March 26, 2015 at 12:58 pm #8543
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff says he doesn’t want his employees subjected to discrimination as part of their work for the San Francisco-based company, and he is cancelling all required travel to the state of Indiana following the signing of a religious freedom law that some say allows business to exclude gay customers.
On Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a religious objections bill that some business leaders have opposed amid concern it could allow discrimination against homosexuals.
Indiana is the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. The measure would prohibit state and local laws that “substantially burden” the ability of people—including businesses and associations—to follow their religious beliefs.
Benioff says that goal puts Indiana law at odds with Salesforce philosophy.
Salesforce is a 16-year-old cloud computing company headquartered in San Francisco. Benioff, the firm’s founder, has a history of local philanthropy including spending $100 million of his personal fortune for a new UCSF Children’s Hospital and another $100 million for Oakland Children’s Hospital.
Pence, a Republican, backed the bill as it moved through the Legislature and spoke at a statehouse rally last month that drew hundreds of supporters of the proposal. The governor signed the bill in a private ceremony.
Pence said in a statement Thursday that the bill ensures “religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law.”
“The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,” he said.
In a letter to Pence sent Wednesday, leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) warned that the legislation was causing them to reconsider plans to hold their 6,000-person General Assembly in Indianapolis in 2017. The head of a video gaming conference considered to be the city’s largest annual convention also expressed concern about the bill, which the state Senate passed Tuesday.
The bill signing comes just more than a week before NCAA men’s Final Four games at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, but the college sports organization hasn’t taken a position on the issue.
“We are examining the details of this bill, however, the NCAA national office is committed to an inclusive environment where all individuals enjoy equal access to events,” the Indianapolis-based group said in a statement.
Supporters say discrimination concerns are overblown because the bill is modeled after a federal religious freedom law Congress passed in 1993 and similar laws are on the books in 19 states. However, the current political climate is far different than it was when most of those were approved because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on whether gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.
Conservative groups say the Indiana measure merely seeks to prevent the government from compelling people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.
“I think you will find that, if you do your homework in it, this law is not going to allow you to discriminate against anyone else or anyone’s rights in this country,” GOP Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long said.
But the Republican mayor of Indianapolis said he believed the proposal would send the “wrong signal” for the city, and its tourism and convention agency raised concerns that it could lead some convention planners to regard Indiana as an unwelcoming place.
The Indianapolis chamber of commerce and Columbus-based engine maker Cummins Inc. are among business groups which have opposed the bill on the grounds that it could make it more difficult to attract top companies and employees.
Adrian Swartout, the CEO of the 50,000-person Gen Con gamers’ convention, said the legislation could affect the group’s decision to hold the major event in Indianapolis past 2020. He said it would have “a direct negative impact on the state’s economy.”
Similar bills have been advancing this year in the Arkansas and Georgia legislatures. Last year, Mississippi enacted a religious objection law just weeks after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a similar effort there amid criticism from major corporations.
Pence denied that the bill will allow discrimination.
“This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,” he said. “For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.”March 26, 2015 at 3:09 pm #8547
NCAA voices concern after Indiana enacts bill allowing businesses to reject gay customers.
The NCAA issued a statement Thursday saying it would “closely examine the implications” of a bill signed into law by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence that allows the state’s businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of “religious freedom.”
“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,” NCAA President Mark Emmert wrote in the statement. “We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
The NCAA’s headquarters are in Indianapolis, a city that has hosted the NCAA men’s basketball tournament’s Final Four six times and will do so again this year and in 2021. Indianapolis also does big convention business, and on Wednesday the organizers of a mainline Protestant church gathering said they may move events out of the city because of concerns that their members “might experience legally sanctioned bias and rejection once so common on the basis of race.”
That church is not alone, as The Post’s Sarah Pulliam Bailey has pointed out:
Gen Con, a popular game convention and the city’s largest convention in attendance and economic impact, says it will reconsider Indianapolis as its annual location due to the bill. Last year, its CEO said in a letter, the convention attracted 56,000 and brought $50 million to the city.March 26, 2015 at 3:18 pm #8548jerry1949Spectator
This is not bigotry. It’s just fairness and common sense.
Nobody should be bankrputed for followig their consciences. It’s too bad we are so anxious to ruin people here in the Pacific Northwest over a single infraction of an unjust law. Maybe some day we can follow the leads of Indiana and Utah and be reasonable about it.March 26, 2015 at 3:40 pm #8553duxruleParticipant
So, you won’t be upset if I tell you that you filthy, diseased Papists aren’t welcome in my store?March 26, 2015 at 4:22 pm #8555Deane JohnsonParticipant
If it annoys Vitalogy and the rest of the liberal gang, then it’s good. Let’s have a cheer for Indiana.March 26, 2015 at 6:41 pm #8564
Cmon Deane. Even you should be able to see how utterly stupid and unnecessary this law is.
There’s really no upside to this law for the state. The downside is already kicking in, as in the financial consequences of organizations taking their business to other states who don’t have laws allowing blatant discrimination.
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