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Sunday, October 23, 2016

WASHINGTON — Social and religious conservatives should have been the first to oppose the Arizona Legislature’s effort to allow businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Partisans of the religious right apparently don’t feel this way, but here’s why they should: Pushing “conscience exemptions” beyond reasonable limits threatens a long-standing American habit of having government go out of its way to accommodate the commitments of religious people.

Conscience should not be used as a battering ram to undermine any adjustment in the law that some group doesn’t like. Using conscience exemptions to facilitate backdoor resistance to social change takes something precious and turns it into a cheap political tactic.

That’s why conservatives should be grateful that Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the anti-gay bill.

Those who cherish religious faith ought to be heartsick that it is so often invoked not to advance compassion and understanding but rather to justify discrimination and even bigotry. This is doing serious harm to our religious traditions, particularly among the young.

The millennials are more detached from organized religion than any earlier cohort of young Americans since polling began: Roughly one-third reject formal religious affiliation. Many scholars — notably Robert Putnam and David Campbell, whose American Grace is the definitive book on the United States’ religious landscape — attribute this to the hyper-politicization of faith on the right.

To young adults, Campbell and Putnam wrote in a 2012 article in Foreign Affairs, “‘religion’ means ‘Republican,’ ‘intolerant,’ and ‘homophobic.’ Since those traits do not represent their views, they do not see themselves — or wish to be seen by their peers — as religious.”

Congratulations to the Arizona Legislature for doing such an excellent job at de-evangelization.

But the promiscuous resort to conscience exemptions is a more immediate danger to religious groups. Religious accommodations in our laws reflect our devotion to liberty and pluralism. They involve an ongoing effort to balance robust protections for faith groups on the one hand with the need for laws of general application on the other. Destroying the equilibrium would undercut the search for accommodation.

For both pragmatic and principled reasons, supporters of marriage equality have already gone out of their way to respect the objections of many faiths to blessing homosexual unions.

In November 2012, Maryland’s voters approved gay marriage by a majority of 52 percent to 48 percent. Key to this victory (and to victories elsewhere) was the willingness of marriage equality’s supporters to acknowledge the freedom of religious institutions to run their own affairs.

  • rose maryawn

    My Uncle Caleb just got red Ford Focus ST
    by working off of a computer. try this B­u­z­z­3­2­.­ℂ­o­m

    • TheRightisohsoWrong

      To hell with you and your uncle! STOP SPAMMING COMMENT PAGES!!

      • Allan Richardson

        Don’t bother replying. It’s possible that Rose didn’t even know “she” was sending that spam; it could have been a bot infecting her machine. Getting angry with her will not stop it.

        • 1standlastword

          yeah…at least she published an attractive pic shot…;-)

        • kmkirb

          Sorry Allan, really? did you look at her profile? That’s all it is with this garbage tool!! Flag it for SPAM & report it.

        • Ford Truck

          Now I’m mad at you for telling me not to be mad at her!

    • kmkirb

      Flagged for SPAM!!

  • TZToronto

    If the Arizona bill were to be come law (it’s already been vetoed at this point), what’s next? Would someone who owns a restaurant and has sincere religious (e.g., Christian) beliefs be allowed to refuse service to a Muslim or a Hindu? How about a Lutheran restaurant owner refusing service to a Catholic? You can be certain that if Muslim restaurant owner refused to serve a fundamentalist Christian, there’d be a huge outcry from those on the far right. The Governor was completely correct when she said that the bill was too broad–but that’s not the reason she vetoed it, I think. The economic backlash against Arizona would have been crippling to the state.

  • gmccpa

    In a perfect world, this article would make sense. But realistically, social and religious conservatism had nothing to do with Arizona’s proposed ban. It was plain and simple bigotry.

    And regards to ‘conscious exemption’. That’s meaningful….if your religion is outside the mainstream. But the people behind these types of bills, are from the most dominant religious group in the Country. They’ve never needed, and likely never will need, conscious exemption. So they basically make up scenarios where they can invoke it. Its ONLY use to them is as a ‘political battering ram’.

