied.

A call placed by RTV6 to SB 101 sponsor Sen. Scott Schneider was not returned.

A photo supplied by the governor's office after the event shows Pence surrounded by members of the clergy and a small number of others, among them at least two prominent conservative lobbyists: Advance America founder Eric Miller and Indiana Family Institute President Curt Smith. None of the attendees were identified by name by the governor's office.

After the bill was signed into law, Indiana Right to Life released a statement lauding Pence.

"Indiana legislators are wise to ensure religious beliefs will get due consideration in court, should Hoosiers be forced to act against their faith," Indiana Right to Life President and CEO Mike Fichter said in a written statement. "RFRA is an important bill to protect the religious freedom of Hoosiers who believe the right to life comes from God, not government."

A number of prominent businesses and organizations came out against the law this week, with some like Salesforce saying they would be diverting their investments elsewhere. Gen Con President Adrian Swartout released a letter Thursday evening saying the convention planned to stay in Indianapolis in 2015 despite its objections to the bill after talking to business partners in the city. The convention has a contract with Indianapolis through 2020.

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