Saturday, February 22, 2014

Arizona Gov Jan Brewer Weighs a Law Sanctioning Discrimination

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer -(Photo -
The state of Arizona is back in the headlines again and its reputation as a bastion of intolerance is once more making waves.

It was just over a month ago that Arizona State University faced media scrutiny after photos of the school's TKE fraternity chapter were posted online showing members mocking African-American culture at a "Martin Luther King Black Party" over the MLK holiday weekend.   

Last week, under the guise of protecting the religious sensibilities of Arizona business owners who might otherwise have to treat same sex customers equally, the extremist Republican lawmakers who represent the majority in the state capital passed House Bill 2153.

The bill, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, (also called a "Christian Shield" law) would permit Christian business owners to refuse service to same sex couples or homosexuals if doing so violated the owner's religious beliefs.

It would set an extremely disturbing precedent, and if Governor Jan Brewer (pictured above) decides to pass it she may as well go ahead and just change the state motto to "The Discrimination State".

As a recent article in the Christian Science Monitor pointed out, that means a baker or a wedding photographer could legally refuse to serve a same-sex couple if they felt it violated their religious principles.

But what's next? Allowing business owners to refuse to serve someone who's Asian or African-American or Pakistani because doing so violated someone's religious beliefs? It's completely subjective and proactively permits someone to discriminate against another person to protect the abstract and amorphous Republican notion of "Religious Freedom".

The text of the law comes straight out of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) playbook which has developed a strange slew of arguments that use protecting an individual's "Religious Freedom" as an umbrella to oppose virtually any law that conservative ideology opposes.

So for example as we all know, Republican members of Congress oppose the Affordable Care Act (in part) because it mandates that certain reproductive health services for women must be covered by insurance providers - thereby violating the "Religious Freedom" of tax-paying Americans who oppose birth control or abortion procedures.  

In this age when unemployment is still at historic highs, the economic recovery is still fragile, wages for working Americans have been stagnant for decades, the Federal Government is rife with waste, the tax system needs to be overhauled, the nation's infrastructure needs massive investment and the US incarcerates people at the highest rate in the world - we can all thank God Republicans are putting their legislative efforts into protecting American's "Religious Freedoms".

The positive thing is most people in Arizona do not support the Religious Freedom bill. Coalitions of business owners who cater to homosexuals and same-sex couples have come out in opposition to the Arizona Republican efforts to introduce state-sanctioned discrimination observing that it will harm the state's economy by making Arizona hostile to homosexual tourists, employees, employers and visitors.

I think the former Arizona Tourism Advisory Council member Edwin Leslie summed it up best. He resigned back in 2012 to protest Governor Brewer revoking benefits for same-sex couples. In a letter to the governor he wrote, "Your efforts discriminate against one part of the state's residents to appease a small fraction of the state's population."

I think that quote equally applies to Arizona's 2014 efforts to allow business owners to discriminate.

It also describes the current insanity of the Tea Party and the extremists who now control the GOP.

As we saw with national calls for reasonable gun control legislation in the wake of Sandy Hook, or the government shutdown over the sequester last year, Republicans will act in violation of the best interests of the nation and the will of the majority of Americans in order to appease the extremist ideology of a numerical minority.

That's the real violation of freedom. 

No comments: