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Plain and Simple for Feb. 27,2014
SoVaNow.com / February 27, 2014I am constantly amazed at what legislatures and Congress find to pass their time. I guess when there is nothing really on your agenda, you have to look hard to find things that are worth your while. It is not as if we have problems with our economy, a war in Afghanistan, problems (still!) in Iraq, Syria, North Korea, Russia, the Ukraine, hunger, oh what’s the use? It is clear that there are priorities and there are priorities.
Arizona has become the first state to have a bill passed by its legislature to protect all individuals, businesses and religious institutions from discrimination lawsuits if they can show that their discriminatory actions were motivated by religious convictions. The bill resulted in part from the lawsuit brought by a gay couple against a Christian photographer who refused to shoot a gay commitment ceremony. Thus, the bill will allow people to refuse to do business with any person or take part in any event if that would violate their religious principles.
This bill parades around in the guise of religious freedom but it protects and promotes blatant discrimination. While I am probably much more conservative on some of these questions than your average clergyperson, I am certainly not in favor of a bill that will open the door to full-scale discrimination. What is to prevent people from using this bill to justify refusing service to a whole range of undesirables—Muslims, Hispanics, women who have abortions, or even liberal Methodists?
I come from an era where we had laws like this—poll taxes and literacy tests. Inevitably, they were used to place an unfair burden on people who were least able to bear it. Instead of passing laws such as these, we must trust the good sense of the people who are leading us. I admit, given the nature of this law that is not always easy. But the lawsuit that was brought originally most likely will not stand. It is much easier to fight these things on a case by case basis. What is not advisable is to write a law that is questionable at best and certainly offensive.
The good news is that the governor of Arizona has not yet signed this bill. We can hope that she has the good sense to let it go by without her signature. Other states have tried to pass similar legislation and none of them have been successful. It is easy to become upset when things are not going the way that we think they should go but it is not always proper or wise to remedy the situation with a new law.
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