Lesson from the RFRA tourism controversy

(Fort Wayne) News-Sentinel

Remember the great social media outrage ginned up against Indiana in 2015 when the state passed its Religious Freedom Restoration Act? That action was supposedly going to make Indiana the discrimination capital of the Midwest, and no self-respecting LGBT supporter would set foot in the state. The tourism industry would be devastated.

And truthfully, there is evidence the city of Indianapolis did take a hit. “Since April 2015,” Forbes reported in January 2016, “Indianapolis has lost more than $60 million in future convention business as a result of the RFRA controversy.”

But the rest of the state? Not so much. According to figures from Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, visitors pumped $11.5 billion into the state’s economy in 2015, up more than $900 million compared to 2014. The figures show tourism supported more than 200,000 Indiana jobs and added $8.7 billion to the state’s gross domestic product.

Of course, some will attribute that success to the legislature’s hasty “fix” of RFRA after the social media controversy erupted. But that angered almost as many people as the original legislation (although on the other side of the issue), and it got very little publicity.

The truth is that the social justice warriors who instigated the controversy simply moved on to bigger and better issues to exploit. And Indiana tourism just kept chugging away, getting the word out of the terrific attractions this state has to offer.

The lesson from this is not to ignore delicate subjects like religious freedom or LGBT rights and other items on the social issues front. We must deal with those as we do with any others, considering all the facts on both sides and coming to a decision we think is just for all Hoosiers.

No, the lesson is to turn off social media occasionally and take a breath. Pay no attention to the fevered agitators who stir the pot for their own reasons and don’t care a thing one way or the other about Hoosiers.

And this has been a wonderfully mild summer so far, just perfect for those day trips.

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association. Send comments to dr-editorial@greenfieldreporter.com.