Arizona’s Perversion of Religious Liberty

By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

“This bill is not about allowing discrimination. This bill is about preventing discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.”

-Arizona State Sen. Steve Yarbrough (R), on SB 1062.

Assaults on the civil rights of homosexuals and the acceptance of gay marriage have been the focus of a number of state legislatures. The most recent lunacy is a bill in Arizona that now awaits action by Gov. Brewer. The bill amends sections of the Arizona Revised Statutes by incorporating provisions that effectively insulate many forms of grossly discriminatory conduct from legal consequence if done under the cloak of religion. This is accomplished in three steps. First, the bill defines “exercise of religion” to include “the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.” Second, the bill expands the definition of “person” to include “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” I refer to this as the “Hobby Lobby” amendment. Finally, the bill prohibits, with a strict scrutiny exception, any “state action” that substantially burdens the free exercise of religion even if that state action is a law of general application.

I anticipate that the governor will veto this atrocity, not as a matter of constitutional principle, but out of concern that enactment of the law would further harm Arizona’s reputation and economic interests. But it is nonetheless disturbing that legislators would willingly employ a fundamental freedom as a weapon against a disfavored group of citizens.The legislation has been pushed by the usual suspects. Peter Sprigg, Senior Fellow for Policy Studies at the Family Research Council, has written a piece entitled “The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex Marriage,” in which he claims, inter alia, that recognition of marital rights for gays threatens the religious liberty of “individual believers trying to live their lives in accordance with their faith not only at church, but at home, in their neighborhoods, and in the workplace.” That, of course, is merely another way of saying that Mr. Sprigg’s religious beliefs must prevail over yours in the event of a conflict, even to the point of requiring that you live somewhere other than where you may wish to live and work somewhere other than where you may wish to work. Mr. Sprigg, who was formerly the pastor of the Clifton Park Center Baptist Church in Clifton Park, New York, believes that tolerance is a synonym for endorsement.

Or consider the words of the Rev. H.M. Goodwin, who lamented the damage to “the unity of the family as a social organism,” striking “at the root of that which should be the first and foremost end of government to protect, the sacred unity of the Family.” Or perhaps don’t consider the words of Rev. Goodwin, because he wrote them in 1884 and the object of his outrage was actually the growing movement in support of women’s suffrage. In that same article, Rev. Goodwin complained of increasing secularism, an example of which was the removal of the Bible from public school classrooms at the instance of “Catholics and infidels.”

The history of this country is littered with appeals to God in defense of oppression. In 1822, Richard Furman, a church pastor in Charleston, South Carolina, wrote a letter to Gov. John Lyde Wilson claiming that slavery “is justifiable by the doctrine and example contained in Holy writ; and is, therefore, consistent with Christian uprightness, both in sentiment and conduct.” That argument became discredited through time and the Civil War, of course, but its legacy was a system of laws that persisted for decades until intervention by the courts, an intervention that the late religious leader W.A. Criswell decried as “a denial of all that we believe in” fomented by proponents of racial integration which he labeled “a bunch of infidels, dying from the neck up.”

The point is that every advance in the rights of man has had to overcome preachers of hatred and theologians of exclusion. Every attempt to admit to the fullness of civic, political and social life a group previously rejected out of ignorance and fear has been resisted by those asserting sole possession of divine truth. And years later, after the battles have been won and the opponents are long since dead, their words are finally recognized for what they are, the intolerant rants of false prophets.

In April of 1965, Lester Maddox stood at the entrance to his Pickrick Restaurant in Atlanta, axe handle in hand, to block three black Georgia Tech students from entering. Mr. Maddox closed his restaurant later that summer rather than comply with court-ordered desegregation, but carried his views all the way to the Georgia governor’s mansion several years later.

In retrospect, Mr. Maddox made a tactical error. Instead of the same old tired arguments about property rights and federalism, he should have cited the Free Exercise Clause. He should have argued that his sincerely held religious beliefs prohibited his serving a ham sandwich to the children of Ham. Or perhaps he should have moved his restaurant to Arizona, where politicians have determined that religious balkanization is a healthy trend and that religious extremism in the defense of bigotry is no vice.

Sources: Goodwin, H.M., “Women’s Suffrage,” The New Englander,” No. CLXXIX (March, 1884); Freeman, Curtis, ” ‘ Never Had I Been So Blind’: W.A. Criswell’s ‘Change’ on Racial Segregation,” Journal of Southern Religion, Vol. X (2007); Sprigg, Peter, “The Top Ten Harms of Same-Sex Marriage,” Family Research Council (2011).


437 thoughts on “Arizona’s Perversion of Religious Liberty”

  1. RTC, Do you understand the difference between allegations and proof of an allegation. I have NEVER investigated ANY commenter while on this blog.

  2. Nick, thanks for correcting my misspelling. Definitely I meant to say cortisone, not cortisol. The difference is huge.

