Higher ed leaders speak out against Indiana's 'religious freedom' law

NCAA president says it 'strikes at the core values' of diversity, inclusion

Multiple universities—in addition to the NCAA, national organizations, and major corporations—have criticized Indiana's new "religious freedom" law.

Five presidents from colleges in the state have publically condemned the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed into law on March 26. The law allows a corporation or individual to use religious beliefs as a defense if sued for denying services, for example, to lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender customers. It becomes effective July 1.

On Monday, Indiana GOP leaders said they will add language to clarify that discrimination against gays and lesbians will not be permitted under the law, though Democrats have said a complete repeal is the only way to stop the national criticism.

Sunday, Indiana University President Michael McRobbie, DePauw University President Brian Casey, and Butler University President James Danko all issued statements denouncing the bill. The next day, Valparaiso University President Mark Heckler and Hannover College President Sue DeWine released statements against it as well.

Additionally, while it did not speak directly against the new law, Ball State University released a statement on Monday that said it "has long been committed to a vibrant and diverse community and will not tolerate discrimination" based on gender identity, sexual orientation, disabilities, race, or other characteristics.

Purdue University President Mitch Daniels issued a similar release on Monday, saying that while a Board of Trustees policy prevents the school from commenting on such issues, "We will continue our proactive and persistent efforts to ensure that all members of the University community feel welcome and supported."

Furthermore, students at Valparaiso University held a rally Wednesday to encourage the local mayor to take a stronger stance against the law.

Higher education leaders outside of Indiana have also criticized the law, for example, Duke University, whose men's basketball team is scheduled to play in Indianapolis this weekend. University of Southern California Athletic Director Pat Haden announced he will boycott the upcoming College Football Playoff meeting in Indiana this week as well.

Furthermore, NCAA President Mark Emmert says the law "strikes at the core values" of inclusion, hinting that if it is not amended the entire organization—with headquarters in Indianapolis—could move. Several NCAA events through 2022, including this weekend's Men's Basketball Final Four, are scheduled to be held in the state. 

"As it becomes better understood, we're going to have to sit down and make judgments about whether or not [the law] changes the environment for us doing our work and for us holding events," he says.

Additionally, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) signed an executive order Monday preventing state departments and agencies, such as the University of Connecticut, to partake in any publically funded travel to the Indiana, with few exceptions. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) banned nonessential travel as well. 

Already, multiple corporations and businesses, including Salesforce.com, have canceled events that would bring employees and customers to the state, and hundreds have protested outside the Statehouse (Granderson, AP/ESPN, 3/31; WTHR, 3/30; Adams, Indianapolis Star, 3/30; Kingkade, Huffington Post, 3/31; McCalmont, Huffington Post, 3/30; Longnecker, WTHR, 3/28; Dixon, Connecticut Post, 3/31; Rosenfeld, CNBC, 3/31; Belvedere, CNBC, 3/31; Just, Chicago Sun Times, 3/31).

The takeaway: Higher education leaders—among politicians, national organizations, and major organizations—are speaking out against Indiana's new "religious freedom" law.


  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague