“How many rights does the U.S. Constitution give you?” was the question asked to the audience at a recent Lunch with the League program sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Montgomery County. The presenter was Ethan Hollander, Chair of the Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission and also Associate Professor of Political Science at Wabash College. The answer to the question is, surprisingly, none.
Our Declaration of Independence establishes that we have certain inalienable rights: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. What the Constitution does is ensure that our government does not abridge or restrict the natural rights of everyone. Throughout the free world, human rights commissions have been created as one of many vehicles to safeguard us against any injustices that affect our well-being.
The Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission was set up in 1979 to address some fair housing policies. It became dormant and was reactivated in early 2017 by Crawfordsville Mayor Todd Barton. The twelve-person commission has been tasked with promoting diversity, equality, and goodwill among the people of Crawfordsville.
Since then, they have been working on three main projects. First has been a thorough review of all city ordinances. What the Commission has found out is that in the city’s non-discrimination policy, there was no mention of discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The addition of LGBT to the existing non-discrimination policy was brought up before the City Council and passed unanimously. According to Hollander, not only was this the right thing to do but it will also help our businesses attract a more diverse workforce.
Secondly, the Commission members have made themselves available to members of the community who feel that their rights have been violated or that they have been mistreated. They are in the process of formalizing a path for citizen to use to file any complaints. Citizens can now address their concerns at humanrights@crawfordsville-in.gov. Hollander made it very clear than any complaints are handled with the utmost discretion and confidentiality.
Thirdly, the Commission is working hard to collect and disseminate information about human rights. For example, representatives from all three Montgomery County School Superintendents have talked with the Commission on ways to prevent bullying in the schools. Another issue is how to create a more diverse community and attract more diverse teaching professionals to our schools. It is a tough “chicken or the egg” kind of problem. Without much diversity in our community to begin with, it is hard to attract a varied populace; and not being able to attract a varied populace precludes a diversified community.
The Commission is also very eager to help promote trust and confidence in our local officials. To this end, they are organizing a special event this fall. Officers from all of the law enforcement agencies in our area will participate in an informational panel in which they will address how their training and experience adds not only to the safety of our property and lives but to our human rights as well.
The Human Rights Commission usually meets on the third Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall and all are welcome to attend. Be sure to check their calendar on the city website because the day will occasionally change.
Hollander encourages anyone who feels their rights have been compromised to contact the Commission at humanrights@crawfordsville-in.gov. As Mayor Barton has said, “If people see or sense that there is an issue, we want to know.”

The League of Women Voters, open to men as well as women, is a nonpartisan, multi-issue political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For information about the League, visit the website: www.lwvmontcoin.org or send a message to LWV, PO Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.