WBEZ | Indiana http://www.wbez.org/tags/indiana Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Indiana Dunes State Park celebrates 90 years amid controversy surrounding renovation plans http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-28/indiana-dunes-state-park-celebrates-90-years-amid-controversy <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/dunes Lotzman Katzman.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>There&rsquo;s a beach party Satuday at the Indiana Dunes State Park to celebrate 90 years of existence. In 1915 the state purchased 107 acres of land for 32,000 dollars, which back then was known as Waverly Beach. The Indiana Dunes State Park now spans more than 2,000 acres and it&rsquo;s known as the place that birth to ecology as a science. But science might now have to share space with commercialism as the state seeks to expand offerings for visitors via two beachfront restaurants, a rooftop bar and a glass-walled banquet hall. WBEZ Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter Michael Puente joins us with more details.&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:47:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-28/indiana-dunes-state-park-celebrates-90-years-amid-controversy Today marks 60th anniversary of Whiting oil refinery explosion http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-27/today-marks-60th-anniversary-whiting-oil-refinery-explosion-112746 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/whiting.jpeg" alt="" /><p><p>Today marks the 60th anniversary of the Standard Oil Refinery explosion in Whiting, Ind.</p><p>Shortly after 6 a.m. on August 27, 1955, a massive explosion at Standard Oil shook the entire northwest Indiana city. Some thought it was an earthquake....others a bomb and there were a few who thought it was the end of the world. The fire that resulted from the explosion burned for days. Hundreds of families were forced to leave their homes and an entire neighborhood was destroyed. For Whiting resident Bonnie Wilson Faulkner, the explosion is just as ingrained in her memory as the day JFK was assassinated.</p><p>Faulkner&#39;s recollection is one of many included in the documentary called &ldquo;One Minute After Sunrise,&rdquo; which takes a look back at the event and the affect it had on the people who lived in Whiting at the time of the explosion. Joining us to talk about the blast, its impact on the town and the memories of Whiting residents is producer <strong>John Hmurovic</strong>. The Whiting-Robertsdale Historical Society will be showing &ldquo;One Minute After Sunrise&rdquo; at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Whiting High School auditorium. Admission is free.</p></p> Thu, 27 Aug 2015 10:51:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-27/today-marks-60th-anniversary-whiting-oil-refinery-explosion-112746 NRA instructs Indiana national guardsmen http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-25/nra-instructs-indiana-national-guardsmen-112720 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/The National Guard.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>When it comes to our neighbors in Indiana, Illinoisans are jealous of their low taxes and cheap smokes. Some other stuff can raise questions. Latest case in point, the Indiana National Guard, the state&rsquo;s military, is now getting firearms training from the National Rifle Association, a civilian lobbying group. National Guard members typically don&rsquo;t carry weapons while conducting stateside duties. But in the wake of the attacks on the military in Tennessee last month, 14 governors have opted to arm their guardsmen. Indiana is the only state out of the 14 to use the NRA for training &mdash; a move that has drawn criticism from gun control advocates and even some National Guard officials.Brian Slodysko, Indiana State Capitol Correspondent for the Associated Press, joins us to explain.&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 25 Aug 2015 10:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/morning-shift/2015-08-25/nra-instructs-indiana-national-guardsmen-112720 Indiana law: Sorting fact from fiction from politics http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-law-sorting-fact-fiction-politics-111800 <p><p>The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics &ndash; until something or someone pushes it to the surface.</p><p>That something early in this cycle is the Indiana &quot;Religious Freedom Restoration Act,&quot; which Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who is considering a run for president in 2016, signed into law last week. It has caused a firestorm of criticism from those who say the law could lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians, including businesses like<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/pro-discrimination-religious-freedom-laws-are-dangerous-to-america/2015/03/29/bdb4ce9e-d66d-11e4-ba28-f2a685dc7f89_story.html">Apple</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/28/news/companies/angies-list-indiana-gay-discrimination/">Angie&#39;s List</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="http://espn.go.com/college-sports/story/_/id/12587768/ncaa-president-mark-emmert-keeping-close-eye-indiana-legislators-new-law-allow-businesses-discriminate-gays-lesbians">NCAA</a>, which is hosting the men&#39;s college basketball Final Four in Indianapolis, and even other states like Connecticut, which&nbsp;<a href="http://www.courant.com/politics/capitol-watch/hc-malloy-issues-executive-order-banning-statepaid-travel-to-indiana-20150330-story.html'">banned state-paid travel</a>&nbsp;to Indiana.</p><p>Pence seemed surprised by the backlash and has had some difficulty explaining his position. Other potential 2016 candidates have&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/03/31/396570683/what-the-2016-hopefuls-are-saying-about-indianas-religious-freedom-law" target="_blank">leapt to his defense</a>&nbsp;and, some, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, went further than the Indiana governor.</p><p>Supporters say Indiana&#39;s law is similar the federal &quot;Religious Freedom Restoration Act&quot; passed in 1993.</p><p>As often is the case in controversies the facts have become muddled and conflated. So what are the facts? How are the two laws different? And how have politics on both sides shaped the response?