NASCAR ‘disappointed’ in Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act

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NASCAR became the latest sports organization to issue a statement about Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signing into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which takes effect July 1.

The act prohibits laws that “substantially burden” a person’s freedom of religion unless the government can prove a compelling interest in imposing that burden.

The law has drawn sharp criticism from gay and LGBT groups, some corporations and leagues. Pence said in a news conference Tuesday morning that he wants legislation added that makes it clear that business have no rights to deny service to anyone under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

NASCAR’s Brett Jewkes, senior vice president and chief communications officer, issued a statement as Pence spoke Tuesday.

“NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway also issued a statement Tuesday.

“For 105 years the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has engaged millions who want to celebrate the true spirit of American racing. IMS will continue to warmly welcome all who share our enthusiasm for motorsports – employees, participants and fans.”

The NBA, WNBA and Indiana Pacers issued a joint statement Saturday: “The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect. We will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events in Indiana and elsewhere.”

The NCAA, which has its Final Four men’s basketball tournament games in Indianapolis this weekend, issued a statement last week from President Mark Emmert:

“The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events.  We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.  We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, (this) week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”

Indiana is the 20th state with existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act legislation, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. NASCAR holds Sprint Cup races in 12 of those states. Arizona is included in that list. It passed a bill in 2012 but was vetoed in 2014.

NASCAR’s Xfinity and Sprint Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The Xfinity race is July 25. The Cup series races there July 26.