IN Focus: Noblesville group pushes lawmakers to pass hate crime law

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – A strong coalition of government, education, business and faith leaders have taken a public stand, urging Indiana lawmakers to pass hate crime legislation.

The Noblesville Diversity Committee, which formed in February, wrote in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star that “passing such a bill into law will send a clear message that Hoosiers will not stand by and tolerate cowardly acts of violence and intimidation.”

The latest push statewide comes after Nazi flags and iron crosses were spray-painted, vandalizing the Shaarey Tefilla synagogue in Carmel last month.

“Racism still exits,” Lisa Sobek said in an interview Wednesday, a committee member. “Bigotry still exists. Hate still exists.”

Sobek and several other members gathered at The OutHouse, a new co-working facility in Noblesville, to share their objectives and goals not only for hate crime legislation but a broader conversation within the community.

“We as a community have been used to waiting and sitting back and watching other leaders decide how things are or if there’s a problem,” Teri Ditslear said, pastor of Roots of Life Lutheran Community.

Bob DuBois, president of the Noblesville Chamber of Commerce, praised Governor Eric Holcomb’s public push for hate crime legislation, despite recent attempts failing in the Indiana General Assembly.

“From the business side it’s good for us,” he said. “But it’s also the right thing to do.”

The group is also working to expand its grassroots outreach within Noblesville.

“I believe people want to do well,” Dwayne Thompson said, a Noblesville resident. “They want to have these conversations.”

The group is hosting a series of community events, forums and panels on a wide-range of topics tackling tough issues within the wider community.

“These conversations are difficult,” Patrick Propst said, pastor at Faith Community Church. “And they don’t change overnight.”

Noblesville Deputy Mayor Steve Cooke is also part of the group and issued the following statement:

“The City of Noblesville stands with Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb calling for stricter punishments for hate crimes that are based on bias. As city officials, we will not tolerate such violence or intimidation based on race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender or gender identity. And we are proud of the efforts of the Noblesville Diversity Committee, which is bringing our community together to promote and celebrate our diversity, and when necessary, standing up against acts of bigotry and hate.”