Divisive debate hailed as robust: Ex-chief justice, congressman discuss civic engagement

by Brian Francisco, Fort Wayne Journal Gazette

Former congressman Lee Hamilton and retired judge Randall Shepard came to Fort Wayne on Wednesday to talk about a study on civic engagement. There has been no shortage of engaging words and actions in the week since Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law sparked a national argument about whether Pence and Hoosier legislators are letting businesses use their religious beliefs to discriminate against homosexuals. All the furor is a good thing, Hamilton and Shepard said. ÒThis debate recently has been divisive in the state,Ó Hamilton said during a news conference at IPFW. ÒBut on the whole, IÕd rather err on the side of active, robust civic engagement politically than to err on the other side and not have enough of it, so IÕm not personally disturbed about the extent of the political engagement at this point.Ó Shepard, a former chief justice of Indiana, said outpourings of public responses to the religious freedom law Òhighlight why the value of broad civic involvement improves the communityÕs decision-making.Ó ÒI think what average citizens can do is to redouble their efforts to say, ÔIÕm part of Indiana, and our objective is to be a welcoming and understanding place.Õ And I think Indiana is,Ó he said. ÒI think one of the things that is happening, and that people in the general population can do, is to reinforce that message about our own attitude towards acceptance and accommodation and interest in people from all parts of society,Ó Shepard said. Hamilton, a Democrat from Bloomington who was in the U.S. House from 1965 through 1998, called for a wider range of interests to be represented in the legislative and policymaking process. ~1@BODYURL[id=114jbcurl1292]@

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