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!!!!!!!! Search error!  If the URL ends something like .htm/  or .htm# delete the character(s) after .htm and hit return.

"Religious freedom" changing from freedom of
religious beliefs
to
freedom to hate and discriminate

2014: Part 5:
Massive opposition and some support for
Arizona "freedom to discriminate" bill
continues.

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Reactions to the Arizona bill SB 1062 from local agencies and religious & secular groups:

  • Josh Kredit is legal counsel for the Center for Arizona Policy -- one of the groups who wrote the bill. He said that the bill attempts to:

    "... ensure that in America people are able to live and work according to their faith. ... People need to read the bill. We are simply clarifying that our law is in line with the federal government. We are also aligning it with where the overwhelming majority of federal courts have said federal law does protect private business owners.

  • Victoria Lopez, program director at ACLU of Arizona, said:

    "The intention of this bill is a question mark. We’ve heard proponents say it really strengthens existing law and nothing more, but we’ve also heard proponents invoke that case out of New Mexico, which is squarely on the issue of whether private businesses can discriminate against gay and lesbian people." 1

    The New Mexico case involves the owners of Elane Photography which ran afoul of that state's human rights legislation when they refused to take photographs of a lesbian commitment ceremony and were fined.

  • Attorney Joseph E. La Rue, at Alliance Defending Freedom -- a conservative Christian legal defense agency who co-authored the bill -- said:

    "In America, people should be free to live and work according to their faith, and the government shouldn’t be able to tell us we can’t do that. Faith shouldn’t be something we have to leave inside our house." 10

  • Shannon Minter, legal director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) said:

    "The Arizona Senate bill is blatantly unconstitutional. It violates the requirement of equal protection of the laws by openly singling out a particular group of people and saying it’s OK to discriminate against them."

    In reality, the bill does not single out any specific group for discrimination. It merely allows individuals and companies, agencies etc. to use a religious defense to justify their discriminatory acts in court.

  • The CEOs of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Greater Phoenix Leadership and the Southern Arizona Leadership Council released a joint statement saying:

    "After analyzing the bill, we are very concerned about the effect it could have on Arizona’s economy. As leaders in the business community, we cannot support measures that could expose our businesses to litigation, nor do we want to send a message that our state is anything but an open and attractive place for visitors and the top talent that will be the cornerstone of our continued economic growth.

    If specific Arizona issues related to religious liberty are identified, we would stand ready to work with anyone to ensure that any solution addresses those problems while also ensuring that all individuals feel welcome in our state and that business is not hurt." 3

  • Phoenix New Times reports that the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and many Arizona mayors asked the Governor to veto the bill.

    "Several mayors from across the state have also urged Brewer to veto, many of whom serve cities with LGBT non-discrimination protections. Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton (D) said that SB 1062 '... cruelly targets the LGBT community' and will hurt the state’s workforce.' Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell (D) suggested Arizona should follow his city’s lead and protect LGBT people from discrimination. According to Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild (D), SB 1062 would 'take our state backwards to a time when discrimination was the norm.' Mesa Mayor Scott Smith (R), a candidate for governor, explained that despite being a 'Christian conservative,' he is concerned that the bill 'could negatively impact our most basic rights' and “have a detrimental impact on Arizona’s business environment. They are joined by State Treasurer Doug Ducey (R) and Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R), both of whom are also running for governor." 2

  • The Family Research Council is a conservative Christian para-church organization, which has been designated by the Southern Poverty Law Center as an anti-gay hate group. 10 President Tony Perkins discussed SB 1062 in one of his his Washington Updates. He explained that:
    • SB 1062 is an improvement on Arizona's existing Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

    • "The Left" has descended upon the bill with a "... massive misinformation campaign," and a "chorus of lies."

    • The bill would give "... homosexuals more protection that they had under the current law." He did not elaborate about this increased protection for homosexuals, so it may have to remain a mystery.

    • The 83 companies, various sports interests, tourism groups, Chambers of Commerce, Congress members (including both Arizona senators), state senators, mayors, LGBT groups, religious liberals, secularists, etc. who have gone on record as opposing the bill have been deluded by misinformation, or are "people who have either chosen to ignore the plain language of the bill or refused to read it altogether."

He concludes:

"... In a society where 'tolerance' seems to be a one-way street, SB 1062 walks the fine line of freedom. And while both sides hardly see eye to eye, they can certainly agree that this is a turning point in the debate for religious freedom. A turning point, we pray, that Jan Brewer gets right." 11

By "gets right" it seems that he is advocating that Governor Brewer sign the bill into law.

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  • Rev. Elizabeth Rambikur of the First United Methodist Church Tucson said:

    "Our call as human beings, made in the image of God, is 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might” (Deuteronomy 6:5) and Jesus reminds those who would strive for the title of Christian that the second commandment is, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself' (Matthew 22:38). The teachings of Jesus remind us that there is no law greater than the love of God and the love of ones neighbor as the self. It is here that all law -- whether perceived as given by God or written by human beings -- must begin. ..."  