  3. Bron


    And you would be right, there are all sorts of factors involved in birth rates.

    here are some statistics on abortion I found, I leave it to you to verify or you can believe these:

    “Among white women, there were 138 abortions for every 1,000 births. Among black women, the number rises to a dizzying 501 abortions. Hispanic women account for 25% of all US abortions, though Hispanics make up just 16% of the population.”



    Did you get those statistics from the CDC too? Why not post a link to your source as you did previously…with the report on “fertility rates?”

  4. RTC:

    Now just how do you know I am a racist? You seem to be wrong about most everything else.

    You calling me a racist would have bothered me a few years ago but now I know you dont have an argument and you throw that out to some how show your intellectual superiority.

    That is so classic progressive, it isnt even interesting anymore.

  5. Bron: I’ll take your word for those figures. It still leaves contraceptive use unaccounted for, which I’m guessing would be a significant factor.

    But, you’ve certainly verified that you’re a racist.

  6. Bron,

    I know what a birth rate is–and I know what fertility is. It was a question for you to think about because you provided a link to a study on birth rates. It seemed to me that you were equating birth rates with fertility.

  7. Bron: Something tells me you and your friend, the “Genius”, are no longer in contact.

    You’re damn right I believe in the State, because we are the State, and the better the American people understand that, the faster things will get sorted with “Our” government.

    I’m not the only one who has historically expressed a belief in the power of self-rule. Jefferson was another guy that was strongly in favor of it. I don’t think you understand the first thing about the man or his writings. Too bad, it’d be nice to have a genius around to help explain it to you.

    As for individualism, there has never been such a thing in this country, except in the imagination of writers and moviemakers.

    And as long as you’re researching stuff, you might want to have a look at the drawdown rates and pollutant levels for wells in your area. I guarantee if it weren’t for gubmint regulashums, the infiltration ffrom agricultural runoff would be a million times worse.

  8. RTC:

    And you would be right, there are all sorts of factors involved in birth rates.

    here are some statistics on abortion I found, I leave it to you to verify or you can believe these:

    “Among white women, there were 138 abortions for every 1,000 births. Among black women, the number rises to a dizzying 501 abortions. Hispanic women account for 25% of all US abortions, though Hispanics make up just 16% of the population.”

  9. Elaine:

    “Fertility is the natural capability to produce offspring. As a measure, “fertility rate” is the number of offspring born per mating pair, individual or population. Fertility differs from fecundity, which is defined as the potential for reproduction (influenced by gamete production, fertilization and carrying a pregnancy to term)[citation needed]. A lack of fertility is infertility while a lack of fecundity would be called sterility.”

  10. Ok Bron: First, nice bit o’ research there. However, I could get all weaselly on you, like DavidM, and point out that this report is technically dealing with reproductive rates and not necessarily fertility. There may be many thousands of white women becoming pregnant who undergo an abortion, for instance, and there are many other factors, cultural, social, economic, etc, that could explain the increased reproductive rates for these groups.

    The report doesn’t go into any of them. It’s a bare presentation of statistics.

    So you’ve managed to find a set of statistics to validate your racism. Nice work.

    If being opposed to blatant racism and sexism is a problem with my particular mindset, I’ll cop to that. It tells me I’m thinkin’ right.

  11. RTC:

    and you dont have it [“your mind is closed tighter than a fish’s butthole”] as well for your adherence to progressive view points? You guys spout the same nonsense that I read in the Communist Manifesto, Das Kapital, Lenins’ Letter to the American Worker, Engles book on the family, Beatrice and Sidney Web, Harold Laski, et al. and you chastise us for our beliefs? Most of which are based on Locke, Aristotle, Algernon Sidney, Frederic Bastiat, Thomas Jefferson, etc.

    One side, yours, believes in the state and one side believes in individual freedom: which most progressives want to suppress.

    I am all for birth control but a corporation has a right not to provide it. It isnt any of the government’s dam business either way. I am against abortion but it isnt the federal governments place to make it legal or illegal.

  12. samantha:

    that is interesting because the CDC chart I linked to shows a big drop in fertility across all races from 1991 to 2012.

    Men in England are becoming more feminine, some say due to all of the estrogen in the water from birth control pills.

    Makes one think about growing your own food and getting water from a deep well.

  13. David: I never said you favored outlawing contraceptives. I essentially paraphrased remarks you’ve made repeatedly in the past that access to contraceptives and abortions promote immoral behavior among women, encouraging promiscuity and premarital sex, for instance.

    Your devotion with Limbaugh is the makes it clear that your mind is closed tighter than a fish’s butthole. It’s called weak-sense reasoning and it’s your weakness.

  14. Interesting how a person who claims to be so well liked by his neighbors turns out to be such a creep.

    And before you start crying, bear in mind that it wasn’t me who described your behavior as creepy; it was Prof. Turley.

  15. Elaine didn’t you know that unless one has a sufficiently open mind, one won’t recognize the ultimate truth from some who consider themselves to have the wisdom of the ancients. Because ya know conservatives have the market on open minds.

  16. When one is always angry about the politically correct, one secretes excess cortisol.

Comments are closed.