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Thursday, April 09, 2015

Ind. Gov't. - "How local press could have influenced the religious freedom law" Columbia Journalism Review takes on the local press

That is the headline to a story that is roiling the local press, at least in Twitter feeds; it appeared in the Columbia Journalism Review yesterday. The author was Jackie Spinner. Some quotes:

Indeed, both the national media and local press extensively—and sometimes sensationally—covered the possible impact of the law after it was passed. Once it got going, the Indiana media, led by the Indianapolis Star, gauged local reaction, talked to legal experts, and dissected the governor’s claim that law was just like one that exists at the federal level, an erroneous assertion he made repeatedly, including in a piece for the Wall Street Journal. The Star even published a frontpage editorial urging state leaders to fix the law.

But the story was slow to get traction among the Indiana press until it was almost approved, meaning reporters were scrambling to cover backlash on a story happening on home territory. By the time the press did pick up on the story—and the opposition to the law—it was really too late to influence the debate or even to give readers and viewers a clear idea of what the law might do.

“What is disappointing in all of this is that they took this stance after all the business leaders and huge demonstrations,” said Dennis Ryerson, editor of the Star from 2003 to 2012 “They kind of followed the crowd rather than leading the crowd. I wish they would have done it a lot sooner when legislature was considering all this.”

The bigger story of the legislative session in local outlets were cuts in education spending and Pence’s successful effort to remove the state’s school superintendent as head of the Board of Education.

Read the story yourself, there is much of interest.

The ILB has looked back at earlier posts and found that the IndyStar did have an Oct. 6, 2014 story headed "Debate over religious freedom looms ahead," that began:

Although many observers hailed Monday's U.S. Supreme Court decision on gay marriage as a boon for equality, debates and legal battles over religious freedom and discrimination based on sexuality remain simmering in Indiana and nationwide.

Socially conservative advocacy groups such as the American Family Association of Indiana and the Indiana Family Institute now plan to focus lobbying efforts on legislation that would protect religious organizations, nonprofit groups and businesses that deny services to gay couples based on religious grounds. Curt Smith, president of the Indiana Family Institute, said his organization already has spoken with three lawmakers about possibly creating legislation to protect religious liberty in the marketplace.

And the ILB did a compilation of stories with links on Feb. 2, 2015 which is worth checking; it began:
There have been stories about this topic for weeks, but two bills on "religious freedom" have now been set for hearing in committee.
The ILB has a very long list of posts on "RFRA", both before and after it was signed into law by Governor Pence.

It looks to me like the concern about the impact of RFRA was there all along, this bill wasn't overlooked by any means. But it seemed to be on the super-majority fast track, unstoppable, and indeed it was, until after the fact.

There was plenty of news coverage. Look at this post from March 19th, headed "RFRA: 'The lawyers will all get some really sweet lake homes out of this' writes one columnist." And this post from March 16th, before the House committee hearing on SB 101. Or this post from Feb. 10, quoting a Star story on the initial public hearing on SB 101, in Senate Judiciary.

SB 101 was signed into law by the Governor on March 26, a Thursday. The following day the ILB had this post titled " Indiana's RFRA and the perception of intolerance," (with a number of links) that began:

The ILB has received questions about how the new RFRA would work in practice. The ILB has asked several respected attorneys the same questions. The answer: No one is really willing, or able, to give a conclusive answer. It all depends on whether there are challenges to, or under, the new law, how those challenges manifest themselves, and what the Indiana courts decide.

Meanwhile, the very act of passing the law has labeled Indiana nationally as intolerant. * * *

It does not help that our Governor, who announced earlier this week that he was eager to sign the bill into law, held the signing ceremony in private and won't reveal who attended. [Here is a photo.]

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 9, 2015 11:10 AM
Posted to Indiana Government