- Associated Press - Monday, April 27, 2015

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Republican Gov. Mike Pence and legislative leaders failed to protect religious liberties by approving a change to Indiana’s religious objections law, conservative religious leaders said Monday.

Members of the Indiana Pastors Alliance gathered at the Statehouse to protest the fix to the initial law, which drew boycotts and widespread criticism amid fears that it would allow discrimination against gays, lesbians and others.

After businesses canceled conventions and some state governments banned travel to the state, Pence approved changes earlier this month prohibiting merchants and groups from using it as a legal defense for refusing to provide services, goods, facilities or accommodations. It also bars discrimination based on factors such as race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or military service.

Rev. Ron Johnson, executive director of the Indiana Pastors Alliance, accused Republican leaders of caving to what he called the “gay mafia” intimidation campaign from a community that is “anything but tolerant.”

“For Christians, sexual sin can never be redefined and treated as a civil right,” he said.

The alliance is a network of more than 500 conservative churches, clergy, and Christian organizations that, according to its website, works “to advance and defend the cause of faith, family and freedom” across Indiana.

Johnson, who was standing behind Pence on the day he first signed the law, also issued an open letter to the governor, and Republican leaders House Speaker Brian Bosma and Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

In the letter, Johnson said Christian business owners have been threatened, attacked and fined for refusing to participate in homosexual weddings. He also said Republican leaders “have sold out the religious liberties of Christians to momentarily quell the cries of special interest groups and alleviate the financial fears of big business.”

Two supporters of gay rights attended Monday’s protest. One held a sign that read “Indiana welcomes all.” The other, wearing a rainbow flag, interrupted Johnson’s speech to give him a hug. “Nothing we’re doing today is about hating people who are struggling with sexual issues,” Johnson said after the embrace. “We love you.”

Long said the legislative revision was only aimed at preventing the law from being used to discriminate against anyone.

“I think they misunderstand what happened and have been misinformed on the law,” Long said. “That’s unfortunate. They have the right to their own opinion, but they don’t have the right to revise the truth.”

Bosma didn’t express any second thoughts about the impact of the clarification bill.

“I concentrated on doing what I felt was best for the state of Indiana as a whole,” he said. “My faith tells me to turn the other cheek and will continue to do so.”

Messages seeking comment were left for Indiana Equality, which promotes equality for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

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