INDIANAPOLIS — Joel Eddy asked students to boycott classes when 116 black students enrolled in a Gary school in September 1947.
For 10 days, nearly 80 percent of the predominantly-white student body stayed out of Emerson school.
Eddy was charged with the crime of racketeering in hatred, a then-new Indiana law aimed primarily at battling the Ku Klux Klan. Eddy was reportedly released after being warned not to cause trouble.
Under the law, Hoosiers couldn't conspire, organize or "confederate" to disseminate malicious hatred by reason of race, color or religion. The law would be repealed in 1977's criminal code revisions but it is being discussed in the Statehouse as legislators prepare bills for the 2018 session of the General Assembly.
"That really did actually in my opinion supplant or inhibit freedom of thought. It would be constitutionally difficult to get something like this passed today," said Sen. Greg Taylor, D-Indianapolis. "Give them an A for effort and creativity."
Taylor, who has proposed previous bills addressing bias, plans to introduce legislation that would enhance the criminal penalty involving bias-motivated crimes including gender-based crimes.
"This would allow the court to impose a sentence that accurately reflects the harm and devastation to the community that these offenses can inflict," he said.
Recent bills have defined bias-motivated crimes as those aimed against anyone due to race, religion, ethnicity, disability, or sexual orientation among other classifications. Of five bias crime bills in the 2017 session, only one passed out of committee but was withdrawn by its author, Sen. Susan Glick, R-LaGrange.
Glick's bill would have made allowed judges in sentencing a criminal to add an aggravating circumstance that the crime was committed with the intent to harm or intimidate a person because of certain perceived or actual characteristics of the individual.
Aggravating circumstances that the court could consider included the actual or perceived race, religion, color, sex, gender identity, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, or status as a public safety official or a relative of a public safety official of the person who was harmed.
"After discussions with my colleagues, it has become apparent that there is a difference of opinion on various potential amendments to the bill, making it difficult to find consensus on a path forward," Glick said in a statement earlier this year. "While I have made the decision not to move the bill this year, I will continue working on this issue in the coming months with the hopes of possibly bringing it back during next year's legislative session."
The 1947 law spoke specifically to hatred based on race, color or religion.
"Today, you'd probably have to add a couple categories but it's interesting that the words of confederating and organizing or assembling to speak hatred was considered a policy problem," Taylor said.
The 1947 law was proposed by then-State Attorney James Emmert and supported by the Republican Legislative Policy Committee. Gov. Ralph F. Gates, a Republican, had ordered the bill saying, "I am going to smash the Klan in Indiana."
The law held that it was unlawful to unite or organize with any other person to spread hatred for the reason of race, color or religion. Anyone found guilty could be fined up to $10,000 and up to two years in prison.
In 1965, Judge Kenneth Dempsey in St. Joseph Superior Court declared the law unconstitutional. He quashed a racketeering in hatred charge against an organizer for the American Nazi Party. The law, Dempsey said, was "so vague it cannot measure up to constitutional requirements."
The state had contended the organizer violated the law by attacking minority groups through pamphlets placed on windshields of autos in a Mishawaka bowling alley's parking lot. The question of constitutionality was raised by the Indiana Civil Liberties Union which intervened in the case as a friend of the court.
In 1977, the law was repealed as part of a criminal code revision bill authored by Sen. Leslie Duvall, R-Indianapolis, and Sen. Frank O'Bannon, D-Corydon. O'Bannon would become governor in 1997.