First it was the repeal of the Dr. M.L. King, Jr. Holiday; then the housing of prisoners in tents and forcing them to wear pink uniforms; then it was a usurpation of Federal immigration laws. Now comes SB 1062 and the State of Arizona has once again chosen the road of self destruction.
Dubbed "Exercise of Religion," SB 1062 essentially allows people to refuse to do something based on the person's religious beliefs. On the surface, the law seems innocuous. However, upon closer scrutiny, what the act really does is promotes discrimination in the guise of religious freedom. And, according to various news outlets, including the conservative Fox News, the law would allow people to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
According to the legislative history of SB 1062, the act had its genesis in two recent lawsuits in which businesses were sued successfully for failing to provide services to lesbians and gays. A wedding photographer lost a lawsuit to two lesbians after the photographer refused to photograph the wedding because of his religious beliefs. In the second lawsuit, a bakery refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple because of the bakery owner's religious beliefs. The couple sued and won and the bakery eventually went out of business.
Given this history, Arizona has decided that it is okay to discriminate against gays and lesbians based on one's religious beliefs even if those beliefs are mistaken, misunderstood, or contrary to the teachings of one's central religious authority. As an Episcopal priest in Arizona said in an interview on CNN, a core principle of Christianity is that Christians are called to love their enemies and to care for their neighbors. This principle is lost in the current war against gays and lesbians which has been declared by the religious right.
Whatever it is that some Christians find offensive about gays and lesbians, one thing is abundantly clear. Even if the conduct of gays and lesbians violate biblical principles, why are so many Christians concerned with this particular sin? Why do Christians not rail against divorce, murder, slum landlords, human bondage, and so many other sins which plague our society? Why this obsession with gays and lesbians?
Clearly, some Christians in launching this war against gays and lesbians have committed what the late Professor D.Z. Phillips calls "friendly fire." Quite frankly, Arizona in passing SB 1062 has committed an act of friendly fire for it has done more harm to religious freedom than the reverse. The burden now falls to Gov. Jan Brewer to either veto this terrible law or sign it into effect and add further injury to Arizona and religious freedom, and, most importantly, Christianity.