Five Communications with the City Council of Carmel, Indiana

1 of 5: First Letter to Carmel City Council, August 13, 2015

Mr. Mayor and Members of the Carmel City Council:

Thank you for this opportunity to communicate with you.

I oppose the proposed Ordinance D-2224-15, described as an anti-discrimination ordinance, because it utterly disregards people of Carmel who live by sincerely held religious convictions which are protected by the First Amendment.

For the devout or sincere or observant-––and I want to number myself among them––religion is more than one day a week within the same four walls. Our faith encompasses all of life––”every breath I take, every glance I make.” This includes vocation, entertainment, commerce, academic pursuits––our faith informs and enables us in these areas and more.

I want my faith and life and conscience to be governed by the Scriptures. For example, “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44). Forced participation in a sacramental act that violates one’s conscience, as led by Scripture, is not possible.

These same Scriptures teach me to extend kindness, courtesy, dignity, compassion, forgiveness, respect, honor and sacrificial love to every member of the human family––from conception till natural death. While not perfectly, I have sought as a pastor and as an Army chaplain to care for the sick and wounded, visit the shut-in, comfort the brokenhearted, lift the downtrodden, share hope with the despairing, strengthen the weak, and speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Characterizations such as bigotry and intolerance belie a serious misunderstanding of who we are or want to be.

If it is the intent of the Carmel City Council to test those who seek to live for the glory of God, then so be it. This has been done before. My father was five months in a Japanese prison in 1941 over a religious liberty issue.

You, the members of the Council, are in a position to spare the people of Carmel the trauma that will likely be visited on our city by this ordinance. (More to come on that.) I call upon you to vote NO.

Jim DeCamp
Carmel, Indiana

2 of 5: Second Letter to Carmel City Council, August 15, 2015

Members of the Carmel City Council:

What is one to make of the mayor’s appalling rationale for the proposed Ordinance D-2224-15, which you are about to consider? His attempt to equate religious faith with crimes is an embarrassment to our city.

From the mayor’s own statement that introduced this proposed ordinance: “If one were to claim that their religion allows discrimination in treatment of certain groups does it not follow that one can then be exempt from being charged with murder, robbery, theft and other crimes so long as it is done under the auspices of some religion?”

Which lawyer vetted that sentence? Preposterous!

If this is the kind of rhetoric we get from our city before the ordinance is even introduced, what kind of justice will there be in Carmel in the scandalous event that the Council passes it?

If the mayor has in mind so-called “honor killings,” please ask him for a clarification. If not, he should expunge this shameful sentence from his rationale.

The mayor cast a web over all religions. I would not presume to speak for others, but here is an alternative characterization of the Christian faith:

Matthew 5:3-10, the words of Jesus:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

The residents of Carmel, whatever religion, are fine and decent people. Regrettably, this proposed ordinance is sowing seeds of mistrust when there was no problem to be fixed, and it is tarnishing our good name. I ask you to take it off the table completely.

Jim DeCamp
Carmel, Indiana

3 of 5: Testimony the before Carmel City Council, August 17, 2015, re. the proposed “nondiscrimination” ordinance, D-2224-15:

Members of the Carmel City Council, thank you for this opportunity to speak with you. My name is Jim DeCamp, a resident of Carmel. You have a long meeting; thank you for your time.

Saturday, I got to thinking about the subject that brought us here, and the now-famous phrase came to mind, “Can’t we all just get along?” Then I thought, “Wait a minute—we do get along in Carmel…very well.” I agree with the mayor: We do not have a problem in Carmel!

I don’t have a quarrel with anyone in Carmel (or any group of folks, for that matter) except those who—are you ready for this?—except those who—I know this will shock you—who vote for this ordinance. With every respect that is due, there is something desperately wrong with it!

I was sitting over there thinking, “I’d could be doing a puzzle with my grandson.” (Perhaps you had similar thoughts!) Then I thought, “Wait a minute, he and the others are why I’m here! We have four grandchildren in Carmel and three in Zionsville. We love it!

I am here for the future of my grandchildren, for the future of Carmel, for the future of…freedom.

In 2011, I retired after 31 years in the United States Army—nine years as an Infantry officer and 22 years as a chaplain. I’ve had several overseas tours, including the desert.

