SB1062 Another Media Red Herring

The Arizona Republic has projected its prejudice on SB1062 just as it did, and continues to do, with SB1070.  The only entity, that I am aware of, that persistently used 1070 to demean Arizona and try to tarnish our reputation nationally is the Arizona Republic.  Literally everyone I know from out of state that commented on 1070 told me they were glad to see at least one state stand up for our national security.  If memory serves, in spite of the Republic’s continued bad press about our state, there were months following the passage of 1070 when tourism, as evidenced by the number of reported occupied hotel beds, increased.  Our state executive branch brags about how well our state economy is doing relative to the rest of the country and concurrently the press keeps reporting how terribly damaged our economy has been.  Additionally, I know snow birds that were looking to move to Texas, Florida or other states before 1070 was passed.  After it was passed they decided to stay. Arizonans are being wrongly bludgeoned again by our own press for preserving our right to the free exercise of our religion. (Similarly, 1070 codified more protections for minority rights in Arizona than the federal statute it was based on; but I never read an article pointing out that fact.)

Two examples are given for the necessity of SB1062.  They are the photographer in New Mexico and the bakery in Colorado.  In both cases the government ruled against protecting their constitutionally guaranteed unalienable right to the free exercise of religion.   Although Amendment I of the U.S. Constitution places a restriction on Congress passing laws, the principle protecting any freedom is moot if the courts can create laws to violate our constitutionally guaranteed civil rights.

In those two cases the defendants were not asked to simply bake a cake or take photographs.  It is very probable that they have baked cakes for gays and lesbians and taken portraits of gays and lesbians.  Their objections rise in protest to what is now law, under court orders.  That is to compel them to actively participate in, and thereby support, ceremonies that violate their basic religious tenants of faith.

SB1062 gives specific guidance to the courts establishing the proof required to demonstrate that the requested actions “SUBSTANTIALLY BURDENS THE EXERCISE OF THE PERSONS RELIGIOUS BELIEFS.” In other words, based on the two exemplar cases, the “substantial burden” must be a service that requires the defendant to actively do something in support of conduct or a ceremony that violates a tenant of their religion.  I think the courts can figure this out.  With out this statute, the courts are left with no legislative guidance and we could end up with truly unintended consequences and chaos. Freedom of religion per se, is not guaranteed in the Arizona Constitution, only in the U.S. Constitution, so legislative guidance is all the more necessary for our judiciary.

Extreme examples, such as denying a single woman cab service, are offered as being upheld under this legislation.  However, the Arizona Constitution, Article II Section 12 provides that the protection of such conduct is prohibited.  It states, “The liberty of conscience [morality or religion] . . . shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state.”  Put another way, our State Constitution already prohibits the conduct those opposed to SB1062 point to as absurd applications of the statute.  It may be difficult with recent decisions, but give our judges a little credit will you!

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