    The GOP has used religion to rile up their base for decades now. They induce fear and fabricate an anti Christian sentiment (ie War on Christmas) for the sole purpose of using religion to promote their ‘conservative agenda’. Nothing they do or say has any real connection to religion.

    • Independent1

      Did you ever get all that right!! Nothing the GOP does is truly related to Christianity. A political party whose maniacal obsession is MONEY and doing everything it can to promote the accumulation of it, could never do anything that is truly Christian, especially when everything it focuses on is akin to Devil worship.

  • James Bowen

    Good points in this column. I am so pleased that Gov. Brewer vetoed this bill. This is a governor who makes decisions based on common sense and not on political ideology. Wish we had more like her.

    I think these anti-gay bills that have come up in state legislatures this year were motivated by the recent decisions to allow certain employers to exempt contraceptive coverage under Obamacare if they have religious objections to contraception. This argument should not have stood up there, and allowing it to has led to this slippery slope.

    • Independent1

      I agree with some of your comment, but suggesting that Gov. Brewer makes decisions based on common sense is nonsense – she made this decision purely on political pressure even from within her own party. Many of the decisions she has made are absolutely idiotic!!

      • James Bowen

        My observation is that she is pretty independent-minded. When she became governor, one of the first actions she took was to propose raising taxes (can’t remember if it was sales, property, or some other tax) in order to help close their deficit. Some GOP members of the legislature actually walked out when she did that. She also vetoed the “birther” bill they passed in 2011. Most of the decisions she has made were very good ones. If she ran for President, she would have my vote.

      • gmccpa

        100% agree. It wa$ political pre$$ure.

        • Allan Richardson

          Political pressure can be used for good as well as evil. Remember, the best way to stop a bad guy with a checkbook is with good guys with checkbooks.

          • Faraday_Cat

            No, the best way to stop a bad guy with a checkbook is to marginalize the impact of any checks he writes as to be worthless…

          • Allan Richardson

            In the long run, yes, if you are referring to getting the rules changed to get money out of politics. But in the short term (i.e. AT LEAST this election), the good guys have do donate as much as we can afford, AND use low-cost techniques such as phone banks, volunteer networks, door to door canvassing, etc. (which still take SOME money, but not as much as big ticket advertising).

            By the way, do you live in Georgia? If so, are you volunteering in a campaign such as Nunn for Senate or Carter for Governor?

        • kmkirb

          Count me in on that one Independent1. It wa$ political pre$$ure from the ‘sea hag’ & nothing more!

    • Independent1

      Here’s some comments on an article about Tesla looking to build a battery factory in either Texas, New Mexico, Arizona or Nevada which somewhat support my comments about Brewer’s lack of common sense. One of the main drawbacks for Arizona is all the less than common sense legislaltion that Brewer allows to go on. Here’s the comments from the article:

      The risk here? What was all over the news last week. Arizona — led by Governor Jan Brewer — seems to engage in stunt politics more frequently than any other state. When it’s not pulling people over
      in traffic for the crime of being brown, it’s floating bills that allow business owners to not serve homosexuals. Building a factory in Arizona might not mesh with the progressive politics of the average Tesla buyer.

      And she didn’t veto the bill because of any common sense – she vetoed it because her own party twisted her arm ; McCain and others helping out.

      • James Bowen

        She vetoed the bill because it was not in the state’s interest to have it become law. That is common sense. This article comment is also really unfair in its potshot at SB 1070. Arizona has had a major problem with illegal immigration. SB 1070 requires that anyone stopped by the police in the normal course of police duties also have their immigration status checked. That, along with banning sanctuary cities and strengthening the Legal Arizona Workers Act (LAWA, the 2007 Arizona law that mandated E-Verify for all employers), was the main thrust of the bill and the courts have upheld all of those provisions. LAWA and SB1070 have been very effective in combating illegal immigration in Arizona. Arizona’s illegal population has dropped considerably. Brewer signed SB 1070 because it was in the state’s interest.

  • Dominick Vila

    Arizona’s anti-gay law hurts religion only if the religion in question is Christianity. Since Arizona’s latest position on 21st values is consistent with radical Islam, I think it is fair to say that it reinforces the anti-gay positions taken by Islamic fundamentalists and, therefore, it does not represent a threat to that religion. It is, however, inconsistent with the teachings of Jesus Christ who did not discriminate or threaten those whose opinion or preferences were different than his.