    "In the most basic way Arizona SB 1062 and HB 2153 prohibit the full practice of Christianity because the fundamental teaching of love by Jesus Christ is violated when we practice discrimination against others. The United Methodist Church has shaped its discipline and faith practices through the crucible of the human rights movements of the last 231 years, as we have moved beyond slavery, beyond discrimination against women, past discrimination based on race, and beyond the denial of access to differently abled people. There is no question that the practice of discrimination is a violation of our faith as Christians." 7

Rev. Rambikur's views are not shared by her denomination, which bans same-sex marriages in their churches, and has placed some of its clergy on trial in church court for solemnizing marriages of same-sex couples.

  • The Arizona Catholic Conference said in a statement:

    "The threats to religious liberty have become very real... S.B. 1062 will help avoid the situations being experienced around the country where businesses are being forced to close because of their owners' faith." 4

    We are unaware of any businesses being forced to close because of the owners' beliefs. Some have been fined as a result of having committed acts of discrimination and have thus run afoul of their state human rights laws. Some who have discriminated against the LGBT community have found that their business has increased greatly because some of the public prefers to do business with companies that discriminate against LGBTs.

  • Michael Sean Winters, writing for the National Catholic Reporter said: 

    "... those who support this Arizona law must be challenged to explain why the 'Selma analogy' is not apt....[M]any people in this vast country have sincerely held religious beliefs that are destructive of what I like to call the commonhealth of the nation, specifically the moral health of the nation. Bishops, of all people, should be aware of this. ..."

    "How much stronger the Arizona bishops statement would be if they had coupled their support for the law with a clear statement that no Catholic businessman or businesswoman should claim warrant in the Gospels or the teachings of the Church for discriminating against gays. Instead, once again, we have aligned our preaching of the Gospel with a political agenda that is championed by hateful bigots. ..."

    "And, then we wonder why young people want nothing to do with us? When bishops gather to bemoan the secularization of our society, they should start by looking in the mirror. If the face of Christianity is an angry hotelier who wants to place a 'straights only' sign outside his inn, then we have no one but ourselves to blame for the decline of Christian faith." 7

  • The National Organization for Marriage, whose sole goal is to prevent same-sex couples from being able to marry anywhere in the U.S. released an Action Alert, saying:

    "Wherever marriage is redefined, the story is the same: florists, photographers, bakers, caterers, social hall owners—anyone who runs a business that caters to the celebration of nuptials -- these individuals are forced to choose between their deeply held beliefs about marriage and the prospect of being forced out of business by onerous lawsuits claiming 'discrimination.'

    Both the Arizona Senate and House have approved a bill that would prevent business owners from being targeted in lawsuits for declining to participate in same-sex wedding celebrations on the grounds of religious objections.

    Send an email today urging Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act." 8

  • The Human Rights Campaign -- a pro-LGBT group -- recommends that Arizona business who oppose SB 1062 post the following sign 9 in their window:

"Open for business for everyone" sign

On the other hand, Rocco's Little Chicago Pizzeria in Tucson, AZ posted their own sign 10 with a very different message:

Refusing service to legislators sign

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This topic is continued in the next essay with a
discussion of Governor Brewer's veto of SB 1061.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. "Arizona legislature sends ‘anti-gay’ bill to Republican governor Jan Brewer," The Guardian, 2014-FEB-21, at: http://www.theguardian.com/
  2. Zack Ford, "Conservative Lawmakers And Arizona Businesses Urge Governor To Veto Anti-Gay Bill ," Think Progress, 2014-FEB-24, at: http://thinkprogress.org/
  3. Andy Towle, "Arizona Chamber of Commerce-led business coalition calls on Brewer to veto anti-gay bill," Towleroad, 2014-FEB-24, at: http://www.towleroad.com/
  4. Halimah Abdullah & Catherine E. Shoichet, "Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoes SB 1062," CNN, 2014-FEB-26, at: http://www.cnn.com/
  5. Anderson Cooper, "Inside Arizona's SB-1062 protest," CNN, 2014-FEB
  6. Jan Brewer,"SB 1062 - Press Conference," 2014-FEB-26, at: http://i2.cdn.turner.com/
  7. John Kang, "Christians speak against the Arizona bill," Gender and the Law Prof Blog, 2014-FEB-26, at: http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/
  8. "Urge AZ Governor Jan Brewer to Sign SB 1062/HB 2153," Action Alert, National Organization for Marriage, undated, at: http://capwiz.com/
  9. Adrian Matanza, "Arizona Businesses “Open for Business to Everyone," Human Rights Campaign, 2-14=FEB-24, at: https://www.hrc.org/
  10. David Demirbilek, "Southern Poverty Law Center repeats 'hate group' claim about Family Research Council," Daily Caller, 2012-SEP-13, at: http://dailycaller.com/
  11. Tony Perkins, "Washington Update: Stop! In the name of gov," Family Research Council, 2014-FEB-26, at: http://www.frc.org/

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Copyright © 2014 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Originally written: 2014-FEB-21
Latest update: 2014-FEB-27
Author: B.A. Robinson

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