News (USA)

Indiana hires PR firm to help repair damage from religious objections law flap


INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana’s economic and tourism development agencies hired a public relations firm Monday to repair the damage to the state’s reputation from a religious objections law that raised the specter of discrimination against LGBT individuals and others.

Meanwhile, the General Board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which had canceled conventions in Indianapolis amid the national controversy over the law, said it was bringing its meeting back to the city now that Republican Gov. Mike Pence has signed amendments to the statute that satisfied its concerns.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. announced Monday it was collaborating with the Indiana Office of Tourism Development in hiring the Porter Novelli firm to strengthen Indiana’s reputation “as a welcoming place to live, visit and do business.”

Amid the uproar over the Republican-backed law that many feared would allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, two groups canceled Indianapolis conventions and two others considered doing so. Fort Wayne, the state’s second-largest city, had six national conventions express concerns about continuing business in Indiana, local officials said.0

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The IEDC news release did not mention the law known formally as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but the reason for hiring the firm was made clear in an email sent by the tourism office’s communications director, Jake Oakman, to local tourism officials. The Associated Press obtained a copy of the email.

“The Indiana Office of Tourism Development is partnering with the IEDC on this initiative to restore Indiana’s image after the recent political controversy surrounding RFRA,” Oakman wrote.

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