INDIANAPOLIS | Should a business that claims a religious affiliation be allowed to hire only those people who share the same beliefs?
At least two Indiana state senators think so.
State Sen. Phil Boots, R-Crawfordsville, attempted Wednesday in the Senate Pensions and Labor Committee to change House Bill 1242, which would ban employment discrimination based on veteran status, to permit employers to discriminate in hiring based on religion.
His proposal would have redefined "discriminatory practice" in Indiana law to allow preferential hiring based on religious affiliation by a religious corporation, association, educational institution or any other entity.
"If you're talking about two people that have exactly the same qualifications, or nearly the same qualifications, and I need to decide which one should be employed, then I ought to be able to choose the one that I think fits better with my background and my core beliefs," Boots said.
Boots, who owns several businesses in central Indiana, pointed to Hobby Lobby, the national craft chain, as a Christian-identified business that should be free to hire only Christians if it wanted to.
"I don't think that's discriminating; I think it's just that I have a preference," Boots said. "I don't think the law should get involved in that."
State Sen. Karen Tallian, D-Ogden Dunes, and state Sen. Brent Waltz, R-Greenwood, vehemently opposed Boots' effort to permit religion-based hiring.
"Discrimination and preferential treatment are two sides of the same coin as far as I'm concerned," Waltz said.
Tallian noted that religious organizations today own everything from hospital chains to restaurants, and the term "religious corporation" could include just about anything.
She said all Hoosiers deserve an equal shot at getting any job, regardless of their religious beliefs.
Boots ultimately withdrew his proposed committee amendment, which he said was given to him by another senator that he would not identify.
The measure banning hiring discrimination against veterans then was forwarded by the panel to the full Senate.
Boots' effort echoed a controversial decision this week by the House Ways and Means Committee to add — and the next day delete — similar language from Senate Bill 367.
That proposal would have permitted religious universities that contract with the state to continue religion-based employment practices, even though state contracts forbid employment discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, national origin, disability or ancestry.