This is the Oath of Office I assumed. In it, I did not promise to obey orders, to go where I was sent, nor to perform particular tasks. Without those commitments, of course, we wouldn’t have much of a military. Yet those commitments flow from something far more foundational. This is part of my Oath of Office [holding it up]:

“I…do solemnly swear [or affirm] that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic….SO HELP ME GOD.”

Everything in my life and career drew inspiration from this sacred oath. Everything…including people’s right [as I hold an open Bible] to read their Scriptures, then follow their conscience accordingly.

Budgets, jobs, regulations. These are all important; we wouldn’t have much of a city without them. Yet I call you back to the foundation of it all: the United States Constitution and the Constitution of the State of Indiana. This proposed ordinance is a threat to the First Amendment right of religious freedom enshrined in the United States Constitution. This is the first of five rights enumerated in the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof….”

And this proposed ordinance is a threat to the protections enjoyed by Carmel residents in the Constitution of the State of Indiana. Article I, Section 3: “No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.”

Business owners in Carmel are threatened by this ordinance. Tonight, in a growing list of cities across our land, business owners are in litigation because of ill-advised and unnecessary ordinances very similar to the one before you. God forbid that Carmel, Indiana, would ever be on that list! Please DO NOT GO THERE.

I know a little bit about the cost of defending freedom and the Constitution “…against all enemies, foreign and [now] domestic.” This proposed ordinance will do violence to the precious rights of conscience of Carmel residents and business owners. And for these sacred rights, some gave all they had to give.

I acknowledge the pressures upon you from important interests, yet which are subordinate to Constitutional principles. I ask only that you consider your deepest responsibility.

I call upon you to vote NO.

Thank you.

Jim DeCamp
Carmel, Indiana

4 of 5: Letter to Carmel City Council re. D-2224-15, Proposed “Nondiscrimination” Ordinance September 24, 2015

Members of the Carmel City Council:


The purpose here is to shed light on why Christians cherish religious liberty, and to contrast this with some popular characterizations of them.

I will use religious language because it is largely religious people who are in the crosshairs of this proposed ordinance. Not that Christians business owners are the only ones adversely affected by ordinances such as this. Muslim bakeries and kosher delis would be threatened.

And there are people who approve of gay marriage who oppose ordinances of this kind.

Religious beliefs, like any others, may be accepted or rejected. The goal is simply to discuss why Christians consider religious liberty so crucial. There is no presumption to represent other religions, though I deeply respect their rights. Rather, it is to share some of my background–what Christians believe and why they believe it–because if this proposed ordinance passes, they and others may be in the news…or in court. I wish to give a different explanation of them than one often finds in the paper, on radio and TV, and even in testimony before this Council.

This is not new

But first, in a sense there is nothing new about this proposed ordinance.

In 1941, for five months my father was in solitary confinement in a Japanese prison because of religious liberty. The Japanese brutally ruled Korea at that time. As a missionary to Korea, my father defended the right of Korean Christians to live according to their conscience under the teaching of Scripture.

Why not just comply? Because there was an allegiance to his Lord, and he carried in his heart the love of God in Jesus Christ.

Fast forward 75 years

I follow court cases that have already resulted from Sexual Orientation / Gender Identity city ordinances, and recently visited a Christian in another state who is involved in litigation. This man has good will for everyone. Yet after listening to his situation, I said, “You know, you could lose everything.” To which he replied, “How could I not give it up for Jesus, when He gave His life for me?”

Is he a bigot? Really? The power of the love of God….

Uncommon love

In the account of his prison experience, my father wrote that when he was cold, hungry, barefooted, and alone in that cell, he found joy in being counted worthy to suffer for his Lord and Savior. Till his dying day, I never heard a word of resentment. Once someone said to him, “I don’t think I could ever forgive those people.” He replied in his humble way, “The grace of the Lord is sufficient.”

The power of the love of God….

The enabling

What enables Christians to respond in this way?

When Moses found himself on holy ground, God instructed him to remove his sandals (Exodus 3:5). Being in the presence of the holy God does something to His followers.

And when Christians ponder that Jesus died for them, then left behind an empty tomb, and now lives through their day-to-day lives, we believe there is something holy going on there. We hear Jesus say, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15-English Standard Version), and we crave this love.

The high calling

So what are these commandments by which Christians seek to live? Those who accept the Bible as God’s revelation take the words of Scripture as from God, Himself. God said to His people, “You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine” (Leviticus 20:26-ESV). The call to holiness extends to every part of one’s life. Because the proposed ordinance points to sexuality, here we are considering holy living in that context.

