Did Arizona’s Proposed Religious Freedom Bill Overstep Its Bounds? 6

If I were invited to a gay wedding, I would have to decline the invitation.

I know a lot of people will take issue with me for that, say I hate gays (which isn’t true), call me a narrow-minded bigot or something worse. That’s all sticks and stones… I’m just glad I’m not a photographer, wedding cake baker, or a florist. 

Yesterday, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed legislation that would recognize people’s rights do deny services to others in areas where they believe it would infringe upon their religious liberty. You can read the proposed legislation here. It never mentions the word gay or homosexuality once. In this video, Gov. Brewer explains her decision to veto the bill.

On Fox News, Megan Kelly and Britt Hume expressed the same concerns about the proposed law (video), before the governor issued her veto. Megan Kelly observed:

“I look at this bill and I wonder whether this is a reaction, an overreaction, to people who feel under attack on this score, and in the end, they may have struck back in a way that’s deeply offensive to many and potentially dangerous to folks who are gay and lesbians and need medical services and other services being denied potentially.”

To which Hume answered, “Right.”

It is hard for me to fathom a doctor refusing medical treatment for this reason. If the law were to permit this, then I would have to say, they are right; it’s wrong. Still, I think it’s wrong for a professional photographer to be sued for not taking pictures at a gay wedding.

There is a difference, you know? And I have to wonder, how one might articulate that difference in legislative terms. I believe this is what the Arizona Religious Freedom Bill sought to express. Evidently, it failed to do so.

It is as though Gov. Brewer and others are saying, “We do respect your religious freedom, which is recognized by the Constitution of the United States. But you cannot exercise that freedom when you appear to be discriminating against others, simply by not participating in the types of activities that conflict with your religious values, but only if it involves a business contract.”

How does ‘If you are a business owner, you cannot discriminate against people by denying them services based on their sexual orientation’ equate to ‘If you are a business owner you can’t exercise freedom of religion’ ?

It would be wrong for a restaurant not to serve a gay or lesbian person or couple, in my opinion, even if the individual or couple could simply take their business somewhere else. Does that mean that a photographer should be compelled to attend a gay wedding on the same grounds? I don’t think it does. If you think it does, please tell me why it does.

Here’s why I think these are different scenarios, which the law can’t seem to articulate.

In the case of a couple eating at restaurant, their being gay isn’t an issue related to their eating food or being served. In the case of a wedding, not only does it have everything to do with their being gay (because of the nature of the wedding), providing a service at their wedding entails a participation in a ceremony that some people would not ordinarily attend based on their religious convictions. Why should they be compelled to do so by law for any reason?

I think conscientious objection ought to be respected and protected in this case.

6 comments

  1. The no religion catch lies in the secular government’s democratic view if you are going to provide services to the general public in an establishment or profession you will submit to and must be subject to the laws of the state. You cannot refuse to get an occupational license, refuse health inspection, not pay taxes, not obey building code and cannot discriminate against anyone for any reason esp a religious one. This “against my religion” stance went out
    with African American enfranchisement decades ago and and non discrimination laws dictate all enterprise open to public.

    But as your last sentences indicates a person should naturally be able to accept a job or not accept one if solicited for those specific services requested. But seems that would be rejected as letting religion’s foot in the door and legitimize religion’s using religious reasons (no abortion) to pass secular law based on their religion which is like the imposition of Islamic sharia law on a society.

    The Puritan Roger Williams got kicked out of Massachusetts Bay because he said religious law should not be codified as secular law. For example not keeping the Sabbath or adultery may be sins but not crime in civil law. Murder would be a sin and a crime and should be codified as civil law.

    Whenever we use religious belief we invite a law suit from some jerk whether that is right or wrong or fair or not. Whenever we use religion we are going to lose. Best to find another excuse or have a fair warning unable to fulfill contract clause so you can cancel and “go to my son’s baseball game” that day.

    In response to the petitioners they should just hire a different person to do the job or they might get stuck with crummy pictures.

    You can “practice your religion” but if it affects other people in objectionable ways that invites secular scrutiny. But I agree with you and regret government’s increasing expansion into the private choices in our private lives. The whole mess becomes convoluted craziness.

