University of Evansville President Thomas Kazee Issues Statement on Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dr. Thomas Kazee, president of the University of Evansville, issued a statement today regarding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. 

The statement reads:

“I have been asked in recent days by many of those in the University of Evansville family about my position on the recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).  So let me take this opportunity to explain how I see the issue in terms of the University, the state of Indiana, and the public welfare.  University presidents should not, in my judgment, express personal opinions on matters of public significance without careful consideration of the relevance of the issue for their institutions.  Some issues, however, are especially salient not only for the society at large but have the potential to significantly impact the University, and RFRA is one such example.

A core commitment of the University of Evansville is to nurture a climate of respect, understanding, and appreciation of difference.  Moreover, as an institution we oppose practices and policies that can lead to discrimination against any person on the basis of race, color, creed or religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability.  It is from this foundational premise that I join those voices around the state, including Evansville’s Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, major Indiana corporations such as the Eli Lilly and Cummins, and the presidents of a growing number of Indiana universities who are deeply concerned about this legislation.

I respect Governor Pence’s argument that RFRA is designed to promote religious freedom and prevent government overreach, but this legislation cannot be divorced from the broader context of the national discussion about laws which arguably permit discrimination.  I think we can all agree that we want Indiana to be a welcoming and inclusive state.  Unfortunately, RFRA fuels the perception that we are intolerant and thus is damaging to the public welfare and to the University of Evansville.  I urge the Governor and the state legislature to reconsider this action or, failing that, pass legislation, as has been done in other states, to ensure that the law is not used as a tool for discrimination.”

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