Legislation that would allow businesses to discriminate against customers is an affront to religious freedom, American values and civil rights — not to mention economic development and common sense. Gov. Jan Brewer must veto this brazen attempt to enshrine one version of religious belief into Arizona law.
Republicans in the state House and Senate passed the bill this week that protects businesses from being sued if they refuse service to someone based on what they say is a religious belief.
The legislation came in response to a New Mexico same-sex couple successfully suing a photographer for refusing to shoot their wedding.
Proponents claim the legislation couldn’t be used to refuse to serve a woman or a black person, no matter the businessperson’s religious beliefs, for example, because state law already prohibits such discrimination.
The only reason, then, for this disgraceful bill is to legalize bigotry against gay and lesbian people, as Arizona law does not already provide them equal protection from discrimination by a private part.
Business leaders are speaking out against the bill, warning of the economic damage that would follow its passage as entrepreneurs decide against locating or doing business in a state that so openly condones discrimination.
The legislation opens the door to religious purity tests — how do you prove to the state that you’re discriminating based on religious belief, rather than a cultural belief, or plain old meanness?
Is there a form you sign, a minimum number of worship services you must attend to qualify?
And what of believers who find evidence in their religious doctrine to support acceptance of all people, of churches that use the same Bible to advocate marriage equality? Are they to be told by the state that their religious beliefs aren’t protected?
This legislation elevates one version of religious belief over others — a business owner who believes homosexuality is a sin and calls himself a Christian could use his religious beliefs to discriminate against a Christian customer who believes that homosexuality is not a sin - but that discrimination is.
The state has no business in theology.
We call on Brewer to veto this insidious attempt to legalize discrimination under the guise of religious freedom.
It’s time Republican lawmakers be checked in their unending effort to push Arizona backwards.