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

2013:
Arizona House passes religious
"freedom to discriminate" bills

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This topic is a continuation from events in 2012

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2013-MAY: Arizona House passes "freedom to discriminate bill"

David Badash writing for The New Civil Rights Movement reported on a new bill introduced in 2013:

"The Arizona House ... passed a bill that would allow anyone to discriminate against anyone for any reason, especially on the grounds of religious liberty. The bill, designed to allow private businesses the legal right to discriminate against LGBT people by citing their personal religious objections to homosexuality, overrules Arizona’s current anti-discrimination statutes. The bill, whose chief sponsor is Rep. Steve Yarbrough [R] passed the House by a 32-24 vote, and has been transmitted to the Arizona Senate. All House Democrats voted against the bill." 1

The bill was apparently written to encourage discrimination against Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, and Transgender persons (LGBT) but has been so generally worded that:

"... it would give Arizona residents and businesses the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason.". 1

The Associated Press reported that:

"Civil liberties groups say the bill would be a nightmare for businesses because it could prompt a wave of lawsuits over alleged First Amendment violations." 2

Alia Beard Rau, writing for AZCentral reported that:

"... critics of the legislation, particularly in the gay and transgender community, say it’s so broadly worded that it could have dangerous implications, particularly in providing a legal defense for those who ignore state law or city ordinances meant to protect groups such as same-sex couples and transgender individuals from discrimination. 2

The state of Arizona, the City of Phoenix, and other cities in Arizona have human rights legislation in place that is intended to prevent "public accommodations" from discriminating against customers in the provision of goods and services on the basis of their race, skin color, religion, gender, etc. If, for example, a interracial couple were to approach a baker to have a wedding cake baked for their upcoming marriage, the baker would be violating the human rights code if they refused to provide that service. If this bill becomes law, then the baker could use the law to receive immunity from the human rights code if they had refused service on the sincerely held religious ground that interracial marriages are immoral.

During the debate on the bill in the House, Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, (R) used a hypothetical example of a pastor who refused to solemnize the wedding of a same-sex couple. He said:

"If we decide we have a state that decides you can have same-sex couple marriages and somebody decides not to do it and they get sued, that’s what this [bill] can protect against."

Farnsworth appears to be unaware that the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution already gives clergy total and absolute protection if they want to refuse to marry a couple on any grounds, including age, gender, race, immaturity, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. Clergy have been rejecting couples for centuries and we have never seen a case where a clergymember was charged with any related crime.

Seráh Blain, executive director of the Secular Coalition for Arizona said:

"It’s giving business owners sort of the go-ahead to choose not to provide services for the LGBT community. ... My organization is particularly concerned about any kind of legislation that allows the religious beliefs of people in power to marginalize vulnerable groups of people. We are concerned about the transgender community, LGBT individuals, women, anyone who is vulnerable to discrimination."

She expressed concern that the law would give business owners permission to ignore human rights laws that are intended to assure that minorities receive equal treatment. She said:

"This seems very akin to the ways in which states tried to avoid desegregation."

Her group's web site documents examples of physicians refusing to prescribe medically necessary medications on religious grounds, and therapists suggesting that patients try religious worship instead of other treatments.

Rep. Chad Campbell (D), like every other Democrat in the House, voted against the bill. He said that individuals could use the bill to sue a business for simply following a state law, if the person felt that it conflicts with their religion. He said:

"Litigation could now be directed at the private sector even though the private sector is acting in good faith with a law they should be following." 2

The bill was also rejected by the Senate and never became law.

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Sadly, this topic continues into 2014

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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. David Badash, "Arizona House Passes Religious Freedom Pro-Discrimination Bill By Wide Margin," The New Civil
    Rights Movement, 2013-MAY-16, at: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/
  2. "Arizona House passes bill protecting religion," ABC-15/Arizona, 2013-MAY-15, at: http://www.abc15.com/
  3. Alia Beard Rau, "Arizona House OKs religious-protection measure," 2013-MAY-15, at: http://www.azcentral.com/

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

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