</p><p><strong>Seeking &#39;Clarification&#39; and a &#39;Fix,&#39; As The Contenders Weigh In</strong></p><p>On Tuesday, Pence&nbsp;<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-nation/wp/2015/03/31/full-text-of-indiana-gov-mike-pences-news-conference-on-rfra/">said</a>&nbsp;there has &quot;been misunderstanding and confusion and mischaracterization of this law.&quot; But he said he is seeking &quot;clarification&quot; and a &quot;fix&quot; to the law with legislation &quot;that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses a right to deny services to anyone.&quot;</p><p>On Monday, though, the law became part of the presidential campaign with Republican presidential candidates weighing in after a Sunday show performance from Pence that raised more questions. Pence sidestepped half a dozen specific questions about whether the law could lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians.</p><p>Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush contended that facts had not been established, and once they are, &quot;people aren&#39;t going to see this as discriminatory at all.&quot;</p><p>Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker backed the law and said through a spokesperson that it was about &quot;the right for Americans to exercise their religion and act on their conscience.&quot;</p><p>Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said the law &quot;is giving voice to millions of courageous conservatives.&quot;</p><p>Rubio, though, did something the other candidates did not. He more directly addressed the charge that businesses could discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Gay rights advocates, for example, say if a gay or lesbian couple wanted a flower arrangement or cake for a reception, a florist or caterer could lawfully choose not to fill the order, if they have a religious objection.</p><p>Rubio said he thinks businesses should have that right.</p><p>&quot;The issue we&#39;re talking about here is should someone who provides a professional service be punished by the law because they refused to provide that professional service to a ceremony that they believe is in violation of their faith?&quot; he said on Fox News Monday. &quot;I think people have a right to live out their religious faith in their own lives.&quot;</p><p>Most conservatives, including Pence, have mostly not addressed that charge head on. Instead, they say, the law is unfairly maligned. After all, other states have similar laws and even Democrat Bill Clinton signed a federal &quot;Religious Freedom Restoration Act&quot; into law as president.</p><p>Hillary Clinton, for the record, tweeted: &quot;Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn&#39;t discriminate against ppl bc of who they love.&quot;</p><p>The White House on Tuesday blasted Pence and others, who &quot;falsely suggest&quot; the two laws &mdash; Indiana&#39;s and the federal one &mdash; are the same.</p><p>&quot;That is not true,&quot; White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said at the White House daily briefing. He cited the spirit of the law as well as the text. He said the 1993 law &quot;was an effort to protect the religious liberty of religious minorities based on actions that could be taken by the federal government.&quot;</p><p>On the other hand, &quot;The Indiana law is much broader,&quot; Earnest continued. &quot;It doesn&#39;t just apply to individuals or religious minorities. It applies to, and I&#39;m quoting here, &#39;a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint stock company, or an unincorporated association.&#39; So this obviously is a significant expansion of the law in terms of the way that it would apply. ... [T]his is a much more open-ended piece of legislation that could reasonably be used to try to justify discriminating against somebody because of who they love.&quot;</p><p><strong>The Background</strong></p><p>First, let&#39;s start with how and why the 1993 law came to be. The federal law&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1993/11/17/us/clinton-signs-law-protecting-religious-practices.html">stemmed from</a>&nbsp;an Oregon Native American man, who lost his job in 1990 after testing positive for drugs. He had used peyote as part of a religious ritual. The &quot;fix&quot; to that problem became the federal RFRA, introduced by soon-to-be Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, then a House member from New York. A companion bill passed the Senate and was introduced by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.</p><p><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/03/27/19-states-that-have-religious-freedom-laws-like-indianas-that-no-one-is-boycotting/">Nineteen states</a>, in addition to Indiana, have since enacted their own RFRAs, but as<em><a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2015/03/27/19-states-that-have-religious-freedom-laws-like-indianas-that-no-one-is-boycotting/">The Atlantic</a>&nbsp;</em>notes, just South Carolina and Texas have similar variations to Indiana&#39;s and neither seems to go quite as far.</p><p><strong>Indiana vs. Federal Law &mdash; What Do They Say?</strong></p><p><a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-103hr1308enr/pdf/BILLS-103hr1308enr.pdf">The Federal RFRA</a>&nbsp;states that &quot;Government shall not substantially burden a person&#39;s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability....&quot;</p><p><a href="https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2015/bills/senate/101#document-92bab197">The Indiana law</a>&nbsp;also states, &quot;a governmental entity may not substantially burden a person&#39;s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.&quot;</p><p>That is, the federal law states, except when it &quot;is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.&quot;</p><p>Indiana also states the exception as &quot;(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.&quot;</p><p>But that&#39;s where the similarities end.</p><p>The federal law does not go so far as to define a &quot;person.&quot; Indiana&#39;s law does. And a &quot;person,&quot; by their standard is not what you might think.