Indiana’s reputation taking a hit over religious freedom bill

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (March 30, 2015)-- Those who work in tourism in Indianapolis fear the economic impact and damage the religious freedom legislation could bring to the city and state's economy. Sunday, Visit Indy said conventions had expressed questions about the controversial legislation, but none had expressed interest in leaving.

Monday, labor union AFSCME announced it would pull its women's conference out of downtown Indianapolis. It was scheduled for October 9th through October 11th. Visit Indy said the conference was to be held at the JW Marriott downtown, with 800 expected attendees and an estimated $500,000 in economic impact.

Meanwhile, the state remained in the crosshairs online Monday, with the hashtag #boycottIndiana going strong on Twitter.

Cher criticized Governor Mike Pence over the weekend, and Apple CEO Tim Cook penned an editorial in the Washington Post calling religious freedom laws like Indiana's dangerous.

Visit Indy said they're in crisis mode reassuring conventions Hoosiers are welcoming. The Children's Museum of Indianapolis is taking a stand, too. Open for service stickers are affixed to the museum's windows.

"We wanted to reaffirm to the community that we welcome everyone," said Brian Statz, Vice-President of Operations and General Counsel.

Statz said they've taken calls and social media posts. We found some of them ourselves, with out-of-state visitors saying they won't be back because of the religious freedom law.

"Our social media staff affirmed to them that they are welcome here. We welcome everyone, but some of them said it's not good enough. We're not going to come anyway because of the state. So, we are already seeing an impact," he said.

Daniel McQuiston is a professor of marketing at Butler University. He said the law's passage and signing is an example of a mis-handled message.

"Once the snowball starts rolling down the hill, it's really hard to stop," he said, "It's not what you say. It's how it's interpreted, so clearly the interpretation here by all sorts of parties is very different."

Now Indiana's image has taken a beating. Questions remain, like how long this will last and how much money will be lost. McQuiston said it is still too soon to tell.

"Will it have an economic impact? It could. But again we're still very early into this. There's been a lot of emotional reaction to it. I would say let's come back in three months and see once the dust has all settled," he said.