Religious Freedom must be protected at all costs
by Bishop Tom Brown
There are a lot of negative things being said about the Arizona’s Bill of Religious Freedom; however, I want to make a defense of the bill. It simply allows individuals, including businesses, to refuse business on the grounds that it conflicts with their religious practices.
My daughter is a ghost writer. Imagine that an atheist wants her to ghost write a book that tries to debunk Christianity. Is she forced to take that business? I do not think my daughter should be forced, by law, to ghost write that book, do you?
Of course people are not thinking of my daughter’s religious freedom when it comes to the law. They are thinking that gays will be discriminated against by the bill.
The example usually sited is a photographer is asked to photograph a gay wedding. Let’s say it is her religious view that gays cannot get married by God. So should she be forced to take pictures when it is against her religious views? Can both groups be equally accommodated? Probably not; however, the first amendment trumps everything.
I am very concern that people are using their morals to force others to compromise their morals. However, I do not think the constitution forces businesses to accept all customers. Businesses may have all sorts of legal and legitimate reasons why they do not want to accept a job. Religious reasons cannot be discarded as a reason.
People are rightly concerned, however, that the Arizona law could permit racial discrimination. They argue that businesses could refuse to make a wedding cake for an interracial couple on the grounds that it conflicts with their religious practice. However, the Federal Law protects discrimination against race, and Federal Law trumps state laws. So the Arizona law could not be misused that way.
I understand both sides of the argument, because laws like the Arizona one can get tricky. The problem comes with more difficult situations, and there will always be prejudice people hiding behind laws. However, I believe in the free enterprise system. If a business develops a bad reputation for exercising their religious freedom, then it will go out of business; which it ought to. That means, each business must think carefully when and if it wants to exercise a religious exemption, because there could be grave consequences for the business to do so.
There are consequences for using one’s religion to not serve another in business. However, religious rights must be protected at all costs. For example, I think my daughter’s religious liberty to opt out of ghost writing an anti-Christian book would solicited sympathy by most, and will likely not hurt her ghost-writing opportunities. But the point is, her rights must be protected. On the other hand, a contractor, who refused to build churches that are not part of his denomination, will likely encounter bad publicity. However, the answer is not to take away religious freedom but to give it, knowing that people must be accountable when and if they choose to opt out making money for religious reasons.
In the end, our first amendment rights allow us to freely say what we want to say and practice our faith where and when we want to, even if those practices are detrimental to our own businesses. Although the bill is likely to be vetoed by the governor, I think we need to look closely at protecting our religious liberties.
Link to the actual bill: http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/51leg/2r/bills/sb1062p.pdf