</p><p>Section 7 of the Indiana code includes people, churches and corporations in that definition:</p><div class="bucketwrap statichtml" id="res396674585"><div class="DC-note-container" id="DC-note-210824">&nbsp;</div><script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/notes/loader.js"></script><script> dc.embed.loadNote('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1699074-sb0101-05-enrs/annotations/210824.js'); </script></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>As related to whether, why or who can sue, the federal law says:</p><div class="bucketwrap statichtml" id="res396674719"><div class="DC-note-container" id="DC-note-210827">&nbsp;</div><script src="//s3.amazonaws.com/s3.documentcloud.org/notes/loader.js"></script><script> dc.embed.loadNote('//www.documentcloud.org/documents/1699105-bills-103hr1308enr/annotations/210827.js'); </script></div><p>&nbsp;</p><p>The Indiana law goes further. In Section 9, it states that &quot;a person,&quot; in this case meaning an individual, church, limited liability company, etc., &quot;whose exercise of religion has been substantially burdened, or is likely to be substantially burdened, by a violation of this chapter may assert the violation or impending violation as a claim or defense in a judicial or administrative proceeding, regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity is a party to the proceeding.&quot;</p><p>So, in other words, while the federal law states that a person can sue the&nbsp;<em>government</em>for a grievance, Indiana makes a point of stating that it doesn&#39;t matter if government is involved.</p><p>Josh Blackman, a constitutional law professor at South Texas College,&nbsp;<a href="http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416160/indiana-protecting-discrimination-josh-blackman">notes in<em>National Review</em></a>&nbsp;that while some read the federal provision as pertaining only to government, it has actually split federal courts. &quot;Private parties,&quot; he points out, &quot;had brought suits against corporations.&quot;</p><p>For example: &quot;[T]he D.C. Circuit held that the Catholic University of America could raise RFRA as a defense against a sex-discrimination claim brought by a nun and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alike.</p><p>That said, the Indiana law explicitly wipes away any ambiguity.</p><p><strong>The Politics</strong></p><p>Support for gay rights has increased dramatically over the past decade. Since former President George W. Bush proposed a ban on same-sex marriage during his 2004 presidential reelection campaign, support for same-sex marriage has reversed.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gallupsamesexmarriage14_custom-d446a9946a90cc2b8b0eb5d2e5b886e25823a763-s800-c85.png" style="height: 350px; width: 620px;" title="Gallup's May 2014 survey found support for same-sex marriage at a new high: 55 percent. Gallup" /></div><p>In 2004, a majority of the country &mdash; 55 percent &mdash; was against it, while 42 percent was in favor, according to Gallup. Now, it&#39;s exactly the opposite, with 55 percent saying they&#39;re in favor of same-sex marriage and 42 percent saying they&#39;re against it.</p><p>What&#39;s more, in 2004, 54 percent said gay or lesbian relations were &quot;morally wrong.&quot; In 2014, 58 percent said it was &quot;morally acceptable,&quot; while just 38 percent said it was wrong. That is a huge cultural and political shift in a relatively short time.</p><p>It&#39;s something Republican pollster Whit Ayres likens to approval of interracial marriage in the 1970s to 1990s. In his book,&nbsp;<em>2016 and Beyond: How Republicans can elect a President in the New America</em>, he points out, citing Gallup numbers, that in 1972, some 60 percent of Americans disapproved of interracial marriage. Twenty-five years later, 64 percent approved with the lines crossing when the country split about evenly in 1983.</p><p>&quot;It looks similar to gay marriage,&quot; Ayres told reporters at breakfast meeting sponsored by the&nbsp;<em>Christian Science Monitor</em>. &quot;The values of young people, I believe, this is where we are headed as a country.&quot; He added, &quot;We are headed to where a political candidate, who is perceived as anti-gay will never connect with people under 30 years old.&quot;</p><p>But going inside the numbers helps explain why both sides are singing very different tunes on the Indiana law. For example, Gallup found that 3 in 4 Democrats are in favor of same-sex marriage (as were almost 60 percent of independents), but the opposite was true for Republicans with 72 percent opposed, as of 2013.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/gallupssm2_custom-47c4801c026db15f4b3df2883cd5da62b26c7c78-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 388px; width: 620px;" title="Gallup survey showing support of same-sex marriage by party in 2013. Gallup/2016 And Beyond" /></div><p>That makes it difficult to get through a Republican primary being too strongly in favor of gay rights with a significant portion of the base considering themselves &quot;social values&quot; religious voters.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s a challenge,&quot; said Ayres, who is advising Rubio.</p><p>He points out that younger Republicans under 30 are in favor of same-sex marriage. A Pew poll in 2014, in fact, found 61 percent of young Republicans in favor.</p><p>So, while times are changing with Republicans on gay rights, they are doing so more slowly than the more rapid change taking place in the country at large.</p><p>&mdash; via <a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/itsallpolitics/2015/04/01/395613897/sorting-fact-from-fiction-from-politics-on-the-indiana-law"><em>NPR&#39;s It&#39;s All Politics</em></a></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 09:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-law-sorting-fact-fiction-politics-111800 Indiana pastor doesn’t want changes to 'religious freedom' law http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-pastor-doesn%E2%80%99t-want-changes-religious-freedom-law-111798 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Pence Reax_1.jpg" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">As Indiana Gov. Mike Pence asks lawmakers to send him a clarification of the state&#39;s new religious-freedom law later this week, at least one Northwest Indiana pastor is speaking out against the prospect of changes.</p><p dir="ltr">On Tuesday, Pence defended the Indiana law as a vehicle to protect religious liberty but said he has been meeting with lawmakers &quot;around the clock&quot; to address concerns that it would allow businesses to deny services to gay customers.</p><p>The governor said he does not believe &quot;for a minute&quot; that lawmakers intended &quot;to create a license to discriminate.