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Sherman Alexie Cancels Speaking Engagements in Indiana Over 'Religious Freedom' Law

Native American author Sherman Alexie says Indiana's controversial "religious freedom" law is designed "to protect the free exercise of hatred."

Author Sherman Alexie has canceled two appearances in the state of Indiana, joining a rising tide of groups and individuals who are boycotting the state to protest the Religious Freedom Restoration Act law that was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence last week.

The events were to take place at the University of Notre Dame, in South Bend, at the end of April, and at the Kurt Vonnegut Library in Indianapolis in September. Alexie tells The Stranger that he "won't be doing any gigs in Indiana until they repeal the hate law they just passed."

"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 Christian," Alexie continued. "This law is intended to protect and promote sexual discrimination by those Christians. And this is also the kind of law designed to set precedents for more aggressive forms of discrimination."

Pence has been in damage-control mode ever since signing the bill, countering that the bill is based on a Federal law signed by President Clinton in 1993. White House spokesman Josh Earnest disputed this characterization today. Also today, Pence called on Indiana lawmakers to pass legislation that would clarify the law cannot be used to deny services to people or groups.

As if to prove Alexie's point about Indiana's law "set[ting] precedents," the Arkansas state legislature today approved its version of the "religious freedom" bill. It will be up to Governor Asa Hutchinson to decide whether the measure should become state law.

"We must make it clear to those states that these hate laws are unacceptable and immoral bullshit," Alexie told The Stranger. "And the liberals and conservative allies in those states must take immediate and direct action toward preventing the passage of these hate laws."