Action Alert

Statement: Brewer should veto ‘religious wrongs’ bill

Have you contacted Gov. Jan Brewer yet asking her to veto SB 1026? Phone her office now: (602) 542-4331

Statement by Dan Barker & Annie Laurie Gaylor
Co-Presidents
Freedom From Religion Foundation

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The newest threat to religious liberty is the campaign to pass legislation permitting individuals or businesses to impose their religious beliefs on unwilling others.

The Arizona Legislature last Thursday passed SB 1062, to allow business owners to invoke personal religious beliefs as an excuse to deny gays service. This prompted one witty Tucson pizzeria owner to put up a sign giving tit for tat, saying: "We reserve the right to refuse service to Arizona legislators."

It's kind of a warped version of the Golden Rule, which, phrased in the positive, has always had a dangerous "escape clause." "Do unto others as you would have them do onto you" could be a license to preach at others (if you like being preached at), to hurt others (if you're a sadomasochist) or, in this case, to exhibit bigotry toward others (if you're a bigot). The superior rule far predating Christianity is expressed in the negative: "Do not do to others what you don't want done to you."

According to The New York Times, similar "religious protection legislation" has been introduced in Idaho, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota and Tennessee, with efforts stalled in Idaho, Kansas and Ohio.

The bill, while couched as antigay, is so broad it allows any person, business or church to cite religion as a defense if the government or an individual claims they're being discriminated against. Think about all those floral shops in Rhode Island that refused to take FFRF's order for a bouquet of roses to atheist student plaintiff Jessica Ahlquist. FFRF is pursuing redress under the Civil Rights Act, but if Gov. Jan Brewer signs the Arizona bill into law, such discrimination would be lawful — indeed, encouraged. The bill could permit individuals to break nearly any law and cite religious freedom as a defense, as Arizona Democrats pointed out.

The Civil Rights Act came into being to ensure that basic services (such as food, accommodations, medical care) couldn't be denied because of the customer's or patient's race, ethnic heritage, religion or gender. The Arizona bill and the religious bigotry fueling other such bills pose a serious threat to the Civil Rights Act, equal protection under the law and harmony and good will in our nation.

The chain store Hobby Lobby, which is suing Kathleen Sebelius, is likewise invoking "religious beliefs" to defy the guarantees of the Affordable Care Act, because its fundamentalist founder wants veto power over which forms of contraception his women employees may use.

Brewer vetoed a bill similar to SB1062 last session. It's encouraging that the outcry against this bigoted bill prompted three Arizona Republican senators, including the senate majority whip, came forward yesterday with a change of heart on their vote.

To protect true religious liberty it's crucial for these mischief-making pieces of legislation to be vetoed, voted down and ridiculed out of existence.

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