&quot;</p><p>&quot;It certainly wasn&#39;t my intent,&quot; said Pence, who <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-gov-pence-signs-religious-objections-bill-111772">signed the law last week</a>.</p><p>But, he said, he &quot;can appreciate that that&#39;s become the perception, not just here in Indiana but all across the country. We need to confront that.&quot;</p><p>&ldquo;It would make the bill null and void,&rdquo; Rev. Ron Johnson, senior pastor of Living Stones Church in Crown Point, Indiana, told WBEZ. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s not going to protect religious liberty.&rdquo;</p><p>The Indiana law prohibits any laws that &quot;substantially burden&quot; a person&#39;s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of &quot;person&quot; includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.</p><p>Although the legal language does not specifically mention gays and lesbians, critics say the law is designed to shield businesses and individuals who do not want to serve gays and lesbians, such as florists or caterers who might be hired for a same-sex wedding.</p><p>Johnson says from his understanding, the law could allow something more troubling.</p><p>&ldquo;Nobody is saying that if you come into get a hamburger you say, &lsquo;Hey, are you a homosexual? I&rsquo;m not going to serve you a hamburger.&rsquo; That is not even the issue,&rdquo; Johnson said. &ldquo;The issue has been specifically related to forcing someone to celebrate a same-sex wedding ceremony that they believe violates their religious beliefs. That&rsquo;s where the rub has come.&rdquo;</p><p>Johnson feels the religious community is being forced to accept something they do not believe in.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re talking about the Left and the gay lobby forcing us not to tolerate their behavior but to celebrate their behavior and that&rsquo;s fundamentally wrong,&rdquo; Johnson said. &ldquo;Whatever group is pushing for their right to express themselves sexually however they want to do it, if you don&rsquo;t jump on the bandwagon and support that then you&rsquo;re a bigot, or you&rsquo;re a hater.&quot;</p><p>Johnson added that the national backlash Indiana has endured following Pence&rsquo;s signing of SB 101 into law has been shameful.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a witch hunt if I ever saw one. Frankly, I think it&rsquo;s an insult to Hoosiers. It&rsquo;s an insult to our great governor who is an incredibly good man,&rdquo; Johnson said.</p><p>The federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act arose from a case related to the use of peyote in a Native American ritual.</p><p>But in 1997, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal law did not apply to the states. So states began enacting their own laws. Twenty now have them on the books, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/legal-expert-says-illinois-got-it-right-regarding-its-religious-freedom-law-111783">including Illinois</a>.</p><p>Businesses and organizations including Apple and the NCAA have voiced concern over Indiana&#39;s law, and some states have barred government-funded travel to the state.</p><p>Democratic legislative leaders said a clarification would not be enough.</p><p>&quot;To say anything less than a repeal is going to fix it is incorrect,&quot; House Minority Leader Scott Pelath, a Democrat from Michigan City, said.</p><p>Republican Senate President Pro Tem David Long said lawmakers were negotiating a clarification proposal that he hoped would be ready for public release on Wednesday, followed by a vote Thursday before sending the package to the governor.</p><p>&quot;We have a sense that we need to move quickly out here and be pretty nimble,&quot; Long said. &quot;But right now, we don&#39;t have consensus on the language.&quot;</p><p>Also Tuesday, the Indianapolis Star urged state lawmakers in a <a href="http://www.indystar.com/story/opinion/2015/03/30/editorial-gov-pence-fix-religious-freedom-law-now/70698802/">front-page editorial</a> to respond to widespread criticism of the law by protecting the rights of gays and lesbians.</p><p>The Star&#39;s editorial, headlined &quot;FIX THIS NOW,&quot; covered the newspaper&#39;s entire front page. It called for lawmakers to enact a law that would prohibit discrimination on the basis of a person&#39;s sexual orientation or gender identity.</p><p>The newspaper says the uproar sparked by the law has &quot;done enormous harm&quot; to the state and potentially to its economic future.</p><p>The state of Arkansas is now considering passing it&rsquo;s own Religious Freedom Restoration Act.</p><p><em>The Associated Press contributed to this story.</em></p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau Reporter. Following him on Twitter @MikePuenteNews.</em></p></p> Wed, 01 Apr 2015 07:35:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-pastor-doesn%E2%80%99t-want-changes-religious-freedom-law-111798 With GOP votes, Indiana House approves religious objection bill http://www.wbez.org/news/gop-votes-indiana-house-approves-religious-objection-bill-111758 <p><p>INDIANAPOLIS &mdash; The Indiana House approved by a wide margin Monday a proposal strengthening protections for religious objections in state law that opponents say could provide legal cover for discrimination against gay people.</p><p>Republicans cast all the &quot;yes&quot; votes as House members voted 63-31 to support the bill that would prohibit any state laws that &quot;substantially burden&quot; a person&#39;s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs and has a definition of a &quot;person&quot; that includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.</p><p>Groups supporting the measure say it would prevent the government from compelling people to provide services such as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable.</p><p>House Majority Leader Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said the bill would give courts guidance on how to decide cases involving competing constitutional rights pertaining to religious freedom and discrimination.</p><p>&quot;No one in this General Assembly is advocating a bill that would allow people to discriminate,&quot; he said. &quot;Everybody wants the opportunity for people to practice the rights they&#39;re supposed to have in this country.