House Republican supermajority passes bill that weakens protections for Hoosier children


      INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana House Republicans yesterday brushed aside concerns that a controversial “religious freedom” bill will make it more difficult to protect the health, welfare and safety of Hoosier children, according to State Rep. Gail Riecken (D-Evansville).

      Senate Bill 101 is designed to provide legal protections for people with strongly-held religious beliefs, but Riecken said the legislation is so vaguely written that it might end up creating more problems than it is designed to address.

That in mind, Riecken last week asked House members to pass an amendment to Senate Bill 101 that would have enabled any governmental agency to enforce any statute, ordinance, resolution or regulation that is designed to protect children. However, the House Republican supermajority rejected the proposal outright.

SB 101 was passed by the House Republican supermajority on a vote of 63-31.

“What concerns me is that if we pass this bill without some types of clarification, there will be misinterpretations that will end certain protections for our youngest, most vulnerable citizens,” Riecken said. “I worry that the protections afforded in this legislation will end up harming children in a number of different areas, simply because it will allow people to claim religious freedom to excuse conduct that might be cause for concern in a caring society.”

Riecken offered several examples where conflicts might arise.

“If the General Assembly felt it important to require certain levels of education and training for personnel in day care homes and facilities, but a religious institution running the facility or owners of a day care home did not want to take the training, they could avoid it simply by claiming the religious exemption afforded under this bill,” she continued.

“These are legitimate concerns, and they reflect the many unintended consequences that define this bill,” Riecken said.

“If we do not seriously consider these concerns now, we are going on a slippery slope that will lead to unending legal consequences. I do not believe that should be our purpose here, particularly when it comes to protecting our children.

“It is very disappointing to see those concerns tossed aside, but I remain hopeful that people will come to their senses and realize what kind of Pandora’s Box we are opening,” she concluded.