Hendricks County Flyer, Avon, IN

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February 5, 2014

Amendment foes use language of faith to lobby lawmakers

(Continued)

Freedom Indiana’s faith organizers went a step beyond. They plugged into a growing grassroots movement and asked people in the pews to talk to legislators about family and friends affected by the issue.

“It’s a very personal issue for many people,” said the Rev. Patricia Case, a minister in the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ.

Republican state Rep. Tom Saunders came to see it that way after he was contacted by clergy in his rural district in eastern Indiana who opposed the amendment. Saunders voted for the measure in 2011, but changed his mind after seeking out counsel from his own minister last fall.

“She said the Bible says, ‘Love thy neighbor,’” said Saunders. “Well, I live in a town of about 500 people, and my neighbor and her partner are gay and they fly the rainbow flag. You can’t love your neighbor and treat them like second-class citizens.”

Curt Smith, who heads the pro-amendment Indiana Family Institute, said Freedom Indiana’s faith organizers have had an impact on the debate in the Statehouse. The rising voice of clergy in opposition to the amendment prompted Smith’s organization to create the Indiana Pastors Alliance, which claims 600 members.

“We’ve had to be more intentional about finding voices who could testify for the amendment and contact people in their House districts,” Smith said. He credited Freedom Indiana for mobilizing an effective grassroots effort. “Clearly the other side has done a good job of putting a human face to the context of what we’re talking about.”

The faith-based opposition to HJR-3 joins a vocal coalition that includes some of the state’s biggest employers, universities and mayors of cities big and small. Andy Downs, director of the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, said it adds a new element that counteracts the notion that there is only one theological view on marriage.

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