&quot;</p><p>National gay-rights consider the Indiana bill among the most sweeping of several similar proposals introduced this year in more than a dozen states as conservatives brace for a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.</p><p>&quot;What these politicians are peddling as &#39;religious liberty&#39; is not real religious liberty,&quot; said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund. &quot;This law is an outright recipe for discrimination and persecution.&quot;</p><p>Five Republican House members joined Democrats in voting against the proposal. The Senate approved a similar version last month in a 40-10 party-line vote. Once agreement on a version is reached, the bill would go to Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who supports the proposal.</p><p>&quot;It is a restraint on what government can do,&quot; Pence said last week. &quot;It essentially gives courts guidance going forward.&quot;</p><p>Scott Spychala, an Air Force veteran from Indianapolis, wore a sticker opposing the bill on his military fatigues as he sat in the House gallery for the debate.</p><p>&quot;I just think there&#39;s going to be opportunities down the road where people can use their religion to discriminate,&quot; he said after the vote. &quot;It&#39;s taking us back in history.&quot;</p><p>Sponsors of the bill say it is closely modeled on a federal religious freedom law passed in 1993 and that 19 other states already have similar laws.</p><p>Gay marriage opponents in Indiana were angered last year when the Legislature failed to advance a proposed state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. Federal courts later legalized same-sex marriage in the state.</p><p>Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington said the proposal wasn&#39;t needed to protect religious liberties in that state and was nothing but a &quot;consolation prize&quot; for those against legalizing gay marriages.</p><p>Other Democrats said the bill could be used to challenge local civil rights ordinances that go further than state law to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination or challenge state regulations on church day cares.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re going to cost our state a lot of money,&quot; said Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond. &quot;We are meddling with the lives of people that we have no business meddling with.&quot;</p><p>Rallies in support of and against the bill have drawn hundreds of people to the Statehouse in recent weeks, and Christian and Jewish clergy members have testified on each side.</p><p>About a dozen people against the bill were on hand Monday as members of Freedom Indiana, which campaigned against the state gay marriage ban last year, delivered what it said were nearly 10,000 petitions opposing the measure to the office of Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma.</p><p>Republican Rep. Bruce Borders of Jasonville said he believed the bill would protect people trying to live out their religious faith beyond church.</p><p>&quot;I can see very easily where someone with their business is asked to do something that according what they&#39;ve read in God&#39;s word they simply cannot do it in good conscience,&quot; Borders said.</p></p> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 09:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gop-votes-indiana-house-approves-religious-objection-bill-111758 Ditching the Common Core brings a big test for Indiana http://www.wbez.org/news/ditching-common-core-brings-big-test-indiana-111691 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/12-hr-test_slide-39ff1dbc376b856439c0384655a0d8767c757fce-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Indiana squeezed the normal life cycle of a test—pilot, field, real—into one, massive exam that clocked in at 12 hours. LA Johnson/NPR" /></div><p>Every eldest child knows all too well: Going first can be tough.</p><p>There&#39;s no one to help you pick the good teachers at school or give you advice on how to tell Mom and Dad about that fender bender.</p><p>Right now, Indiana is the firstborn, feeling its way through some thorny &mdash; and consequential &mdash; education decisions with little precedent to lean on.</p><p>It all started a year ago, when the state dropped &mdash; and hastily replaced &mdash; the Common Core State Standards. It was the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2014/05/27/307755798/the-common-core-faq">first of three states to drop the Core</a>&nbsp;after previously signing on to the benchmarks in the summer of 2010.</p><p>Indiana also rejected a new, Common Core-aligned statewide annual test, which meant it had to replace that too (or run afoul of federal law). But introducing a new test generally takes years, not months. Questions are normally piloted one year and field-tested the next before the official, high-stakes version makes its debut.</p><p>&quot;The test has to do multiple things at the same time,&quot; says Danielle Shockey, the state&#39;s deputy schools superintendent.</p><p>Indiana squeezed the normal life cycle of a test&mdash;pilot, field, real&mdash;into one, massive exam that clocked in at 12 hours. That&#39;s more than twice as long as the previous test.</p><p>Why so long? First, it has to cover all of the new, new standards.</p><p>Second, the state had to include additional items in case of bad questions &mdash; a necessary precaution for any new, untested test.</p><p>&quot;So, after the test is complete,&quot; Shockey says, &quot;if nobody got Question Seven right, maybe that was a bad test item. That means there has to be enough in the bank for those things to happen.&quot;</p><p>But here&#39;s where the real padding came in: Indiana also had to pilot items for the test in years to come. These extra questions are basically testing the test, not the students. And, while those pilot questions don&#39;t count toward a student&#39;s final score, they do add a lot of time to the test.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">The Struggle For Educators And Families</span></p><p>In January, the Indiana Department of Education sent schools the timetable for its test, showing that it would take 12 hours over the course of the 13-day testing window. Last year it took about five hours.</p><p>Parents and educators were horrified. They flooded the Statehouse and vented their frustration at a State Board of Education meeting.