Evidently when Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer needs an excuse to veto a bill, any excuse will do. As Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a state religious freedom restoration bill modeled after federal law, she settled on a single message: Arizona doesn’t have religious freedom problems. Her veto letter states,
Senate Bill 1062 … does not seek to address a specific and present concern related to Arizona businesses. The out-of-state examples by proponents of the bill, while concerning, are not currently issues existing in Arizona.
The presumption here is that when a conflict between religious freedom and sexual politics does occur (and it will), Brewer will gladly accept SB 1062 back for her signature. But, not to be too cynical, we know that won’t be the case. Brewer vetoed the bill because of political threats from homosexual activists and their corporate lapdogs – threats that were magnified through the echo chamber of “gay-friendly” media. Brewer’s veto is an act of failed leadership and embarrassing cowardice.
Embarrassment. That about sums it up. Brewer was embarrassed personally. Arizona’s business community was embarrassed by negative public relations and empty threats of boycotts. And a few spineless legislators were made to feel embarrassed by the childish tantrums of partisan activists.
SB 1062 is a reasonable bill to protect religious freedom. The key word is “protect.” As with most other legislation dealing with important rights, SB 1062 was pre-emptive. Our Founding Fathers insisted on a federal Bill of Rights pre-emptively. They didn’t argue, as Brewer does, that there’s not really any specific threat to them personally. No, they wisely recognized that God-given rights (Brewer calls them “vital to freedom”) don’t require specific and direct attacks to be protected. In fact, we protect them knowing full well that real threats are constant and, that without protecting these sacred rights, they can be denigrated and abandoned in an instant.
The overblown outrage over SB 1062 is precisely the evidence that it was needed. Opponents framed the debate unmistakably: Sexual politics will trump religious freedom in each and every case – in fact, there are no legal conflicts, no legal scenarios, in which religious freedom has a chance because, in their narrow and selfish minds, religious freedom is code for bigotry, animus and irrational discrimination.
Fortunately, as we saw with immigration policy, Utah is not Arizona. A state religious freedom restoration act (RFRA) will come before the Utah Legislature next session – and it will pass and become state law because Utah’s political leaders understand what too many Arizonans don’t: religious faith and individual conscience matter. Utah’s history says it all.
Yes, homosexual activists will scream bloody murder. Yes, The Salt Lake Tribune will opine over the injustice. Yes, Salt Lake City’s business community will lament and whine like frightened children about economic boycotts and use the latest buzzword (“embarrassing”) to leverage votes they think they’ve bought and paid for. And, no, nobody will like the contention. But come it will, and a state RFRA will become law.
Utahns know what discrimination looks like. In the past, as now, discrimination in Utah looks like Mormon-hating, religion-baiting secularists combined now with selfish homosexual activists who, amid all of their claimed love and tolerance, haven’t the slightest idea about “live and let live.” We now see the true bullies. We now see the real intolerance.
The idealized “grand bargain” between a statewide nondiscrimination law and religious freedom protections are a myth. Arizona just proved it. Homosexual activists will never permit religious protections in such a law for religious adherents and individuals of conscience. Fortunately, Utah is not Arizona. In Utah we recognize that the real threat of discrimination in our state is against people of faith.
It’s time to turn away the real bigots. It’s time to say no to all those who pretend to preach equality, fairness and tolerance, only to hypocritically vent their hatred in opposition to protecting the rights of people of faith. It’s time for Utah to take a stand, pick a team in the battle for freedom, and pass a state religious freedom restoration act.