Indiana's Religious Left Flexes Its Political Muscle In a state long known for its deep red conservative credentials, religious progressives in Indiana are now trying to win some political battles by wooing minority communities.
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Indiana's Religious Left Flexes Its Political Muscle

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Indiana's Religious Left Flexes Its Political Muscle

Indiana's Religious Left Flexes Its Political Muscle

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now to Indiana, where the religious right has been a powerful political force. It's a deep-red state with no Democrats elected to statewide offices, but some left-leaning religious groups are trying to change that by leveraging political power of their own. Indiana Public Broadcasting's Lauren Chapman reports.

LAUREN CHAPMAN, BYLINE: Vice President Mike Pence often describes his religious conservative views as Hoosier values and a consistent narrative in a state that, with the exception of 2008, has voted for Republican presidents since 1980. Now, a progressive interfaith movement is trying to challenge that foothold. A group including Muslims, Jews and Christians is organizing in minority communities on issues like immigration, universal health care, criminal justice reform and early childhood education.

NICOLE BARNES: The ground game is very important, specifically if you want to really reach out to those on the margins.

CHAPMAN: That's the group's Nicole Barnes. She says they're offering a new call to action for religious voters.

BARNES: We wanted to be sure that, as trusted moral messengers, that we were able to lift up a counternarrative to what was said and lifting up the good of people.

CHAPMAN: Barnes argues that many religious voters here don't always align with Republican positions. Reverend Alvin Herring heads the national group Faith in Action. He notes his group's recent success in Florida, which passed a ballot initiative to restore voting rights to people with felony convictions.

ALVIN HERRING: One could certainly assert that more conservative voices have been given more sway. But we're here to say that there are other people of faith with other ideas about how to build a beloved community that are working every day to impact this country and change the country.

CHAPMAN: The group, Faith in Indiana, targeted five races in the general election with the ambitious goal of ending the Republican supermajority in the state house. It came close - 3 of those 5 races flipped. And Indiana's House is now only one seat shy of ending a six-year supermajority. Hiba Alami leads the Indiana Muslim Advocacy Network and partnered with faith in Indiana on a Muslim-to-Muslim get-out-the-vote campaign.

HIBA ALAMI: As an organization, we decided we would not accept, but a fully inclusive hate crime legislation.

CHAPMAN: Indiana is 1 of 5 states lacking a hate crime law. It's something religious conservative groups have lobbied against.

ALAMI: Again, this stems from our faith values. Again, social justice.

CHAPMAN: Faith in Indiana's president, Shannon McVean-Brown, is an Episcopal priest who pushes back against those who say faith leaders should not engage in politics.

SHANNON MCVEAN-BROWN: For some people, they think that, oh, you know, we're not supposed to be getting involved in politics. And, you know, I can speak as a Christian. I know that Jesus was - you know, a lot of the things that he did had to do with politics.

CHAPMAN: The group's goals for 2020 are pretty lofty. It wants to not only break Indiana's supermajority, but elect a progressive majority. No easy feat in a state where Democrats haven't controlled the Senate for more than 40 years. For NPR News, I'm Lauren Chapman in Indianapolis.

(SOUNDBITE OF YEARS OF RICE AND SALT'S "REARRANGING DECKCHAIRS")

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