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Wednesday, April 23, 2014 | Last updated: 1:05pm

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Editorial: Arizona religious freedom bill discriminates against everyone



Our Senate seems to believe that Arizonans shouldn’t have to interact with anyone who offends their personal beliefs — so perhaps we shouldn’t have to be writing about them.

The state’s insistence on proving everyone who sees Arizona as a bunch of stubborn, insensitive asses right necessitates commentary. Senate Bill 1062 is only the newest entry in Arizona’s canon of pathetic attempts to stall change.

Most states seem poised to tackle the climb to LGBTQ rights, yet Arizona’s backpedaling has not ceased. We’re recklessly, gleefully careening downhill.

We’re not the only state that’s still fighting change, but we have allowed our backwardness to extend, quite visibly, all the way to the governor.

Hell, even Kansas’ Senate rejected a similar bill. Somewhere over the rainbow, skies are a little bluer, but here, the rainbow is going to be refused a motel room.

Arizona’s House of Representatives and Senate would have us believe that S.B. 1062 represents progress and provides protection for our constitutional rights. But this “progress” entails a vision of stability and peace only by way of segregation. This “protection” harms.

S.B. 1062 is really a dusted-off and polished-up version of the “Jim Crow” laws but this time, under the guise of unquestionable dogma, race isn’t the only qualifier.

In fact, under this new bill almost any criteria for discrimination could be legitimized. As long as the motivation is a religious belief — not even a widely accepted or central one — it falls under the protections of the bill. No one cares if something’s religiously motivated if it’s legal. It’s the illegal, often absurd things that can be protected by one’s personal beliefs that we worry about being accepted as admissible defenses in court.

Want to tell tenants in your apartment complex they can’t live there if they eat pork rinds because touching the skin of a pig is unclean? Go for it.

Want to engage in polygamy just because it happened at one point in the Bible and Christianity says to love each other? It may be illegal, but as long as Christianity is a significant part of your motivation, you might be fine.

Think unmarried women should be restricted in what they are allowed to do? Well, you don’t have to give them contraceptives, a hotel room, service at your restaurant or a job if you can reasonably say that’s an extension of your religious views.

Not that the burden of proof would even be on you. That responsibility lies with the government. How is it supposed to prove anything isn’t motivated by religion? And, seeing as this bill is supposed to expand and modify the definition of “exercise of religion,” what takes precedence? Is the religious freedom to discriminate more important than anti-discrimination laws?

At some point, it seems our state decided that opinions, including religious ones, are more important than the protection of citizens, that the government’s role is to preserve the will of the majority and not to amplify the quieter cries of the marginalized.

Our government officials should probably enroll in an entry level constitutional law class. Then, perhaps, they would know that the function of the Bill of Rights, home of the mighty First Amendment, has always been to protect citizens from the abuses of their rulers.

With S.B. 1062, politicians are simply protecting the way of life they’ve become accustomed to by trying to “expand” freedoms they’re already happily benefitting from. And they aren’t really doing it for all religions; they’re doing it for Christians. The language used in the bill even specifies that churches — not mosques, synagogues or temples — receive the benefits of expanded rights.

But it isn’t only churches and individuals that are mentioned. The bill also make a point of stating that corporations and business organizations are covered.

Despite what the Senate may have predicted, this bill will only hurt businesses. Those that choose to discriminate will literally be turning away money, while Arizona as a whole also loses out because people will boycott the entire state instead of just the pigheaded businesses. And that hurts everyone, even the businesses who are calling out the bill.

And it isn’t just businesspeople who are against the bill. Even three Republicans state senators who voted for the bill are urging Gov. Jan Brewer to veto it. Granted, they still think the bill is a good idea and that commentaries like this one have “mischaracterized” it, but at least they regret their vote. They aren’t the only ones telling her to veto it. So is Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona). So are some of the gubernatorial candidates. So are we.

Let’s not let an ill-defined set of bills ripe for justifying discrimination become Arizona law, a law that will certainly have negative repercussions and will probably drag the state into a huge lawsuit. Let’s work on making laws that actually protect people, not ones that just claim they do.

Editorials are determined by the Daily Wildcat editorial board and written by one of its members. They are Sarah Precup, Joey Fisher, Katelyn Kennon and David W. Mariotte. They can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter @DailyWildcat


Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Arizona Daily Wildcat.

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