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Arizona, we hardly knew ye

Settled...fifty years ago
Settled...fifty years agoPhoto by Kris Connor/Getty Images

Our neighboring state of Arizona is hardly known as a bastion of progressive thought or, perish the thought, legislation. It is, after all, the home of SB 1070, the anti-immigration act largely thrown out by federal courts since it was passed and signed into law. Their governor has been known to claim, among other things, that the Arizona desert is littered with victims of illegal immigrant drug mules. She has also been known to shake her finger in the face of the President of the United States…rather like a school ma’rm correcting an unruly child.

Still, even for Arizona, this might be a bigotry too far.

In the spring of 1961, civil rights activists engaged in the Freedom Rides whose aim was desegregate lunch counters, bus stations, rest rooms, etc. throughout the South of the Old Confederacy, still dominated by Jim Crow. They were met by violent mobs and club swinging police. But they made their point and within three years desegregation of public facilities was part of established law in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Arizona was not part of the Old Confederacy. But they appear to want to join the New Confederacy. They are doing in the name of religion what the old South did in the name of racial purity. They are claiming to give merchants and other business people the right to refuse service to anyone when it would violate their religious principles.

What they mean, mostly, is the right to refuse to serve gays.

One wonders where the American right is going…and why. And what legislators in Arizona are thinking. At what point does alleged “religious liberty” end? If it would violate a merchants “religious beliefs” to refuse to serve, say, evangelical Christians, would the right wing embrace that? It is already patently illegal to refuse service to people on the basis of race, gender, or national origin…religious beliefs or no. Is it really necessary to write in an exemption for gays? Can we, as a nation, not agree that non-discrimination should be the law, not only of the land, but of our personal moral code? What religion worth following tells us to hate our fellow citizens because of their skin color…or the nature of their sexuality? Would not the Prince of Peace, who these “Christians” claim to follow, abhor their actions and condemn their beliefs…and the claim that it came from Him?

One can only hope that Governor Jan Brewer will have a rare moment of sanity and veto this monstrous act. Our federal courts are already busy enough with the right’s other nonsense.