</p><p>Further complicating things, in the weeks leading up to the test the IDOE altered its format dramatically by replacing a bunch of multiple-choice questions with some that require open-ended responses.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not just the actual administration of the test but the preparation of the test. Because, of course, you have to make sure kids are familiar with the format and that they&#39;re not going to be unnerved by something new,&quot; says Jenny Robinson, a parent of a 5th-grader in Bloomington, Ind.</p><p>Educators echoed that complaint, saying they&#39;d gotten no warning about the test&#39;s length.</p><p>&quot;We expected more item complexity to increase, but we really hadn&#39;t been told that the duration of the assessment was going to be vastly expanded,&quot; says Scott Smith, assessment coordinator for the Brownsburg Community School Corporation.</p><p>Educators weren&#39;t told because the test had been in development down to the wire. The quick turnaround frustrates Smith, who says he didn&#39;t care whether the state used Common Core or its own benchmarks &mdash; he just wanted lawmakers to choose one.</p><p>&quot;That flip-flop, the moving in one direction toward Common Core and then moving in the other direction ... that cost us time,&quot; Smith says. &quot;We were supposed to have three years to pilot these assessments, to field test these assessments and really prepare the assessment that has to be operational this year.&quot;</p><p>After a spate of last-minute meetings, some speedy legislation and an executive order, the State Board of Education and the legislature intervened, shaving three hours off the state&#39;s new test, which students are taking this week.</p><p>Though Indiana was the first to drop the Core, Oklahoma and South Carolina soon followed, and other states are considering the move.</p><p>Given the surprises that have come from that decision, Smith has some advice for lawmakers in other states now debating standards and testing:</p><p>&quot;Individual politicians cannot cut their political teeth on an issue this complex.&quot;</p><p>-&nbsp;<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/blogs/ed/2015/03/12/390688151/ditching-the-common-core-brings-a-big-test-for-indiana">via nprEd</a></em></p></p> Thu, 12 Mar 2015 08:42:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/ditching-common-core-brings-big-test-indiana-111691 WBEZ obtains 911 call from controversial Hammond traffic stop http://www.wbez.org/news/wbez-obtains-911-call-controversial-hammond-traffic-stop-111511 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/hammond_1_0.png" alt="" /><p><p><em>This American Life</em> and WBEZ have obtained the first copy of the 911 call from a controversial traffic stop in Hammond, Indiana. You can hear the full audio of the call above.</p><p>The Sept. 24 incident began when <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159">police in Hammond pulled over an African-American family</a> for a minor seatbelt violation.</p><p>During the stop, passenger Jamal Jones refused to exit the vehicle when ordered to by officers.</p><p>The driver of the car, Lisa Mahone, called 911 for help.</p><p>After several minutes of asking, police drew their weapons as Mahone&rsquo;s two young children watched from the back seat.</p><p>One of the kids recorded the incident on his phone, and the video went viral.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="465" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/XsW-QCxXkQA?rel=0&amp;showinfo=0" width="620"></iframe></p><p>The video ends with the moment most people remember: the officers smash the window, drag the passenger from the car, and tase him. Police have said that they thought there might have been a gun in the car.</p><p>You can hear some of Mahone&rsquo;s side of the 911 call in the video &mdash; but for the first time the official 911 audio gives us both sides of the conversation that took place when Mahone essentially called the police...on the police.</p><p>Some of the 911 call is difficult to understand, but what&rsquo;s clear is the two women have completely different perceptions of what&rsquo;s happening.</p><p><strong>Raw Audio</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="100" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/189826499&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Mahone says she&rsquo;s scared that an officer has drawn his weapon and doesn&rsquo;t want to leave the car.</p><p>The dispatcher repeatedly tries to make the case that Mahone is safe and that she and the passengers should follow the orders of the police officers.</p><p>The tape from the 911 call is about two minutes long, and cuts off when the window is smashed.</p><p>After the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/recent-incidents-cast-doubt-hammond-police-accountability-critics-say-111228">incident originally came to light</a>, Hammond mayor Tom McDermott Jr. defended the actions of his officers.</p><p>Regarding the release of the 911 tape, McDermott responded to WBEZ&rsquo;s request for comment with a text message.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ll take a pass on commenting while the criminal case and civil cases are being litigated,&rdquo; McDermott wrote.</p><p>Meanwhile, Mahone and Jones continue to pursue their federal civil rights lawsuit against the Hammond police.</p><p>The FBI is <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/disbelief-some-hammond-after-accused-cops-are-reinstated-111159">still looking into</a> the actions of the police on that day.</p><p><em>WBEZ obtained a recording of the 911 call as part of a two episode project from </em>This American Life <em>examining the relationship between police and civilians. The first of those episodes called &ldquo;Cops See it Differently&rdquo; airs Feb. 6 on WBEZ at 7 p.m.</em></p><p><em>Michael Puente is WBEZ&rsquo;s Northwest Indiana Bureau reporter. Follow him <a href="http://twitter.com/MikePuenteNews">@MikePuenteNews</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 06 Feb 2015 13:21:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/wbez-obtains-911-call-controversial-hammond-traffic-stop-111511 Under mounting debt, Munster schools forced to make tough decisions http://www.wbez.org/news/under-mounting-debt-munster-schools-forced-make-tough-decisions-111499 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/Munster HS.