“Protecting the Religious” is Not about Religion

Arizona is in the news once again for its intolerant legislators’ penchant for seeking to legally oppress others and thereby appease their zealot constituents.  As history has shown, it’s never a good idea to allow bigotry and hate to run amok in politics. The result of the immigration-crackdown law, SB 1070, in 2010, for example, was dismal with businesses refusing to do business with Arizona. It was not only harmful to immigrants, it was harmful to the Arizona economy. Now we have another dangerous bill, Senate Bill 1062, which was passed in the Senate by a 17-13 party-line vote. This bill seeks to do little more than to allow people to discriminate by refusing to do business with other people who do not share the business owners’ own personal religious convictions. The examples given are the refusal of businesses run by people with religious convictions to serve gays. Or the refusal to serve people of differing faiths like Muslims, or no faith at all like atheists. Arizona is essentially seeking to legalize discrimination. And the rationale behind it is purely religious. Or is it?

I am not religious myself, but I do have friends who are very devoutly religious who would never dream of discriminating against me for being an atheist or against others for being gay. So by whose interpretation of any given religion are we basing these laws that claim to be protecting the right of the religious to live in accordance with their religion? It would seem to me that anything goes. I can claim a religion of my own and say that any people that bother me or disturb me or don’t fit my picture of “righteous” are threatening my religious freedoms by simply being around me. So by referencing this law, I can essentially incorporate my own personal prejudices and hate into part of my “religion” for the sake of LEGALLY actively discriminating against others in public. I, along with others, can turn my community into a virtual minefield of hate for certain other people who are so unfortunate to step into it. Wow!

So then how does religion actually play a part in this? If I were to enter into a civil case for being discriminated against in Arizona under this new bill, how would the religious person I am suing for discrimination prove that the threat to them from me – the reason they refused to sell to me or serve me – was religious and not just a personal hatred for people like me? Would they cite verse? Is the courtroom now going to become the place where we decide how to interpret scripture? And given the breadth of ancient taboo, what CANNOT be interpreted as a threat to “religious freedoms?” What I see here is not an effort to protect religious freedoms. The U.S. Constitution already does that. What I see is an attempt to legalize hatred in public and in practice. This latest embarrassment in Arizona  is not a bill for protecting religious freedoms. It is hateful people hiding behind their religions in order to justify – and in this extreme case PRACTICE –  their hatred through legally sanctioned discrimination. Shame on the people of Arizona for allowing such open and blatant hatred in America!

What I would like to see is ONE SINGLE CHRISTIAN get on the news and explain that this is not what they believe their religion to mean and it seems more like a matter of hate than a matter of religion. Where are these Christians?


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