Thursday, February 27, 2014

Religious Freedom and Arizona

I know this is not a popular point to make, but ....

Sad day for religious freedom. The governor of Arizona vetoed a bill that would have protected the rights of (among others):
1. Jews to refuse to bake a Swastika cake for a Neo-Nazi celebration,
2. Muslim women to be covered in spite of company dress codes,
3. Black business owners to refuse to cater a KKK rally,
4. Catholic-owned pharmacies to refuse to sell condoms, and
5. Mormon landowners to refuse to rent their land to parties that will be serving alcohol at their gatherings.

The law simply stated:

"B. Except as provided in subsection C of this section, State Action shall not substantially burden a person's exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.
C. State Action may substantially burden a person's exercise of religion only if the opposing party demonstrates that application of the burden to the person's exercise of religion in the particular instance is both:
1. In furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.
2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest."

That's the whole meat of the bill. The rest is definitions and remedies at law.

The characterization of this bill as "anti-gay" in the media is dishonest and obscene. If this Bill is anti-gay, then the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is as well. All the bill does is restate that amendment's protection for religion and the existing court test for when the state may lawfully infringe on religious practice. Gays are not mentioned, nor are Muslims, Mormons, Catholics or Jews. Everyone's freedom of conscience is protected.

Let me repeat: All this bill would have done is restate current Federal and state law. Read it yourself if you don't believe me (the bill minus definitions is less than one page long):

What the media have done is pick one possible scenario under the law, and convinced everyone that the bill was about refusing service to gays and lesbians.

Everyone cheering this veto needs to think about this long term. Yes, you've prevented a possible outcome you find undesirable. But, what happens in the future when the KKK sues because they were refused service at a business because the owner felt conscience-bound to not promote their lifestyle? If you think other laws will protect them, or "that could never happen here, everyone agrees the business shouldn't have to..." just wait. Times change, and tactics used to promote views you agree with can just as easily be used to promote others you abhor. The only safe path is to strongly guarantee each of us the right not just to believe, but to ACT on our sincere beliefs in both the personal and public spheres..

Failure to check the types of lawsuits that prompted this law is a two-edged sword.