SEATTLE— Award-winning Sherman Alexie has cancelled two speaking engagements he was scheduled to make in Indiana. He cites the new religious freedom act that was signed into law last week be Indiana Governor Mike Pence.
Alexie was scheduled to speak at Norte Dame in South Bend at the end of this month and in September at the Kurt Vonnegut Library in Indianapolis. Norte Dame University issued a statement yesterday condemning the new law.
“Governor Pence’s public statements about this law have merely shuffled adjectives and adverbs. This law is designed to protect not the free exercise of religion (which is already protected) but the free exercise of hatred by a certain subset of Christians,” Alexie told a Seattle-based publication.
He says he will not commit to another speaking engagement in the state of Indiana until they change the law, which he calls a “hate law.”
The controversial law, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), seeks to protect the free exercise of religion, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and the constitution of the state of Indiana. The law was passed by the Indiana Legislature as SB101 by a resounding 40-10 vote on March 26 and signed into law the same day by Governor Spence. The law goes into effect on July 1.
Alexie joins numerous high-profile people and corporations who have attacked the law because it can potentially deny members of the LGBT community from service at business establishments who choose not to serve them if the business cites their religious beliefs.
Alexie, who grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation in Washington state, is a gifted orator who tells tales of contemporary American Indian life laced with razor-sharp humor, unsettling candor and biting wit.
His first novel, “Reservation Blues,” won Booklist’s Editors Choice Award for Fiction. His second, “Indian Killer,” was a New York Times Notable Book. “The Toughest Indian in the World” won the 2001 PEN/Malamud Award, honoring excellence in the art of storytelling. “Ten Little Indians” was a national bestseller and Publishers Weekly Book of the Year.