    • Thanks for weighing in, Carl. That is the way it is. There is a positive side to it, and as you point out, and a convoluted crazy side to it as well.

      I’ll just come out and say it. I really don’t like that a photographer gets sued for not taking a job at a gay wedding — religion or no — I don’t like it. I don’t like it. There. I said it.

      That goes for bakers and florist as well. I think these are all frivolous suits, which is why I sympathize with the Arizona bill.

      I still have to recognize your point as perfectly valid. It is a shame that conscientious objectors are denied leniency in these cases, but the sad fact is if they claim conscientious objection, they are going to pay, and there’s no way around it.

      So I started to like what this guy had to say on his blog today: Problem Solved: Let private businesses refuse service to anyone, anytime, for any reason (Matt Walsh).

      He gives a good argument, but of course, it’ll never work.

  2. The godless and the progressives can’t see their own hypocrisy.
    Yesterday I posted my tweet about the gay hairdresser now refusing hair care for his client, the NM governor who just stated she opposes gay marriage.

    The only way I can understand this is that God gives us over to our foolishness and sin when we start down that path. Romans 1. Pray for them. It’s not hopeless while they are alive.

    • And of course, there won’t be a lawsuit, in this case — nor should there be, IMO, but if there were it would be interesting to see how the courts would settle it. In this case it isn’t because of the HD’s religious freedom, and of course no one is going to call him a bigot, as they do when business owners refuse to work at gay marriages (even though he is one). So what do you call it? You already said it: hypocrisy.

      If I were the NM Gov. I would avoid gay hairdressers, anyway, from now on, just to avoid getting a botched haircut.

  3. Have not read the legislation, but the governor seemed to be saying the bill purports to solve a problem that doesn’t exist in Arizona. Given there isn’t suppose to be anything illegal about refusing to participate in a “same-sex marriage,” she may be correct. So before I would give her a hard time, I would compare the existing law with the law that was proposed to “fix” the problem.

    Frankly, unless there is a clear issue of public safety — imminent death or serious harm — a business owner should be able to refuse service. The penalty is built in. The customer doesn’t pay.

    Why do we have private commerce? Such commerce allows us to make our own ethical choices. Only very foolish people want politicians deciding what is ethical for the rest of us.

    • I have to agree with your assessment Citizen Tom, on all three points. In the first place, the governor gave sound reasons for vetoing the bill. On the one hand, the law aims to protect from what I consider to be frivolous lawsuits; but if there is no case of these kinds of suits in that state, then the law itself is either frivolous, or else it could be put to mal use in the way many have suggested. So, like you, I can’t criticize her there, without more specific information.

      The problem I see regarding your second point has to do with the way the law was framed. It was framed in such a way that they spun it to mean business owners could discriminate on the grounds of their religious beliefs, which is why the law backfired. Since gay rights are now under the civil rights umbrella, public opinion could not support such a thing. I think there are other ways around this problem, for example, instead of writing the law to protect religious freedom, which is an ambiguous phrase these days and highly in dispute, they could frame it in terms of protecting against frivolous lawsuits.

      I’m no legislator, so I can’t be more specific about that and it might not be just as easy as I’m making it out to be. But the problem as I see it, the defeat of this bill and the way it was presented by the press and received by the public resulted in not so much a victory for gay rights as a defeat for religious freedom in this country. That is far worse in my opinion. So perhaps, it would have been better if the bill had never been drafted. After all, as you suggest, without a case example, there really was no cause for it in the first place.

      Finally, here is what I agree with the most: “Only very foolish people want politicians deciding what is ethical for the rest of us.” — Amen to that!

      Yet, here we are… And I tremble to think of where this blind foolishness will eventually lead us. Not in a good direction, for sure, as we are witnessing more and more of our freedoms being assumed by the state with each passing day, with virtually no resistance to it. When you look at it that way, it’s easy to see why the Arizona bill actually made a lot of sense. The problem is that’s not how the media framed it. Rather, they framed it as an attack on freedom.

      It’s crazy. And if this madness doesn’t end, I’m afraid we’re doomed…

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