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. If some have abnormal LH pulse and frequency, they would not be inclined to procreate. They may be fertile in all other regards, but there is no desire. Remember the rules of scientific experiment! In order to say that some may not choose to have kids, you have to first prove that thier hormone levels are normal. Likewise, you have the same problem comparing fertility rates based on ethnicity. What I want to know, how does LH puse amplitude and frequency compare to abortion rates in blacks, whites, etc.

  2. And yet you make racist remarks about blacks and Hispanics. That’s what you were alluding to. You added a sexist comment about nagging wives to bolster your post.

    Whatever our ideological differences, I expected better of you, and I’m disappointed. It’s like hearing a church deacon tell a nigger joke.

  3. Bron,

    You’re missing my point. One can be fertile and choose not to have children. Low birth rate in one group doesn’t necessarily mean that the people in that group have fertility problems.

  4. Elaine:

    here are stats from CDC for 2009 which differ slightly from what I posted above; 144/1000 live births for whites and 477/1000 live births for blacks. The author I quoted seems to have been incorrect about Hispanics. She is a little off on the total % for Hispanics, it is over 20% but less than 25%, actually about 21% but these are statistics from 2009.

    The author I quoted above was in the ballpark and not trying to muddle the data.

  5. Hello everyone. This thread has again turned toward personal attacks. I have to asked everyone to step away or take a breath. No one on this blogwants to read discourse over personal matters or attacks. Please see the civility rule.

  6. raff, That’s the Irish, my mom was one of 13. Have you ever seen Jim Gaffigan? He is currently my favorite comedian out there and he’s clean. Being clean is not an issue w/ me but it is w/ many. He has 5 kids and does a GREAT bit on how people react. All 5 were born in his TWO bedroom apartment in the Bowery. His book, Dad is Fat is hilarious. His concert where he talks about having 5 kids is Mr. Universe, it’s on Netflix.

  7. Elaine,
    With 4 kids of my own and almost 90 First cousins, I know something about birth rates and fertility! 🙂

  8. Annie, You have stated HERE you have a “master’s degree” in nursing. I mentioned nothing about your licensure. Now, let’s just end this and not cause Mr. Turley agita on Sunday.

  9. Bringing the politics and conflicts ON OTHER BLOGS is a banishing offense. Virtually EVERYONE here knows who is the stalker here, and it ain’t me!!

  10. RTC, McCarthy tactics by you and a few others is not becoming. A judicious and wise man does not ban someone for unfounded accusations. Mr. Turley NEVER spoke to me about investigating anyone and he has spoken to me. So, take your McCarthy tactics to wherever the “others [who] have fled this blog” if you think this venue is diminished. Now, lets end this negative dredging of old conflicts and look forward w/ optimism. I find this blog much more civil and balanced. We have people who were run out of here by bullies, returning w/ thanks for the new climate. If civility, balance, and welcoming of new people and perspectives is “diminishing,” then that says everything about you and nothing about this blog. Basta!

  11. Nick Spinelli, are you once again engaging in you stalking behavior? I suggest it is a major violation of the civility rules. Because you have stalked me, you THINK you know something about my licensure, but you do NOT. Professor Turley, are commenters here once again allowed to stalk other commenters and make false allegations about them? Spinelli has done this very thing to me on two other blogs, now he is attempting once again to do it here. It’s reprehensible and creepy. I think perhaps he needs to retread the civility rules to himself, instead of parroting them here when he is trying to be the big man. I suggest to other commenters here that he engages in such behavior elsewhere, it his Modus Operandi . Finally Spinelli, I have asked you to stop this behavior, I see you continue it. You do understand there are repercussions for what you are doing, don’t you? If not you certainly should.

    Again, to commenters beware of this person.

  12. Nick : So you log off first, and then do your creepy stuff. Is that it?

    Prof. Turley stated that it was plain creepy for anyone to investigate fellow commenters. I’m confident that he shown proof of such activity, and given the conversations that were going on around the turn of the year, he was talking about you.

    The fact that you’re still here does not redound to credit and reputation. the fact that others have fled this blog has severely diminished the quality of this site.

    Thanks, Nick

  13. Samantha, Your using “cortisol” was I believe correct, Cortisone is the steroidal hormone. Ironically, I received a cortisone injection for plantar fasciitis last week. I have been walking a lot and it flared up. Cortisone can work wonders and did in my case.

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