The Meaning of the the Arizona Veto

With Vladimir Putin taking control of Crimea–he was mad at the Ukrainian people for forcing out  their pro-Russian tyrannical leader– came the temptation to write on the beginning of a new Cold War.

But that can come later. We have yet to see whether President Obama will act weakly like Jimmy Carter in the 1970s or strongly as Ronald Reagan did in the 1980s.

But we do know what happened in America last week when Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062. Religious liberty died and propaganda won.

Here’s the real meaning of the Arizona veto.

I will let some other voices set the stage. Gary Randall of the Faith and Freedom Network tells us the facts about SB 1062:

“It was simply an amendment to the 1999 state Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a state law similar to the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act [RFRA] signed into law in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.

“Senate Bill 1062, was designed to merely clarify the protection already offered in the state RFRA. It would have clarified that protections extend to any “state action” and would apply to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.  It protected all citizens and the associations they can form from undue burdens by the government on their religious liberty or from private lawsuits that would have the same results.”

It seems like an eternity ago when a Democratic president, House and Senate passed a bill  that was good for America. But the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, sponsored by then-Congressman Chuck Schumer-NY, passed on a unanimous voice vote in the House and a whopping 97-3 margin in the Senate.

Bill Clinton signed it. Good law–good leadership.

As Randall points out above, the Arizona bill was a mirror of the RFRA that clarified two minor points. You can read read its 680 words here. (It’s not 2000 pages long like Obamacare.)

What did it strengthen? 

Ryan Anderson of the Heritage Foundation explains:

“When the government starts forcing people to do things that violate their deeply held beliefs, we have a problem. Unless the government proves that there is a compelling government interest in doing so (and that there was not another, less restrictive means possible), citizens should be left free. We need legislation protecting religious liberty for all, because in a growing number of cases, government coercion and penalties have violated religious freedom.”

Arizona’s SB 1062 took a good law passed by Democrats eleven years ago and added two tweaks: 1) Government can’t force anyone to do anything unless it has a compelling interest to do so, and 2) That there is not another less restricted way to accomplish the same result.

If you took the time to the read SB 1062, you might be surprised that it was a generic bill that applied to all people, races, issues, situations, and circumstances.

It never mentioned gay rights or gay marriage.

So why did the vast majority of media outlets (including Fox News) trumpet headlines that the Arizona bill was  “anti-gay” or “anti-gay marriage?”

Ryan Anderson explains in the following Q&A:

Q: How did people’s beliefs about same-sex marriage become an issue?

A: “In New Mexico, a photographer declined to use her artistic talents to promote a same-sex ceremony because of her religious beliefs. The couple complained and the New Mexico Human Rights Commission ordered her to pay a fine of nearly $7,000. Christian adoption and foster-care agencies in Massachusetts, Illinois, and Washington, D.C., have been forced to stop providing those services because they believe that the best place for kids is with a married mom and dad. Other cases include a baker, a florist, a bed-and-breakfast, a student counselor, the Salvation Army, and more.”

Q: Why is this a religious liberty issue?

A: “Many religions teach that marriage is the union of a man and woman, and the religious liberty concern in these recent cases is that people are being coerced into violating that belief. While Americans are legally free to live and love as they choose, no one should demand that government coerce others into participating in activities that violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Q: But isn’t government supposed to guarantee equal treatment for all?

A: “These are cases of private individuals offering (or not offering) their services, not government officially recognizing same-sex relationships—which is another case altogether. There is no need for government to try to force every photographer and every florist to service every marriage-related event.”

Q: Would laws like these open the door to lots of businesses discriminating against gays and lesbians?

A: “Claims that proposals like Arizona’s encourage refusing service to gays and lesbians are simply nonsensical. Arizona’s proposed legislation never even mentioned same-sex couples or sexuality; it simply clarified and improved existing state protections for religious liberty.”

“Some people have claimed, for example, that it meant a pharmacy could refuse to serve gays and lesbians. But I know of no sincere religious belief that says you can’t sell penicillin to someone because they are gay or lesbian. Ensuring that all citizens have access to crucial medical care is a compelling government interest. And requiring every pharmacy to sell penicillin might very well be the least restrictive means possible of ensuring access.”

