By Leslie Bonilla Muniz

(Photo/The Indiana Citizen)

This story was originally published by the Indiana Capital Chronicle, a Free Press Indiana partner.


By Leslie Bonilla Muniz

Indiana Capital Chronicle

March 12, 2024

Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita on Tuesday called on Gov. Eric Holcomb to veto a bill — which he dubbed a “toothless mess” — that defines and bans antisemitism within the state’s public education system.

In contention is the definition of antisemitism adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), part of which references 11 “contemporary examples” of antisemitism. Members of the Hoosier Jewish community said the examples — which include references to Israel — need to be codified, but critics maintained they are overly broad and limit free speech.

After multiple iterations and hours of debate, House and Senate lawmakers compromised on a version of House Enrolled Act 1002 that references IHRA and includes the core definition, but not the examples.

“Indiana Senators turned it into a toothless mess that allows anti-Semites to continue to cloak their discriminatory hatred of Jews as simple political disagreements directed at Israel, not Jews,” Rokita asserted in a news release. “Then, Indiana Representatives would not correct the Senate’s actions …”

“The Governor should veto this compromised bill to show he understands that regular Hoosiers won’t compromise with Jew-hating bigots,” Rokita added.

He previously warned, in a statement released before both chambers approved the negotiated language, that “anything less” than the original proposal “is a betrayal of Jewish individuals and the whole notion of equal protection under the law.”

Indiana law already bans discrimination on the basis of race and “creed,” which means religion. The legislation specifies that antisemitism — bias against Jewish people — is religious discrimination and is not allowed within the public education system.

The House priority bill, authored by Rep. Chris Jeter, R-Fishers, ultimately passed unanimously from the House, and with just one opposing vote in the Senate from Fort Wayne Republican Liz Brown.

Jeter on Friday acknowledged Senate concerns about citing an outside group. He told House lawmakers that the compromise language references IHRA but ties a date to the definition so that changes by the group wouldn’t trigger changes in law.

“We removed reference to the examples, which had been causing some issues, (and) removed some excess language about criticisms of Israel as a country, because the definition really focuses on antisemitism toward individuals,” Jeter continued. “So we felt like that was that was taken care of.”

The Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council — which previously reversed its support when senators removed all reference to IHRA in an earlier draft — said Friday that it approved of the final bill and was “grateful” to the General Assembly for “standing with us in the fight against antisemitism.”

Jeter authored a similar bill last session, but the Senate killed it in its original form.

Indiana governors possess a weak veto power, which can be overturned by a 51% simple majority vote.

Senior Reporter Casey Smith contributed reporting.

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