Leaders of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) say they hope to make a final decision by May 2 about whether hold the conference in Indianapolis or move it elsewhere.
The problem comes because the Indiana legislature is considering proposed immigration legislation that would pose similar restrictions to a controversial immigration law passed in Arizona. That legislation, if passed in Indiana, would into conflict with a 2010 General Assembly action, which instructed General Assembly agencies to “refrain from holding national meetings at hotels in those states where travel by immigrant Presbyterians or Presbyterians of color or Hispanic ancestry might subject them to harassment,” because of legislation similar to the Arizona immigration law.
Information posted on the PC(USA) website now encourages Presbyterians to register for Big Tent – in which nine Presbyterian conferences will be held simultaneously – “but to delay making travel arrangements until the meeting location has been finally determined.” Big Tent 2011 had been expected to draw 1,600 to 1,700 registrants, according to a Presbyterian News Service story announcing the event last fall.
The proposed legislation – Senate Bill 590, introduced by state Sen. Mike Delph, a Republican from Carmel – would require police to ask for proof of citizenship or immigration status if they had a “reasonable suspicion” that someone they had detained was in the U.S. illegally. The proposed legislation also would prohibit undocumented students at state colleges and universities from being eligible for in-state tuition rates.
The Indiana Senate approved Senate Bill 590 by a 31-18 vote in February, but the House has yet to act on it.