BATTLE GROUND, Ind. (WLFI) - After Klu Klux Klan recruitment fliers were found in Battle Ground over the weekend, local faith leaders are encouraging the community to join together and fight back the only way we can right now.
"You're welcome here, but we don't want your hate," said Deb Aldridge when she found out about the fliers. Aldridge grew up in Battle Ground and has lived in Greater Lafayette her whole life.
"It's hard for me to believe that people still believe that way in this day and age," she said "Everybody's equal, and it just saddens me."
Teresa Woolman owns the Beauty Walk Salon in Battle Ground.
"In this town, nobody that I know of is anything near the KKK, very welcoming to anyone who does come into town," she said.
Rabbi Michael Harvey with Temple Israel is part of the Interfaith Leaders of Greater Lafayette. He's helping organize the response to these fliers.
"I live in Battle Ground and it does hit close to home," he said. "We felt the need to really speak out."
Since they can't hold an in person rally because of coronavirus restrictions, they are taking their message to the internet.
"What we decided to do was create a video to just say positive things about love and acceptance and change the message and say this is the loudest voice of the Greater Lafayette area and of Indiana," he said.
Harvey said they have told local authorities about the incident, but there is little that can be done. Even though Indiana has a hate crimes law, it does not cover speech. The law only allows judges to add on an additional punishment to an already established crime. And handing out fliers, event hateful ones, isn't a crime.
Governor Eric Holcomb signed SB 198 into law in 2019. It's own authors, including State Sen. Ron Alting, voted against the bill because it had gotten changed so much during the legislative process that it had lost it's original intent. The Anti-Defamation League still counts Indiana as one of five states without a hate crimes law.
"It's a little frustrating," he said. "Right now there is no law against this hate recruitment. That's why we always really do push for that specific hate crime law."
State Representative Chris Campbell said in a statement:
"This latest example of racism, antisemitism and bigotry is another reminder of the importance of a comprehensive hate crimes bill. Indiana is one of four states that doesn't have one yet. I hope that events taking place last week and in January will encourage the Indiana General Assembly to put aside our differences to make sure all Hoosiers are safe."
State Senator Ron Alting released the following statement on Tuesday:
"I'm incredibly disappointed to see this kind of message being shared in our community. But then I remind myself these are just a few bad apples and that there are thousands of people in Tippecanoe County who firmly believe we are all equal and that no person should be discriminated against or persecuted because of their race, religion, creed, sexual orientation or anything else. I encourage my fellow Hoosiers to continue to stand up for their neighbors and to stomp out the bigotry the KKK stands for."
State Representative District 27 Democrat Sheila Klinker released a statement Friday, May 22nd.
She said she disavows any white supremecy groups of any kind anywhere around the world including in local counties.
"This is disheartening that something like this would be done during a pandemic," said Klinker. "I could not believe it."
Rabbi Harvey hopes the video will give people a sense of doing something to help in these helpless times, and that it will drown out the voice of hate.
"This is the loudest voice here in the Greater Lafayette area and that is of love and acceptance," he said.
"Don't come to our town and hang up your fliers. They're not welcome here, but the people are," said Woolman.
If you want to participate in the video, email Rabbi Harvey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out ILGL's Facebook page for phrases you can say.