Faithfulness to their God

For these believers to be involved in a same-sex ceremony–a sacramental event–is not possible by their conscience under the teaching of Scripture.

I was in Goshen, Indiana, on August 4, observing from the back of a packed theater as their City Council considered an ordinance similar to the one before you. After the Council tabled it, they heard many speakers. One photographer said (words to the effect of), “I am more than happy to take a photo of a gay couple in my studio, but I am not able to participate in a same-sex ceremony.” Living large in the mind of this photographer, I suspect, are the words, “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.”

A threat to sincere people, and to Carmel

These Christians, as well as members of other religions, seek to live by their faith every day. They are good neighbors, upstanding citizens, and generous in their communities. This is why Carmel needs business owners like this, yet this proposed ordinance would do violence to their Constitutional, First Amendment right of conscience. It would also tarnish the name of Carmel.

Everyone knows that this proposed ordinance, D-2224-15, is unnecessary. If it is passed, the Carmel City Council will be trampling on the holy ground of conscience. I doubt that’s a place where anyone wants to be.

I call upon you to vote NO.

Jim DeCamp
Carmel, Indiana

5 of 5: Testimony before the Carmel City Council, October 4, 2015

Members of the Carmel City Council:

The word discrimination is the great discussion stopper. Yet we all discriminate, including the Council.

On September 21, the President of the Carmel City Council announced that those who had addressed the Council on August 17 (regarding the proposed “nondiscrimination” ordinance, D-2224-15) would not be permitted to speak on that subject. There may have been good and sufficient reason for this; sometimes one discriminates appropriately.

This is where D-2224-15 runs aground.

I commend the Finance Committee for its wide-ranging conversation of D-2224-15 on October 1. Yet in nearly two hours of discussion, I heard the words conscience and First Amendment only twice. The elephant in the room was the First Amendment right of conscience.

In addition, the Indiana Constitution, Article I, Section 3, unequivocally protects conscience: “No law shall, in any case whatever, control the free exercise and enjoyment of religious opinions, or interfere with the rights of conscience.”

Discrimination is often abhorrent, but not always. When people’s sincerely held religious beliefs prevent them from participating in a same-sex ceremony, their conscience is protected by the United States and Indiana Constitutions.

The Carmel City Council conducts itself as though discrimination were not always abhorrent. The people know this, too, and expect their elected officials to respect their Constitutional rights of conscience.

Please vote NO on D-2224-15.

Jim DeCamp
Carmel, Indiana

Concluding Reflections from a Face Book Post, October 6, 2015

Last night the Carmel “nondiscrimination” ordinance passed, 4-3. This is a grave development for anyone who cherishes the First Amendment and religious liberty. It is also a time to take stock in our great God: “The grass withers, and the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8-ESV).

There will be reflections that bubble up from time to time as we take one opportunity, then the next, to uphold the truth. The joy of the Lord will sustain us.

The family in which I grew up had devotions–“Prayers,” as we called it–almost every evening after supper. We sang a hymn or two (stumbling through the unfamiliar ones), my father read from God’s Word, and we all knelt and prayed. In this way, we sang through the hymnbook once a year. Every summer on vacation my father chose a hymn that we did not know and we memorized it.

The hymn below is one of my favorites of those memorized. It speaks of God’s glory, and of the hope and joy His people know as they serve Him. (For you hymnologists out there, the meter is 10. 10. 10. 10., and it is sung to the tune “Field.” It can also be sung to the tune for “Abide with Me: Fast Falls the Eventide.”)

Words by Calvin W. Laufer, 1919

We thank Thee, Lord, Thy paths of service lead
To blazoned heights and down the slopes of need;
They reach Thy throne, encompass land and sea,
And he who journeys in them walks with Thee.

We’ve sought and found Thee in the secret place
And marveled at the radiance of Thy face;
But often in some far-off Galilee
Beheld Thee fairer yet while serving Thee.

We’ve felt Thy touch in sorrow’s darkened way
Abound with love and solace for the day;
And, ‘neath the burdens there, Thy sovereignty
Has kept our hearts enthralled while serving Thee.

We’ve seen Thy glory like a mantle spread
O’er hill and dale in saffron flame and red;
But in the eyes of men, redeemed and free,
A splendor greater yet while serving Thee.