Part of the genius of the American system of government is our commitment to protecting the liberty and First Amendment freedoms of all citizens while respecting their equality before the law. The government protects the freedom of citizens to seek the truth about God and worship according to their conscience, and to live out their convictions in public life. Likewise, citizens are free to form contracts and other associations according to their own values.
While the government must treat everyone equally, individuals are left free to make reasonable judgments and distinctions—including reasonable moral judgments and distinctions—in their economic activities. Not every florist need provide wedding arrangements for every ceremony. Not every photographer need to capture every first kiss. And there is no need for government to force every baker, photographer or florist to service every marriage-related event.
That being said, the New York Time, in its editorial, A License to Discriminate, claims that Arizona just passed a “noxious measure to give businesses and indvidiuals the broad right to deny services to same-sex couples in the name of protecting religious liberty.”
I know this is probably a silly suggestion but shouldn’t the editorial board actually read the legislation before making snide comments? The proposed legislation never mentions same-sex couples, it simply clarifies and improves existing state protections for religious liberty. And with the left’s onslaught against anything religious, we certainly need more laws to protect our first amendment right.
The Arizona law amends a 1999 state law clarifying that the protections extend to any “state action” and would apply to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.” In other words, it protects all citizens and the associations they form from undue burdens by the government on their religious liberty or from private lawsuits that would have the same result.
Under current Arizona law, if a business wanted to discriminate against gays, they would not need this bill to do so. It is not currently illegal for a business to deny service to someone because they are gay. Some cities in Arizona have ordinances against it but there is no state law against it. If business owners in Arizona wanted to deny service to gays, they could do so in most of the state under current law.
Even though business owners across most of Arizona, and much of the U.S., have the right to deny service to gays, they are not doing so. Opponents of the bill claim it would usher in an era of “Jim Crow for gays,” in which gays would be denied service at businesses across the state. If business owners really wanted to do this, though, they could already be doing it. Even if a business wanted to claim the right to not serve gays under RFRA, their claim would be even harder to defend under the new Arizona bill.
There is a federal law on the books, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by Bill Clinton in 1993, that says that the federal government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it can demonstrate that such a burden “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.”
A RFRA law, either state or federal, does not give anyone the license to do anything they want based upon their religious beliefs. Rather, it says what needs to happen for the government to take away someone’s religious freedom. RFRA provides citizens with religious freedom protections, but that does not mean that everyone who claims their religious freedom is violated will win a court case using RFRA as their defense.
So, what compelling government interest is being served by forcing religious individuals, charities, hospitals and organizations to provide abortion coverage or bow to the homosexual lobby? Shouldn’t protecting religious liberty for all be paramount? Just as Mrs. Obama said, religious faith “isn’t about just showing up on Sunday. . .It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well.”
Unfortunately, it is now being reported that Governor Brewer will bow to the money and homosexual lobby and veto the legislation. Brewer is in receipt of a letter from three Republican state senators who voted for the bill: “While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm. As Arizona leaders, we feel it is important to loudly proclaim that we strongly condemn discrimination in any form.” Isn’t that what the bill did?
Apparently these state RINOs believe that while it is not okay to discriminate, it is always okay to discriminate against Christians even if it violates the First Amendmen. Go figure! Money trumps religious liberty!