    • jointerjohn

      That kind of clear and unemotional thinking will give many right wing Christians a headache Dom. But then again, if they reasoned through the true tenets of their faith as you have, they would immediately disassociate themselves from the entire republican party.

  • Allan Richardson

    The bill would even have allowed individuals who WORK FOR the public in law enforcement, fire fighting, building code enforcement, driver licensing, etc. to make up their OWN PERSONAL RULES about who should be served, protected, rescued, allowed to open a business, etc.

    A firefighter called to work a fire at a liquor distillery would have been “justified” in refusing to extinguish a fire because of a disapproval of alcohol (Muslim, fundamentalist Christian, or just plain personal philosophy as a recovering alcoholic).

    A homophobic police officer could have refused to answer a crime report when the victim was obviously gay, and maybe try to arrest the victim instead (despite the law), using “Christian values” as an excuse (in actual history, when the war hero cryptologist and math genius Alan Turing reported a burglary in his London home in 1954, nine years after the war he helped to win, Scotland Yard discovered he was living with his secret gay lover, DROPPED the burglary investigation, and prosecuted Turing instead, under the then-legal charge of homosexuality, leading to his suicide within a year; Arizona would have allowed the individual cop to make up such a policy on his own).

    An EMT who had recently become a Jehovah’s Witness could “witness” by refusing to perform blood transfusions, allowing the patient to die, and cite “religious liberty” as an excuse not only to avoid prosecution for manslaughter, but to keep his job as well!

    And a DMV driving examiner could decide to fail applicants belonging to ANY minority group he didn’t like, denying them a license, or at least costing them the fee, the inconvenience of finding an HONEST testing location, and the delay required by law before retesting.

    And anyone could think of other examples of people justifying their personal hatred as “religious doctrine” or misusing actual religious teaching by forcing its restrictions on persons of other religions, in obvious violations of the OTHER person’s religious freedom.

    • Independent1

      In reality then, the Arizona law was nothing more than potential disaster situations just waiting to happen.

    • kmkirb

      Exactly Allan Richardson. This is so spot on with all the examples you provided, & more besides, as to what so many people seem to keep on missing. I keep repeating this over & over to other people. If this disgusting bill would have perchance been passed, it would have been an absolute gateway to cause so many problems in other areas where people never stop to think that they may occur. It would have been an open end to discrimination in every form possible.

      If this kind of discrimination is allowed, stop & think about the wide birth it will create in ever faction of life & reality. We must NEVER allow discrimination of any sort. This goes against our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, & our Bill of Rights. We are a social society, & we should have each others backs when it comes to equality in every way, shape, & form.

      Otherwise, what would be next? We stop serving or supporting all red headed step children, for just one simple example? Good grief!

  • Kurt CPI

    OK, this should stir up the hornet’s nest… In my experience, and of course there are exceptions, religious people (Christians) are the most likely of all to embrace one held belief while rejecting another, using the former to justify the latter. This begins with “judge not…” – nowhere will you find more judgmental people than among US Christians. But the same goes for political dogma consumers. For instance, Republicans continue to tout “supply-side” economics even though it has led to the greatest degree of income inequality in our history – supply-side is their religion. Democrats want income equality to be enforced by government – many on a grand scale – that ignores the downside, even when put forth as the sound theories of Nobel Laureate economists. At some point maybe we can all realize that we need to look at the big picture, consider all the probabilities, and proceed according to what makes the most sense instead of what falls in line with our personal belief system. In this case, after seeing the results of prohibition in the early part of the last century; the dismal failure of the “war on drugs”; the recent civil disobedience by hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Connecticut gun owners – why would this even be a consideration? ALL of our Constitutional rights must be treated equally and defended with a collective vengeance. None of us have the right to select which ones should apply to others based on our personal ideologies.

