Arizona’s proposed “religious freedom” bill, S.B. 1062, could soon be passed into law and it might have some negative effects that neither side has considered.
This week the Arizona legislators passed a bill through both houses that is garnering national attention, and now the controversial S.B. 1062 sits on the desk of Gov. Jan Brewer. The bill is touted as a defense of religious freedom by some and an appalling form of discrimination by others. As Gov. Brewer considers where to sign, either passing S.B. 1062 into law or vetoing it, eyes from all over are watching her closely.
Arizona currently has laws on the books protecting an individuals rights to observe religious beliefs, S.B. 1062 looks to broaden this protection by including businesses, associations, religious assemblies, and other groups into this same section of state law. If passed it would allow businesses to turn customers away if serving said customer compromises their religious beliefs.
The bill finds its roots in the controversial case of Elane Photography V. Willcox that took place a few years ago in New Mexico, in which a photography company was found to have violated state anti-discrimination laws by refusing to take photos of a same-sex wedding ceremony claiming religious reasons. Arizona law makers are wanting to keep their business owners from similar lawsuits, thus the amendments to Arizona law that S.B. 1062 looks to make.
Many business owners are crying out in hopes that the bill will be vetoed, claiming that passing it may drive business away from the state. Their fear is that adding another bill that is viewed as discriminatory will severely increase negative attitudes about the state, there fears are well founded as a similar situation occurred a few years ago with the passing of the disputed immigration bill S.B. 1070.
Proponents of the bill are saying that it only increases protection of the rights of people to follow their religious beliefs. Without this protection members of many faiths may be forced to cross religious boundaries out of fear of litigation for refusing service.
It is true that the bill only seeks to bolster existing religious freedom laws, but it may come at a cost. Believers and Non-Believers have been butting heads for most of human history, and another legal battle one way or the other does not seem like a good idea. By staunchly supporting it many believers are viewed as bigoted or as preaching hatred, while those against are accused of detracting from truth and attacking the rights of citizens.
Forcing customers to leave and hiding behind a shield of legal proceedings hardly seems an appropriate way to show the love for others commanded by many faiths. At the same time barging in on a business with the same documents as battering rams is no way to gain acceptance. Not passing it could leave the door open to many terrible lawsuits, but passing it may only widen the perceived gap between non-believers and religion. It makes sense to want to support anything touted as protecting our rights but sometimes that push can bring some unseen circumstances that ultimately bring more discord or even take away the freedoms of others, a price few would be willing to accept.
As a society we need to create room for meaningful conversations and not take every little disagreement to a court room. Believers need to be willing to give a little of that grace they soak up so well, and non-believers need to be willing to respect the practices of others. Instead of acting out of fear of litigation a business owner should feel free to discuss their personal beliefs with customers, in a respectful manner, and how their daily lives are led by said beliefs. Would be customers need to be willing to listen and react maturely, and join into the discussion hoping to produce some meaningful results. Talking to someone through lawyers hardly ever shows love or a willingness to accept our differences, a lesson both sides need to hear.
–Photo: Nicolas Raymond/flickr