The Kansas legislature wisely turned away from enacting legalized gay-bashing in the name of religious freedom; at least this session. So the torch has been passed to another bunch of bigots, this time in Arizona.
The Arizona Senate voted 17-13 along party lines on Wednesday to approve SB 1062, a bill that would allow “any individual” to practice their religious beliefs without government consequence — essentially imposing a religious license to discriminate throughout the state. The House may take it up as early as Thursday.The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R), asserts that “this bill is not about discrimination,” but about “preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.” The bill would clearly go a step farther and allow those individuals to impose their religious beliefs on others. Like bills that have been proposed in other states but faltered, that most obviously would mean open season to discriminate against the LGBT community. Democratic Senators who opposed the bill highlighted numerous other possibilities that its vague language would allow:
Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, said the measure would allow a hotel operator who believes Mormonism is a cult to refuse to provide rooms to a family who walked in wearing Brigham Young T-shirts, indicating their religion. […]
Sen. Steve Farley, D-Tucson, wondered openly whether SB 1062 would provide new license for people like Warren Jeffs, head of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, to act against those who refuse to follow his edicts.
And Sen. Ed Ableser, D-Tempe, said the wording of the measure even would allow those who worship Satan to use their beliefs as a legal shield.
Yarbrough offered no counterargument to these claims, simply acknowledging that “the freedom of religion can be inconvenient.” He has previously said that such discrimination isn’t really a problem so long as there’s another business willing to provide the service nearby.
He gets a bonus square on Bigot Bingo by throwing in the idea of “separate but equal.” The Christian baker won’t sell you a wedding cake? Fine, try the Jewish deli next door.
The blatant unconstitutionality of this bill is so obvious that even I get it. The bill allows discrimination as long as its along sincerely held religious grounds. That requires the establishment of some standards of what “sincerely held” means and WHAM: there’s that pesky old First Amendment. The state cannot define what qualifies as a valid religion without crossing that line.
Then the law of unintended consequences kicks in with a vengeance. Any individual can practice their religious beliefs without government consequence? Setting aside the anti-gay discrimination, this opens the door to all sorts of things such as slavery (“Hey, it’s in the bible”) and stoning people to death for planting wheat next to corn. Speaking of stoning, I can see a whole lot of new faiths springing up like the Church of the Holy Bong where blazing a doobie is as sacred as a sip of wine at communion. That’s not a communion wafer, it’s a peyote button.
I hope the good people of Arizona have set aside a lot of money to pay the lawyers because of the hundreds of lawsuits that will be filed and which they will most assuredly lose.