    • charleo1

      When you say, “religious people,” that covers the majority of the
      human race. As most people believe in some religiosity. I read
      that someone had taken a poll, it’s not pertinent for this discussion
      who. But, the poll found about 90% or more of us believe there is
      a higher power, and that power is interested in what we do, and often takes an active part in our everyday lives. The poll also found a large majority of us believe in ghosts, angels, and that extraterrestrials have either visited us in the past, or are as we speak, monitoring, and studying our progress, or lack thereof, as a specie. And I think it’s safe to say, every mainstream religion has within it’s ranks, the assortment of zealots, ideologues, and those who would use this soft spot so prevalent in us humans, to acquire power, and promote agendas that have absolutely nothing to do with religion. But do make an excellent wedge, in dividing, and then ultimately, conquering. That’s why such a large number of Christians, not involved with the evangelical and, fundamentalist movements, judge them to be a cult, or semi-cult. That indeed is thinning the ranks, and engendering within this Country at least, a tremendous amount of negative blowback aganist all Christians. That, and to be fair, the sex scandal that continues to plague the Roman Catholic Church. So, the battle within the battle, being fought at the retail end of Christendom, is to fill the pews every Sunday morning, with younger converts to replace the aging, and dwindling number of believers. And it is here the mega-churches, are winning that fight, hands down. By preaching a combination of a feel good message, interspersed with a non-inclusive, narrative of victimhood. Hundreds of thousands listen via television, radio, and internet. And are warned, time, and again, that Christians are under attack by a secular court, and a liberty averse Left Wing, that seeks to abolish American’s freedom of religion. And it is for this group, that make up a good part of the Republican Party’s base, that the Arizona State House passed this particular piece of legislation. It is T-Party
      to the core. As another study found, those that identify themselves
      as supporters of the ultra-conservative, right. Believed the
      separation between Church, and State, was never the intention
      of the Founders. And, in overwhelming numbers felt that more
      Christian Doctrine, not less, should be made the law of the land.
      And, would actively work, and donate to those candidates that
      favored that agenda. That is a majority, of a small minority that
      many agree, are guiding the Republican Party at this time.

      • kmkirb

        “That is a majority, of a small minority that many agree, are guiding the Republican Party at this time.”

        Thank goodness they are a small minority, since I & many others in my circle of people that believes emphatically in our Father God, but in no way believes in the agenda that the GOTP & their limiting beliefs are pushing with their ideologue ways.

        • charleo1

          Well said. Thank goodness, indeed!

      • Kurt CPI

        I should have removed my expression “religious people” instead of qualifying it with “(Christians)” in parentheses and later “US Christians” further down the page.

        That said, you make a lot of really good points. When I said “religious people” I did not mean “people of faith”, but rather people who identify as belonging to a major Christian religion. I do believe “Evangelical Christian” now carries the mantra of a major religion even though evangelicals are more of a union of independent churches. I don’t disparage the wonderful ways that faith can help people to overcome life’s tribulations – or at least get them emotionally through it. But there is certainly an exclusivity to the club that seems apparent. Like most, I don’t discount that there is something greater than myself, greater than humanity, at work in the cosmic scheme. I just don’t pretend to have pinpointed any single conceptual path that explains it all and nullifies all others. I will re-state a position that I have put forth several times: If it were’t for reproductive rights issues, Christians on the whole would be Democrats. The Democratic Party’s stated missions are far more in line with the teachings of Christianity than those of Republicans, or even Libertarians in the sense that Democratic “dogma” includes the government’s hand in insuring charity.

        The “religious right” does indeed put forth the assertion that “separation of Church and State” as a total disconnect was not the intent of the drafters of the Constitution. The term does not appear in the Constitution, rather the first amendment states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…” In that sense, although I personally believe religion has no place in government, the position is valid. A literal read basically says government cannot define a national religion and anyone can practice the religion of their choice without restriction. Nowhere does it state that religion must be excluded from things like public buildings, public display, etc. Those are reads between the lines at best. On one hand, if government were to spend money on displaying the trimmings of a specific religion, that could be taken as “establishment” even though no law is passed. But the idea that Christians can’t place, for instance, a nativity scene in a public park at Christmas is a stretch IMHO. That would seem to conflict with “prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”. Which takes me back to the crux of my post, the Constitution must be defended regardless of personal beliefs. It’s not for me to say what provisions I like or which ones I disagree with, or to try and second-guess “what they really meant” when they went so out of their way to make it as simple and clear as is possible in language.

