Friday, December 16, 2005

IFI Auto Calls Urge Public To Stop HRO

A number of subscribers to the list serve reported tonight that they received unsolicited telephone calls from the Indiana Family Institute in opposition to Proposal 622, the Human Rights Ordinance. The calls have raised concerns in the community that the IFI may be making the calls in violation of Indiana’s no-call law, but the calls don’t appear to violate the law.

The telephone call, which originated from an area code in the State of Virginia, contained a pre-recorded message from the Indiana Family Institute urging opposition to the HRO. The message urged the recipient of the call to visit the organization’s website,, which provides information about the HRO’s pending vote on December 19, 2005, and how to contact your council member to urge a no vote on the HRO. The web page also contains information about how you can make a donation to the IFI.

The call clearly denotes the fact that the Indiana Family Institute is a not-for-profit organization. Not-for-profits are permitted to make unsolicited telephone sales calls to solicit contributions, if the calls are made by their own employees or volunteers. Since it was a pre-recorded phone message placed from an out-of-state telemarketer in Virginia, the calls clearly were not made by the IFI’s employees or volunteers.

Indiana’s no call law only applies to “telephone sales calls”. A call to political action by the telephone message made by IFI does not constitute a “telephone sales call” within the meaning of Indiana’s no-call law, which generally applies to solicitations pertaining to the sale of consumer goods or the extension of credit, and solicitations for charitable contributions.

If the IFI’s calls had included a solicitation for contributions, as well as a call to action to oppose the HRO, the fact that the calls were not made by volunteers or employees of the IFI would have brought it within the reach of the no-call law. It does not appear, however, that the pre-recorded message included a message soliciting contributions, although that could be the indirect result if the person visited the IFI’s website and saw the solicitation on its homepage for a contribution.

The cost of making these kind of pre-recorded phone calls to Indianapolis voters is not inexpensive. The IFI, or someone on their behalf, is putting some big bucks into this final weekend push before the HRO is voted on at Monday night’s special city-county council meeting to break the wave of support the HRO has been riding in recent weeks.

It now appears likely that Councilors Ron Gibson (D) and Lynn McWhirter (R), both of whom voted against it last April, will now vote for the HRO, providing it the 15 votes it needs for passage. Two other councilors, Lance Langsford (R) and Steve Talley (D) are the other two councilors who switched their support in favor of the HRO after voting against it last spring. The Christian right is clearly running scared at this point and is pulling out all of the stops to defeat the HRO.

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