Letter: Constitution protects religious liberties

To the editor:

As Indiana’s attorney general, I have legal obligations as the lawyer to state government that do not permit me to provide specific legal analysis or advice to the public, but only to my government clients.

But as attorney general, I want to reassure all Hoosiers that our Constitution provides strong protections for both religious liberties and protections against discrimination. The current issue involving state statutes can in no way lessen any constitutional rights.

But in addition to being the state government’s attorney, I am a lifelong Hoosier who loves this state. And I want to come to the defense of the reputation of the good people of Indiana, who are known for their Hoosier hospitality, family values and strength of character.

Part of the reason the current controversy has affected Hoosiers viscerally is the unfair assertion that Indiana natives somehow are unkind and intolerant. That goes against the grain of the very cultural identity we all have learned and internalized all our lives of being kind and hospitable people, basically “good folks.”

Much of the uproar over this law has come from within this state, from Hoosiers themselves, registering their disagreement with their elected officials –- and that’s fine, elected officials (including me) are fair game at any time for constituent criticism. To the extent that any in the national media and entertainment media have sought to paint Indiana with a broad brush as being an intolerant state and mock all Hoosiers for the policy decisions of elected officials, that’s wrong.

Just as we can’t blame all 320 million Americans for the lawmaking actions of Congress and the President, outsiders ought not do that to the 6.6 million Hoosiers over the actions of state officials. It’s not right and should stop.

I am proud to be from Indiana though I might not always personally agree with every action our state government takes (even as I must represent our state officials as their lawyer), just as I am proud to be an American citizen though I do not always agree with the actions of our federal government.

Most Hoosiers feel much the same way, that a place and its people are more than its government. Thankfully we live in a country where “we the people” rule.

And just as I ask that everyone outside our state quit directing their outrage at the people of Indiana, everyone in our state should collectively agree that discrimination is wrong and businesses should not discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or marital status. It is both a part of religious liberty to “love our neighbor as ourself” and at the heart of being a Hoosier.

Greg Zoeller

Indiana attorney general