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>On a recent weeknight, about 200 parents braved cold temperatures to gather at Munster High School in Northwest Indiana. They were there to watch a documentary about the threat to public education in Indiana.</p><p>Kate Robinson, who moved to Munster five years ago with her husband and three young children, was in the crowd.</p><p>&ldquo;We were in Chicago before we were in Indiana and moved specifically to Northwest Indiana and picked Munster because of the reputation of the school system. It&rsquo;s been fantastic,&rdquo; Robinson said. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s a very supportive community. Everybody is here for one reason. Resources for work and good schools.&rdquo;</p><p>But the school system is facing a budget crisis like it&#39;s never seen before.</p><p>Robinson is concerned about cuts at her children&rsquo;s elementary school.</p><p>&ldquo;They already don&rsquo;t have science and that&rsquo;s just changed from last year,&rdquo; Robinson said.</p><p>The School Town of Munster is millions of dollars in the hole.</p><p>&ldquo;I started back here in July knowing when I took the job we had a $7 million deficit,&rdquo; Munster superintendent Dr. Jeff Hendrix said. &ldquo;I got to look at the financials a little closer. It was more like an $8 million deficit.&rdquo;</p><p>He says fewer dollars from the state of Indiana, and a shortfall in property taxes collected by the county made things go from bad to worse.</p><p>&ldquo;We didn&rsquo;t realize it came up about a $1.5 million short of what we expected. And, with that, it created a crisis for us because we didn&rsquo;t have the cash flow available,&rdquo; Hendrix said.</p><p>The district was recently forced to layoff 50 staff members, aides and custodians, but so far no teachers.</p><p>Hendrix says state lawmakers are offering few alternatives.</p><p>&ldquo;We were told that&rsquo;s probably what you&rsquo;re going to have to do is start cutting your programs,&rdquo; Hendrix said.</p><p>This isn&rsquo;t supposed to happen in a place like Munster. The wealthier Republican-leaning community about 30 minutes south of downtown Chicago is among the top districts in the state.</p><p>But they&rsquo;re not the only well-off district that&rsquo;s struggling.</p><p>While some Hoosier lawmakers want to free up more state money for education, Indiana&rsquo;s fiscal conservatism and increased competition is making it difficult. The pot of money that traditionally went to public education is now also being divvied up for charter schools and vouchers.</p><p>Tim Brown, a Republican who heads the powerful Indiana House Ways and Means Committee, rejects the assertion that giving families more school choice hurts some students.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re helping students. We&rsquo;ve increased funding for the general operations of schools,&rdquo; Rep. Brown said. &ldquo;So, again, every child has an opportunity for an excellent education with money following the child.&rdquo;</p><p>Brown says the state is trying to allocate another $300 million for public schools, which could help districts like Munster.</p><p>&ldquo;I specifically looked at Munster and for general operations they have received more money each of the last two years in the biennium for general operations,&rdquo; Brown said. &ldquo;Now the property tax issue, I know because Lake County and the Munster area is under a lot of constraints because of the property tax.&rdquo;</p><p>Those constraints include a state constitutional amendment capping property taxes at 1 percent for every home in Indiana.</p><p>That cap, plus lower home values, means less funding for public schools.</p><p>But Indiana State Representative Vernon Smith, a Democrat from nearby Gary, thinks the Republican-led government could do more, especially with a $2 billion surplus.</p><p>&ldquo;The state doesn&rsquo;t really care about the education of our young because they&rsquo;ve constantly cut back on the allocation of dollars for education,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Smith says Gary schools in his district are also millions in the hole and will need a taxpayer referendum later this year to bail it out.</p><p>Munster passed its own referendum recently, but may have to ask taxpayers to chip in again.</p><p>&ldquo;The problems of the urban communities are now becoming the problems of suburbia,&rdquo; Smith said.</p><p>Back at Munster High School, Melissa Higgason is grappling with these problems as both a parent and a school board member.</p><p>Higgason admits Munster should have started making cuts years ago when funding began to go down. Still, she says affluent school districts like Munster are also hurt by the lack of financial aid from the state and federal government.</p><p>&ldquo;I feel like we have students who are internationally ranked in the School Town of Munster and yet our per pupil funding is among the lowest in the state,&rdquo; Higgason said. &ldquo;So, it seems contradictory.&rdquo;</p><p>Unless something changes, Higgason says Munster may have to lay off more workers. This time, including teachers.</p></p> Thu, 05 Feb 2015 08:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/under-mounting-debt-munster-schools-forced-make-tough-decisions-111499 Indiana's veterans service officers help vets get more benefits http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-veterans-service-officers-help-vets-get-more-benefits-111398 <p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indianavso016_custom-e39d107fe13df481bde64af40dd8510467f310ea-s1500-c85.jpg" style="height: 427px; width: 620px;" title="Grant County Veterans Service Officer Bob Kelley, right, works with World War II Army veteran Frederick Kern at the Grant County Government Building in Marion, Ind., on Monday. Aaron P. Bernstein for NPR" /></div><p><em>NPR &mdash; along with seven public radio stations around the country &mdash; is chronicling the lives of America&#39;s troops where they live. We&#39;re calling the project &quot;</em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/series/363340041/back-at-base">Back at Base</a></em><em>.&quot; This story is Part 2 of a three-part&nbsp;</em><em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/13/376134776/va-data-show-disparities-in-veteran-benefits-spending" target="_blank">series</a></em><em>&nbsp;about veteran benefits.