Q: What about people whose religions say different things, or Americans who choose not to practice a religion?

“These types of freedom protections are important for all Americans. As Cato’s Ilya Shapiro put it, ‘For that matter, gay photographers and bakers shouldn’t be forced to work religious celebrations…and environmentalists shouldn’t be forced to work job fairs in logging communities.’ When it comes to this particular issue, all Americans should remain free to believe and act in the public square based on their beliefs about marriage without fear of government penalty.”

Is that too hard to understand? Arizona’s reasonable law protected all people from being forced, in a myriad of situations, to violate their religious beliefs.

Forcing violations of conscience–in any area–is bad. Freedom is good. If government is going to force us to go against our strongly held religious beliefs (be they Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or Atheistic), then they better have:

  • A very compelling reason to do it,
  • In the least restrictive way possible.

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council put it this way:

“All SB 1062 did was ensure the government couldn’t force business owners to violate their religious beliefs. If that’s controversial, then so is the First Amendment…As Americans, we have a proud tradition of respecting each other’s differences — a tradition that was never threatened by this bill. On the contrary, it would have extended to Christians, who have suffered the loss of jobs, security, and money at the hands of the liberal agenda, the same courtesy of tolerance.”

Here are two other sane explanations of the Arizona bill.

Rich Lowry, writing in Politico, “The question isn’t whether businesses run by people opposed to gay marriage should provide their services for gay weddings; it is whether they should be compelled to by government. The critics of the much-maligned Arizona bill pride themselves on their live-and-let-live open-mindedness, but they are highly moralistic in their support of gay marriage, judgmental of those who oppose it and tolerant of only one point of view — their own.”

On last weekend’s “Meet the Press,” Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) hit back at the massive misinformation regarding SB 1062: 

“The notion that someone because they are gay would be denied service at a restaurant is something that Americans don’t support. The other side of the equation is imagine if you’re a Southern Baptist or a Catholic or even evangelical photographer, who does not believe, because of your faith, in gay marriage. And because of that, you don’t want to provide photographic services to a gay marriage. Should you be punished by the state for refusing to do so?”

The answer to that question should be a resounding NO.

So why did Governor Jan Brewer veto SB 1062? What is the meaning of the Arizona veto?

1. The current US Administration–and those who cowtow to it–are determined to enshrine secular values by force. These values include  forcing us to pay for abortions through the Affordable Care Care, removing the Judeo-Christian heritage from American life, and demanding that we support the re-definition of marriage.

Because government is all about force–the only sphere of society thus designed–it is crucial that this power is used minimally–and never to trample human rights to life, liberty and conscience.

2. We are becoming a banana republic where propaganda is more powerful than thoughtful argument and debate.  The Brewer veto of a good law–one that would have helped all Arizonans–came about because the media, some businesses (like the NFL), and government elites distorted a good law. The propaganda pressure over a politically correct issue (gay marriage) was too much for Governor Jan Brewer to resist.

She wilted–and freedom died.

Waves of propaganda are common in totalitarian countries–such as Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, China and Russia. But they are now finding their way into the West because of our ignorance, sin, and rejection of godly values. This is a troubling trend that sets the stage for Hitler-like deception and evil under the right circumstances.

3.  Christians must be prepared to suffer for their faith if present trends continue. The success of propaganda is the first step toward alienation and suffering by the “offensive” social group. Ask the Jews about that one–and followers of Christ in other eras. If authoritarian governments, in sync with media boosters and duped masses, can silence those who disagree with their objectives, then those “traitors” to the new order can be rounded up and a “final solution” served.

I believe the Western World is closer to Christian persecution than at any time in the past five hundred years.

4.  Only a tidal wave of godly renewal–and fearless leaders who will call for it! (think 21st century Martin Luther Kings)–can defeat the propaganda and its secular goals.

We are standing at a watershed moment in history. Russia, Iran, and China form formidable foes from without–and apathy, ignorance, and sin are destroying us from within.

May the Church rise up and pray, and may a new generation of leaders call God’s people to a rebirth of faith, morality and religious liberty.

May that be the result of the Arizona veto.


 

 

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