Campfire Blog

What Is the Arizona Religious Freedom Bill Actually About?

The press, activists, and the elite are calling it discriminatory. It’s actually the opposite

pilgrims-factsIn all the accounts of the Arizona legislature’s controversial “anti-gay” bill, have you actually seen any text of the proposed law? I haven’t.

Because the text does not mesh with the demagogic-narrative that religious people are tyrannical. It is actually religious people whose rights are increasingly under assault. Consider for starters the fact that the Little Sisters of the Poor, all women, are suing the Obama administration to protect their freedom to operate according to their consciences.

The Arizona bill, called SB1062, is actually a state level reflection of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by, uh, President William J. Clinton in the 1990s. This is not radical, extreme, or hateful, and, as the Christian Post’s actual analysis of the bill–as opposed to everyone else’s breathless mischaracterizations–reveals it does not enshrine discrimination. In fact, under (current lack of) law in Arizona and most states, business owners can refuse service to potential customers for practically any reason.

All this law does is protect people who practice religion or any other belief from being forced to do things they don’t want to do. If you don’t want to participate in a same-sex union ceremony (or a regular Catholic marriage Mass, say) in any way, you shouldn’t have to, and this law further enshrines that principle, creating a quite high bar for the state to force any one to do anything against their conscience.

Here, courtesy of the Christian Post, are some of the primary planks of the bill (which, like all legislation today, is probably way too long):

  • ‘Those covered by RFRA would include “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.”

  • ‘A religious freedom violation can be asserted “regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.”

  • ‘The person asserting a religious freedom violation must show three things: “1. That the person’s action or refusal to act is motivated by a religious belief. 2. That the person’s religious belief is sincerely held. 3. That the state action substantially burdens the exercise of the person’s religious beliefs.”‘

Have you heard about an Oregon bakery that shut down rather than provide goods for a same-sex wedding? Or the photographer in New Mexico who was fined for refusing to photograph a wedding that he morally opposed?

Why should these people be forced to contribute their talents and selves to something with which they disagree. There’s a new type of tyranny developing here. And when legislators try to protect those rights, they’re labelled “anti-gay,” even though their legislation imposes no government burdens on gay people.

When we can’t even calm down and calmly and honestly discuss our differences, when we get into a frenzy about laws but don’t know what they say, we are entering a period of democratic breakdown. The clamor is so loud, unfettered, and so quick that even people inclined to side with religious freedom are afraid of disagreeing with the mob. This will happen fast.

Read the Christian Post’s analysis of the proposed Arizona religious freedom law (1 page).

And here is a helpful take on the debate from Ryan Anderson at the Heritage Foundation’s Foundry blog (1 page).


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