    • charleo1

      (Responding to your second, comment, here.) No, actually the term, religious people, is appropriate. We remain as infatuated with the spiritual as ever. Just not organized religion. And certainly the joining of the Evangelicals, with the Right Wing of politics, has left much of the under 40 demographic feeling, I’ll be kind and say, less than inspired. This is but one element, that keeps the Republican number crunchers up at night. Because this group seems to be more idealistic, and altruistic. As Conservatives have embraced cynicism, and narcissism, as their de facto default position in matters of policy. Especially as they relate to the Gov. Whether that attitude would change if they were to be successful in joining Church with State, is not clear. My guess is, the role of a Church/State, Gov. would not be smaller. But, be reassigned to oversee, and regulate social norms, and matters of morality, that heretofore had been considered out of bounds, for a Gov. in a free society. China’s one child policy, is one such example of social engineering by the State, that might flow from such a reassignment. A dark turn of events, in my opinion, not so out of the realm of possibility, as one might think. Secondly, as history clearly demonstrates, Theocracies are never democratic. Their reigns, and regimes are marked by oppression, violent in-fighting, and instability. If we think the D’s and the R’s are bad, just wait until the United Southern Baptist square off aganist the Assembly of God, over their cut of the public education funds. And the Catholics have everything locked down, because the head of the Ways and Means Committee is also a Bishop, with direct ties to the Pope!

      • Kurt CPI

        Your last paragraph couldn’t be more on the money. History shows that this is the case, hence the simple, clear, concise fractional sentence in the Constitution that prohibits this.

  • Stuart

    It’s the religious right that does all the stupid things. So, please remember there is such a thing as the religious left. That’s where the real Christians are. You’re seeing some of that with the new pope to the extent that he ended up on the cover of Rolling Stone.

  • ljbaker

    Thank you for the word of Maryland’s law. But what happens when a judge over rules the will of the people (as judges have done in many states who voted for marriage to be defined as between a man a a woman) and declares the part concerning the protection of clergy and the church to not marry same-sex couples? Then we have same sex marriage without protection from harassment toward anyone who opposes it?

    • charleo1

      You ask what happens when a judge overrules the will of the people, who voted for marriage to be defined as between one
      man, and one woman? The short answer is, when an invalid referendum is erroneously placed on the ballot, it is done so,
      solely to increase the number of voters most likely to turn out
      in favor of denying same sex couples the Right to marry.
      That would be voters most likely to vote for the same candidates
      that these people work for, who got the bogus referendum put
      on the ballot in the first place. In other words, it was a trick.
      Because, none of these referendums have survived their first
      court challenge. Be it a Conservative judge, or a Liberal one.
      The foundational reason these referendums are not passing
      muster in the courts, is they put to a vote, that which is not
      subject to the popular vote. That would be a Right protected by
      the Constitution. Many find objections within the equal protection
      clause. Others find the State has no overriding interest in the
      prohibition of same sex marriage. No church by the way, will
      ever be forced to preform these ceremonies.

  • Lovefacts

    I’m so tired to these “Christians”–who are the majority of the country–claiming they’re persecuted by anyone who disagrees with their politics, while passing legislation to force the rest us to live according to their view of what’s acceptable behavior. Over the past few years, I’ve come to the conclusion the actions of the religious right along with those of the super wealthy will be the destruction of this country. The former wants to turn the country into their image of what a Christian nation should look like. Those of us who disagree, we can lose our citizenship. Whereas, the latter wants to own the country, ensure all the laws and tax code protect them, and in the process turn all the rest of us into serfs.

    • Faraday_Cat

      You forgot that the latter “Christians” want to legislate the country into their image of what a Christian nation looks like, without actually having to follow those rules themselves (i.e. if they really were concerned with the sanctity of marraige there would be no divorced christians).

  • Budjob

    Brewer didn’t veto this bill because it was morally reprehensible,she vetoed it purely for economic reasons!

