As you know, the First Amendment of our Constitution says “Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” Unfortunately, there is a segment of our society that believes those words give them the right to infringe on others’ civil rights. Some of that segment are members of the Arizona legislature.
They’re called Republicans.
As proof, I direct you to SB 1062, a Teapublican-sponsored bill which if signed into law would allow businesses to refuse service to anyone based on the business owners’ religious beliefs. The bill is intended to target the LGBT community. But, as you will see, it impacts everyone. The bill reads: “Exercise of religion: means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”
In other words, Teapublicans in the Arizona legislature believe that the exercise of religion includes the ability to deny civil rights to others.
We’ve seen this play out before. If SB 1062 is signed into law by our finger-wagging governor, it will be almost immediately challenged as unconsitutional. Like the ill-conceived racist law known as SB 1070, it will cost the state tens of millions in lost tourism and wasted legal fees. Indeed, Arizona is just now beginning to recover from that fiasco.
Worse, if the bill is somehow found constitutional by the constitutionally-illiterate majority of the US Supreme Court, it will open the door to more discrimination. We’ve already seen business owners file lawsuits to allow them to impose their religious beliefs on employees by refusing to pay for health insurance plans that include contraceptives for women while, at the same time, paying for men’s “boner” pills.
If business owners can arbitrarily refuse service to the LGBT community, what’s to prevent business owners from refusing service or employment to African-Americans, Asians, Latinos or Native Americans for supposed religious reasons? What if a business owner claims religious objections to refuse service to liberals, Democrats, Teapublicans, Jews, Protestants, Catholics, Mormons, military veterans, children, seniors, homeless, poor people, rich people, men or women?
As I’ve often said, there is no such thing as partial equality. The concept of equality is absolute. We either have equal rights or we don’t. Whatever god or gods one chooses to worship does not change that.
Given that this is an election year, and the fact that the same law is being proposed in other Teapublican-controlled states, I don’t think the bill’s sponsors seriously believe that SB 1062 will ever go into effect. As with all of the party’s previous “social issues,” I believe the real intent is to divide and distract; to rile the mouth-breathing Teapublican base into a religious fervor in order to ensure high voter turn-out. Meanwhile, it’s likely to serve as a distraction for Democrats and independents, causing them to spend precious time and resources on the issue instead of on candidates who can repeal such idiocy.
Similar strategies have worked many times in the past.