WASHINGTON, March 3, 2014 – On Wednesday, February 26, Governor Jan Brewer (Arizona) decided to put the veto pen to use and struck down SB 1062. This was an amendment to an existing law, the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). It would have given church, business, or individual in Arizona exemption from any state law that substantially burdened their exercise of religion.
Arizona’s bill was one of 21 state RFRAs, and it was patterned after a federal RFRA that was unanimously passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1993, almost unanimously passed by the Senate, and signed into law by President Bill Clinton. Arizona’s bill was intended to strengthen the RFRA by expanding the definition of “person” in the law to include “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.”
In response to the New Mexico Supreme Court’s ruling that the state’s RFRA could not be invoked if the federal government is not a party to a suit, Arizona’s SB 1062 specifically made religious-freedom a defense in lawsuits “regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.”
SB 1062 would not have given businesses, churches, or anyone else the right to deny services to the gay community. There was already no legal ban on denying services to gays in Arizona, nor is there now.
The national outrage surrounding SB 1062 seems to be a product of anti-Arizon bias, and a largely hysterical and hypocritical response. While many people would support the right of a wedding photographer not to provide his talent and artistry on demand to a Klan wedding, or even to a Catholic wedding if the photographer were strongly opposed to the Catholic Church’s stands on birth control and abortion, this exception is one-directional. Religious motivations are automatically suspect.
The liberty to say “no” on matters of conscience is fundamental to the free practice of religion, and it seems to be a thing of the past. Values, beliefs and morals are forced to take second place to the demands of the politics of inclusion. This is wrong.
The right to the free exercise of religious expression and practice beyond mere participation in religious services has been under attack for some time. What is disturbing about the case of SB 1062 is that large corporations have joined the attack. In Arizona, these included Apple, AT&T, Delta Airlines, Southwest Airlines, Intel, Verizon and Marriott International.
It also included the NBA and the NFL. The NBA’s Phoenix Suns and WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury called for the veto. Arizona is scheduled to host Super Bowl XLIX next year, which is expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, and the NFL threatened to relocate the game if the bill were signed into law. Delaware Governor Jack Markell, a Democrat, went on the record saying that if Jan Brewer failed to veto the bill, the Super Bowl should be moved.
Money and power talk and they always have, but did the founders envision an America where policy is bought and sold? Whether the sports leagues and the corporations spoke up out of genuine conviction or as a form of cheap advertising, they used their wealth and power to bludgeon a state government into submitting to their demands. This is ordinarily the sort of thing that would infuriate a good liberal, but in this case, the intrusion of corporate power into politics seems to be generally applauded.
Larry J. Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the university of Virginia, told Businessweek that business supports the social issues which are believed to be mainstream, and goes on to explain that it is good for business to veto the bill.
It is always a good thing to read a bill before voting on it. Three of the Republican Arizona state senators who supported the bill in the beginning urged the veto saying they had not read it thoroughly and did not realize that the bill was discriminatory. Had they read the bill, they would know that it was not.
This isn’t over. The greater principles involved have not gone away. SB 1062 wasn’t designed to harm or discriminate against the LBGT community in any way, and in fact would have made such discrimination more difficult. However, it was designed to safeguard those who believe that their fundamental beliefs should guide their personal and business decisions, and to ensure that any attempt to achieve social goals was as minimally burdensome to religious belief and practice as possible.
Liberty is being buried under an enormous weight of indifference and greed. SB 1062 was not, in the grand scheme of things, hugely important to liberty, but the fight against it and the reasons for its failure represent the worst of this attack on liberty. It also represents the antipathy that corporate America, the political establishment, and media liberals feel toward religious beliefs that motivate anything more than church attendance. It was a triumph of hypocrisy over reason. For this reason, the failure of SB 1062 is to be deplored.