  • 1standlastword

    I’ve always viewed organized religion as a double edged sword that seems to propagate as much evil as it does good in the world. It seems to follow that religion is a poor antidote against evil and on the contrary is a NOT requirement for good so why do so many people depend on it?

    Is that what we are suppose to gain from this example??

    • Allan Richardson

      Some people, especially after suffering from the effects of their prior self-destructive habits, may repent and clean up their lives as a result of hearing a religious message, who may not pay attention to a secular ethical message. Likewise, people convicted of violent crimes in the stereotypical “gang” lifestyle, may be helped by religion.

      But like prescription drugs, the response is individually determined, and there are side effects, particularly if the prescription is adulterated. As a analogy, I remember the contrast between the USMC advertising slogan in the 1950s and 1960s, and an ironic commentary from the left based upon it: “The Marine Corps builds (MEN / Oswalds).” And if you think about it, THAT statement is true either way also! Some people respond to military training by becoming highly ethical and honorable individuals, others by breaking and becoming sociopaths.

      Basically, the problem with organized religion is when it gets TOO organized!

      • 1standlastword

        So true.
        Organized religion can be a way into a spiritual life but again it is not required. Organized religion is nothing more than sanctioned “group think” and therein lies the problem when individuals can cast off accountability going along with the group.
        I seriously believe the radicals that promoted this heinous bill totally depend on a sanctioned group think model to function in everyday normal life. They divine gods will in the numbers…or as you infer being too organized

    • Mark Forsyth

      Who was it that said”Religion is the opiate of the masses”? In this regard I would view that as a true statement.

      • 1standlastword

        Sigmund Freud or Nietzsche…???

        • Mark Forsyth

          Thanks.I was thinking it was Marx or Lenin.

        • Mark Forsyth

          I just looked it up,turns out that it was Marx afterall.I wouldn’t doubt that other notables have repeated it.

  • Mark Forsyth

    If you run a business that is open to the public,then it should be open to ALL the public.

  • T.j. Thomas

    It occurred to me when I was reading the bill that the “religious freedom” language in the bill (or rather the broadening of the scope of the law the bill would amend) was so all-encompassing that it wouldn’t just be gays who might be discriminated against, but also Christians. If any business owners of a non-Christian faith wanted to discriminate against Christian patrons on religious grounds they could do it, and there wouldn’t be anything the Christians could do about it except either repeal the law or try to change it in unconstitutional ways.

  • HowardBrazee

    Places where religion has been co-opted by the powerful for their own ends have created populations that are less faithful to their churches. According to the scriptures, Jesus Christ was for the weak, welcomed the sinners, and warned about how difficult it was for the wealthy to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. He argued with the Righteous, preferring to be good.

    When someone claims the values that make them rich, or keep others down are Christian (or American or Freedom or whatever) values – Don’t believe them.

  • Lisztman

    In a related move, the Arizona Legislature has now taken up a measure to declare that the office of the Governor must be occupied by a white male (such as Jesus).
    One GOP legislator from Tucson was quoted (off the record, anonymously) as saying that “the Bible tells us that women are to be subservient. They should be staying at home barbecuing steaks for their hard-working husbands.” When it was pointed out that Jesus was not a “white male” (in the Caucasian sense) he replied that Jesus “didn’t look African to me.”

  • Daniel Jones

    Whenever religious freedom is used as an excuse for religious tyranny, the cannier among the general public turn against the measure pretty much without exception.

    It helps to remember that the desire to worship without restriction was what motivated many of the initial immigrants to the New World.

  • Hutchbilly

    It is so sad christians move to intolerance, thinking they are righteous Jesus said to go and sin no more, and to love others as ourself, not to create a new colony of societal lepers that you had to refuse to be in contact with. We are told to endure hardship as a good soldier, and I guess there are poor numbers in God’s army now.

  • latebloomingrandma

    Regarding florists who would not provide flowers for a gay wedding, how many homophobes will not buy flowers from a gay florist? Do you ask the florist if he/she is gay before ordering ? How about the cake baker?
    This is just all nuts! All the talk about “freedom” and free enterprise, yet some want to put caveats on the free exercise of commerce. Some conservatives are very confused. So much for the American melting pot.