Church|State Separation Advocates Gather at Indiana Statehouse

February 16, 2012


On Saturday, February 11, the first Indiana Civic Day sponsored by Center for Inquiry-Indiana and the Indiana Chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State was held at the Indiana State House in Indianapolis. Over 100 people came together to hear Ron Lindsay, CEO of Center for Inquiry and Barry Lynn, Executive Director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State along with speakers from local organizations detail the problems and advocate for activism to maintain this separation. ACLU of Indiana also had representatives in attendance.

The speakers and those in attendance came from nonreligious and religious backgrounds. Speakers included David Sklar, Director of Government Affairs for the Jewish Community Relations Council who detailed “How a Bill Really Becomes a Law in Indiana” and Rick Sutton, President of Indiana Equality Action,  who is active in St Luke’s United Methodist Church. All have one issue in common–keeping religion and government separate.

Indiana is one of many states in which fundamentalist religious zealots are a threat. Every year bills are brought up and many times passed which restrict the reproductive rights of women in particular. Betty Cockrum, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana, is the leader in the fight for these rights. In her speech she very passionately detailed this struggle and asked for people to speak out and be active to preserve these rights for the women of Indiana. Her speech was appropriately titled: “Your Legislator. In Your Doc’s Office. In Your Bedroom.”

This same faction is pushing for an amendment to the Indiana Constitution to outlaw same sex marriage (there is already an Indiana law to this effect). They have succeeded in getting a voucher bill passed which sends taxpayers’ money to parents to take to private schools over which the state has little control of accreditation or curriculum. According to the Indianapolis Star (8/28/2011), all but six of the 242 non-public schools so far approved for the voucher program in Indiana have religious affiliations. The program included a dialogue on the voucher issue in which Joel Hand, representing Indiana Coalition for Public Education spoke in opposition to the voucher program while Robert Enlow, of the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice defended it.

For you who have been following mine and Michael De Dora’s blogs you know, a bill to allow “creation science” to be taught in Indiana Public schools passed the Indiana Senate recently. Fortunately, the Speaker of the House, Brian Bosma,  has decided not to pursue it in the House this year for fear of lawsuits. However, the sponsor of the bill, Senator Dennis Kruse,  has vowed to bring it back again next year. He believes that the present Supreme Court will overturn previous precedents and allow “creation science” to be taught in public schools. As he said in an interview with the Indianapolis Star(2/14/2012), “We have five pretty decent Supreme Court members who have been ruling pretty conservative on a lot of different things and they might have had a different ruling,”

The purpose of the program was to make people more aware and informed on these issues so that they can actively speak out and make their voices heard. We must be diligent in these efforts.