</em></p><p>The latest data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs show Indiana &mdash; which has the 35th highest number of veterans in the U.S. &mdash; receives $4,935 per veteran each year. If they received as much as Utah &mdash; which has the 35th highest return &mdash; Indiana vets would receive on average another $558. And if they received the national average of $6,088, that&#39;s another $1,153.</p><p>Retired Brig. Gen. Jim Bauerele has spent years working to match veterans with their benefits.</p><p>&quot;I think Indiana has neglected veterans,&quot; he says. &quot;I think veterans are uneducated as to what their benefits are, and there has been little effort undertaken to communicate and get that to veterans.&quot;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/map-va-benefits-in.png" style="height: 462px; width: 320px; float: right; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="Source: NPR analysis of Department of Veterans Affairs data Credit: Robert Benincasa and Alyson Hurt/NPR" />Back in 2010, a VA survey found that nationwide&nbsp;<a href="http://www.va.gov/SURVIVORS/docs/NVSSurveyFinalWeightedReport.pdf" target="_blank">fewer than half of veterans</a>&nbsp;understood their benefits, whether it was medical care, college tuition or pension and disability payments.</p><p>There are all sorts of reasons why veterans in one area may not receive as many benefits as veterans in another. Veterans from different eras, such as Vietnam or Iraq, can receive different amounts. Older vets might receive more benefits.</p><p><a href="http://www.benefits.va.gov/benefits/Applying.asp" target="_blank">VA applications</a>&nbsp;are also notoriously difficult to complete. Vets don&#39;t always get the help and guidance they need.</p><p>Bauerele says one reason for the poor showing in Indiana can be traced to what are called&nbsp;<a href="http://nacvso.org/" target="_blank">veterans service officers</a>&nbsp;(VSOs). County-level VSOs are part of a system operating in 28 states, and they&#39;re supposed to help vets get the benefits they&#39;ve earned. Some VSOs operate on the state level, and veterans groups like the American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars have their own VSOs, which operate in most states.</p><p>Some county-level VSOs in Indiana operate on a shoestring.</p><p>&quot;Some counties have an officer who is part-time, works three days a week, part-time and doesn&#39;t even have an office or a computer,&quot; Bauerele says.</p><p>So depending on where they live, one vet might find an office with a full-time staff trained to file paperwork with the VA, while another might find a closed office, or a VSO who can&#39;t navigate the system.</p><p>And without help, filing a VA claim can be tough.</p><p>Tom Nichols, a 29-year-old Indiana National Guard veteran, has struggled to file his disability claim. After returning from Iraq in 2010, he became addicted to drugs and alcohol. Eventually, he landed in treatment for PTSD.</p><p>Not only does Nichols not understand his benefits &mdash; he doesn&#39;t really know the best way to get them, either. He hasn&#39;t tried a VSO because he says it&#39;s too much trouble.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve got to go to some VFW to track down this guy, and it&#39;s only the first Thursday of every month,&quot; Nichols says.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/indianavso014_custom-2468c15859245a2a7f6c60de83e60d06824a0531-s1500-c85.jpg" style="height: 405px; width: 620px;" title="Pamphlets detailing services available to veterans are displayed in VSO Bob Kelley's office in Marion, Ind. Aaron P. Bernstein for NPR" /></div><p>So he filled out the paperwork himself. To some of the medical questions, he just wrote &quot;ask my doctor,&quot; which could be part of the reason his claim didn&#39;t go through. Advocates say the VA rejects claims for reasons as simple as using an outdated version of the form.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s basically on me to go out there and receive this,&quot; Nichols says.</p><p>But a trained VSO can cut months and years off the time it takes veterans to receive benefits from the VA.</p><p>&quot;You never want to apply for benefits on your own, unless you have some experience with it,&quot; says Bob Kelley, the VSO for Grant County, one of the Indiana counties receiving the most from the VA.</p><p>The VA&#39;s own data show&nbsp;<a href="http://www.va.gov/vetdata/docs/surveysandstudies/state_variance_study-volumes_1_2.pdf" target="_blank">vets who give VSOs power of attorney</a>&nbsp;receive more than double the disability benefits of vets who file their own claims.</p><p>David McLenachen, acting deputy undersecretary for disability assistance for the VA, agrees that VSOs routinely help the system work.</p><p>&quot;It can be overwhelming for somebody to prepare a claim and submit it,&quot; he says. &quot;The VSOs can be very successful at helping with the claim process.&quot;</p><p>Kelley also goes to nursing homes and Veterans of Foreign Wars halls to tell veterans about their benefits, often on his own time. He would do more, but his county won&#39;t pay for an assistant until January.</p><p>&quot;It&#39;s not a career,&quot; Kelley says. &quot;In the state of Indiana, it&#39;s not a career. When I retired from the military after 25 years, I was hired on at $28,000, and that&#39;s the average salary.&quot;</p><p>But the state is trying to give VSOs more resources in order to ensure all veterans have access to them.</p><p>In the past year, the state paid for software and training so county VSOs could file claims electronically. And for the first time, the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs set up workshops to explain federal benefits to vets.</p><p>Bauerele is part of the Military Veterans Coalition of Indiana, which is pushing to reform the system in Indiana. He&#39;d like to see better pay for county officers, and he wants the state to offer more help. VSOs like the American Legion already process thousands of VA claims.</p><p>&quot;Every dollar you give a veteran is new money from outside the state coming into the state,&quot; Bauerele says. &quot;That&#39;ll pay for a lot of Cadillacs, a lot of homes.&quot;</p><p><em>NPR&#39;s Robert Benincasa contributed to this report.</em></p><p>-<em><a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/01/14/374055310/indiana-s-veterans-service-officers-operate-on-a-shoe-string">via NPR News</a></em></p></p> Wed, 14 Jan 2015 08:47:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/indianas-veterans-service-officers-help-vets-get-more-benefits-111398