Discrimination Bill would Have Taken State Back to The Jim Crow Era of Prejudice
Arizona, state of the Grand Canyon, endless summer days, and where wide roads and narrow minds coincide. Once again playing into the stereotype of being a gun toting, immigrant hating, overly conservative playground for the culturally ignorant, Arizona lawmakers have passed a bill about a week ago that would have given businesses the right to discriminate under the basis of “religious freedom.”
The bill was inspired by a case in New Mexico where a Christian photographer refused to photograph a gay couples commitment ceremony and was taken to court over it. The bill was written by a Christian organization called Alliance Defending Freedom and The Center for Arizona Policy and its goal is to guard Christian business owners from having to engage and serve members of the LGBT community and any other wayward sinners that may dare solicit their product or service. So basically if a business or religious institution can prove a discriminating action was caused by a religious conviction then no harm no foul and they will be protected from any lawsuits that would follow as a result of their prejudice.
So Where does Arizona Draw the Line?
Although the bill was brought to fruition by a Christian vs. Gay case, as it stands the bills language was a bit vague and could potentially authorize Arizona businesses to discriminate against anyone. Be it a Muslim, Jew, atheist, unwed mother, and anyone that doesn’t quite live up to a moral code of conduct set by their religious belief system.
Arizona State Governor Jan Brewer was quoted by CNN before deciding the veto saying, “I think anyone that owns a business can choose who they work with or who they don’t work with. But I don’t know that 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. That’s America. That’s freedom.” I suppose that sounds remotely reasonable? But what if we replaced the words “company or person” with African American? Whoah! Sounds a little…I don’t know discriminatory, racist, bigoted?
The question is how do we separate expressing religious freedom from someone just using that as a convenient mask for being an intolerant asshole? The Mormon religion has since changed its stance to adjust for modern attitudes, but it is still clearly stated in the book of Mormon that having darker skin is a curse from God to mark people that have rebelled against him.
“For behold they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people, the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. And thus saith the Lord God, I will cause that they become loathsome unto thy people, save they shall repent their iniquities.” 2 Nephi 5:21
Under the Right to Discriminate law a case could be reasonably made for a Mormon refusing work with or serve African Americans because they believe their God has cursed them. This is an extreme example but something that could come to pass based on the current understanding of the law. The Bill set out to mainly target the LGBT community, but it was a slippery slope and one that could easily have been used to blanket any minority group. Although not the first state to devise a religiously based discrimination law, Arizona is the first to actually pass it.
Earlier this week with just a few remaining days for Tea Party favorite Jan Brewer to sign the bill into law or reject it, national opinion and scrutiny was reaching fever pitch against Arizona lawmakers. Arizona has a history of being late to the game when it comes to social change and racism as displayed in the 1990 vote against recognizing MLK day as a holiday. Come on Arizona, who votes against having a day off? As a result of the controversy the 1993 Super Bowl was moved from Tempe to Pasadena. Many were worried history would repeat itself if the bill was passed leaving the state to suffer an economic impact with Super Bowl XLIX set to take place in Phoenix next year.
Why Jan Brewer Ultimately Decided to Veto The Bill
My guess is that Jan Brewer really wanted to sign this bill into law and believed in its validity as she is an active member of this countries Tea Party conservative group that holds such crazy views. Yet I also believe Jan Brewer is a coward and will sway her vote which ever way the wind blows. As public pressure began to mount against this bill, even from Republicans who were originally in support and began to regret their original vote yes, my guess is that it made for a much tougher decision on her part. The bill also became harder to defend in the national spotlight as it is so obviously an unfair discrimination against already put upon groups. Ms. Brewer is also more than likely motivated by her desire to get reelected next year, which would have become increasingly harder if the state lost another Super Bowl and had to deal with additional boycotts as a result of this bill passing. Smart move Brewer.
What do you think? We’d love to hear you sound off with your thoughts in the comments below!