Cloud and Proud: Salesforce takes umbrage at Indiana's 'Religious Freedoms' act

A controversial new law in Indiana could cost the state significant investment from Salesforce. CEO Marc Benioff
Credit: IDGNS Boston

Long ago, Salesforce founder Marc Benioff was the tallest and maybe smartest guy in Oracle's room, only to leave Oracle and make his ascension to the top of the SaaS cloud business with Salesforce. Salesforce, in turn, has grown steadily and made numerous acquisitions along the way, not unlike how Larry Ellison grew Oracle, but without Ellison's occasionally sulfurous acquisition ingestion.

One of those acquisitions was ExactTarget, a strong direct email marketing organization based in Indiana. They were about to grow mightily in Indiana, where costs are but a mere fraction of those in the nearly unaffordable San Francisco Bay Area. That is, until the state proposed new legislation enabling its businesses to discriminate in the name of religion.

Scott McCorckle, Salesforce's CEO, sent a letter to the Indiana General Assembly criticizing the move. This morning, Indiana's Governor Mike Pence, ostensibly a potential future candidate for U.S. President, signed the bill into law.

Raising an enormous cloud between the rights of religious expression, legal compliance, civil/criminal law, and applied ethics, the Religious Freedoms Restoration Act has been passed in varying forms by a number of states. What it's done is create a new class of individuals who don't have be civil because of their ostensible religious beliefs.

OK, you're now probably asking yourself – how does this connect to cloud computing?

Salesforce, like many organizations, is wondrously diverse, meaning race, color, creed, sex, national origin, and sexual orientation. Hey, aren't all of those protected classes? Shouldn't religious beliefs be part of this? They already were. But decisions like litigation surrounding Notre Dame's treatment of medical coverage, Hobby Lobby's coverage of birth control, and other perceived acts of challenge, combined with backlash over gay marriage and transgender issues, have created a special protected class: those with an inability to be civil. Salesforce, which was about to invest quite a sum of money in Indiana, is now pulling back.

So is some of Indiana's convention business, including the renewal of GenCon's contract, contracts regarding— and not paradoxically—jeopardizing the Church of Christ (Disciples of Christ) convention. Add to the list of objections: the Mayor of Indianapolis, Greg Ballard, the Marion County (Indianapolis) Prosecutor, Cummins Engine, and Eli Lilly and Company. The list goes on and on.

One thing Indianapolis won't be getting is a major cloud upgrade, courtesy of investments surrounding Salesforce, and the developer, VAR, and ecosystems that surround such an investment. It's a pity – Indiana has wonderful tech innovators and some of the best tech schools in the country. But wait, funding for those is in strangulation mode, but that's grist for another blog.

To be clear: Indiana turned its clock back 100 years, this morning, March 26th, 2015. Again.

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