“The Devil made me do it” could literally become a “get out of jail free” card in Arizona, if Republicans in the Grand Canyon State have their way.
An Arizona state senate committee Thursday passed a bill that would allow anyone to discriminate against gay people for any reason — if they say their religion allows them to do so. Republican Sen. Steve Yarbrough, who has been pushing variations of the pro-discrimination bill since at least last year, is the bill’s sponsor.
As The New Civil Rights Movement reported last year, the bill could also be considered the religious version of a “Stand Your Ground” law, allowing anyone’s practice or observance of religion to be an automatic “out.” In other words, it would give Arizona residents and businesses the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason, including because they are LGBT.
Through his bill, S.B. 1062, Sen. Yarborough also is working to increase First Amendment “protections” at the state level by expanding “the definition of person to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.”
So, to quote a failed former GOP presidential nominee, “Corporations are people, my friend.” At least they would be in Arizona.
“Civil rights groups are opposed to the bill, saying it will allow discriminatory actions by businesses,” the AP reports. “Yarbrough says his push was prompted by a New Mexico case where the state Supreme Court allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer who refused to record their wedding.”
But the dangers of Yarborough’s bill is even worse than some might think.
The U.S. Constitution says a violation of the First Amendment — say, the right to practice religion — would occur only if the government were the cause of that violation. (“Congress shall make no law…”)
For example, let’s say, hypothetically, if A&E were to ban Phil Robertson from appearing on “Duck Dynasty” because he shared his disgusting beliefs about gay people in a GQ article, that’s not a violation of his First Amendment rights, because A&E is the one banning him. They’re a corporation, a private entity — not the government — so they can do that, despite what Sarah Palin says.
Under Sen. Yarborough’s expanded definition of “religious freedom,” the government would protect, through his new bill, anyone claiming anyone else was inhibiting their right to practice their religion.
So, in Arizona, theoretically, Phil Robertson could sue A&E for violating his religious right to spew hate about gay people, because Arizona law would protect anyone’s right to do anything, as long as they said, “the Bible says so.” (Or the Koran, the Torah, etc.)
Think Progress adds that Yarborough’s bill “is so sweeping that religious belief could be used to defend any form of discrimination that would otherwise be protected under law, including gender. He acknowledged to reporter Howard Fischer that his bill could be used to discriminate against not only gay people, but also unmarried women, or people with different religious beliefs, as examples. It’s possible that his bill could actually allow religion to be used to justify breaking nearly any law in Arizona. Yarbrough simply trusts that protections that have been traditionally recognized before would still be protected were his bill to become law.” [Emphasis ours]
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