The Arizona Legislature has passed a controversial religion bill that is again thrusting Arizona into the national spotlight in a debate over discrimination.
House Bill 2153/Senate Bill 1062, written by the conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, would allow individuals to use religious beliefs as a defense against a lawsuit.
The bill, which was introduced last month and has been described by opponents as discriminatory against gays and lesbians, has drawn national media coverage. Discussion of the bill went viral on social media during the House floor debate Thursday.
Opponents have dubbed it the "right to discriminate" bill and say it could prompt an economic backlash against the state, similar to what they say occurred when the state passed the controversial immigration law Senate Bill 1070 in 2010.
Proponents argue that the bill is simply a tweak to existing state religious-freedom laws to ensure individuals and businesses are not forced to do something that goes against their beliefs.
I am not a lawyer of any kind, but I do have a bit of Google-fu and was able to find both the full text of SB 1062 and the sections of Title 41 of the Arizona Revised Statutes amended thereby online. Chapter 9 of Title 41 is entitled "Civil Rights"; article 9 of that chapter is entitled "Free Exercise of Religion" and consists of five sections:
41-1493.01 Free exercise of religion protected
41-1493.03 Free exercise of religion; land use regulation
41-1493.04 Free exercise of religion; professional or occupational license; certificate or registration; appointments to governmental offices; definition
My layman's interpretation of the current text of article 9 is that it basically is set up to keep Arizona state and local governments from interfering with religious expression in two specific fields: land-use regulations (section 41-1493.03) and professional licensing (section 41-1493.04). SB 1062 expands (dramatically, in my opinion) the scope of article 9, so that anybody (not just religious organizations) may use a "sincerely held religions belief" defense against any enforcement action or lawsuit, whether brought by the government or by private individuals - like, for instance, a gay couple refused service at a public establishment.
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer apparently has five days to sign or veto the bill. I personally hope she vetoes it; however, it appears to be sufficiently badly written as to provide all sorts of unintended consequences should it become law. Do people who believe capital punishment to be evil now get to not pay their state income tax? Does this now permit Islamic fundamentalists to practice Sharia law? Does this now permit the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints to practice polygamy?
For that matter, consider what might happen if certain people were to profess a sincerely held religious belief that pregnant women are entitled to terminate their pregnancy - and then went to work at an Arizona Planned Parenthood center?
Originally posted at http://edschweppe.dreamwidth.org/168801.html - comment wherever you please.