Arizona has done it again. The overwhelming level of prejudice and stupidity emanating from the state’s lawmakers seems to have no limit. On Feb. 20, the Arizona state legislature managed to push through a bill that would make it legal for businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians on the basis of, “religious freedom.” Proponents of the bill say that it provides business owners with the right to manage their establishments according to their own religious values.
Apparently the desert heat has affected their memories. This certainly has the familiar ring of southern life prior to the civil rights movement of the 1960s when signs read, “Whites Only” at every restaurant and water fountain. Open, hateful discrimination was touted as religious or moral freedom back then as well.
It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking this was a good idea and how in all that is holy did these people manage to get elected in the first place? If Arizona Governor Jan Brewer, who is already known for her racist positions, signs this bill into law, she is setting a sickening precedent, pushing back more than 100 years of civil rights progress in this country.
The day after the bill passed, Brewer was in Washington for the governors’ summit and told CNN, “I think anybody that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with. But I don’t know that it needs to be statutory.”
“In my life and in my businesses, if I don’t want to do business or if I don’t want to deal with a particular company or person or whatever, I’m not interested,” Brewer continued. “That’s America. That’s freedom.” Clearly, she is all in favor of freedom so long as it’s not extended to people of whom she and her legislative thugs disapprove.
For those who don’t see a problem with giving these folks the legal right to limit service based on this kind of ignorance, imagine the shoe on the other foot for a moment. What if someone passed a law stating a business could refuse service to Christians, again, on the basis of religious or moral freedom? The religious right would literally lose their minds. Of course, this isn’t the first time this kind of law has been passed in a democratic society.
In early Nazi Germany, the eradication of Jews began with laws like this, allowing open discrimination and eventual persecution. In America, minorities and women have only recently emerged from a 200-year limitation of civil rights, often enforced in the name of religious morality, and the fight is still going on in many respects.
In theory, everyone is protected from this kind of legislation, at least on the federal level, by the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It says, in part, “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
It’s just a guess, but if it passes, Arizona’s law would most likely be struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court at first challenge. Even to the layperson it seems to openly violate the 14th and would be determined to be unconstitutional. The problem is that the argument shouldn’t have to go that far for people to see that the bill is unethical.
At last report, Governor Brewer was seeking the counsel of her advisors in order to make up her mind whether to sign the bill into law. Hopefully one of her close cronies is a constitutional law attorney or, at the very least, someone who is not so blatantly ignorant and prejudiced. And if, for some bizarre reason, there are Christians out there who feel this law is just, remember this: “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” – Mathew 7:12. One can only hope.
Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and contributor to WDTN-TV2’s “Living Dayton” program. More at gerydeer.com.