The consequences of pushing for religious freedom

Amanda Malone

Amanda Malone

Last week, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed Senate Bill 1062, otherwise known as the “Religious Freedom Act.”  Essentially, the bill would have allowed business owners to deny service based on religious grounds. But it gained quite a bit of media attention once labeled by critics as “anti-gay,” a notion that supporters failed to dispel.  It’s true that nothing in the text of SB 1062 directly references discriminating against LGBT individuals, but it’s still right in line with the rest of the push back against “the gay agenda.” One of the major supporters, State Sen. Al Melvin, during an interview discussing the bill, said, “All the pillars of society are under attack in the United States: the family, the traditional marriage, mainline churches, the Boy Scouts, you name it.”

This so-called fight for religious freedom in America has become quite the fad nowadays, and some of its champions aren’t paying attention to the possible consequences of their actions. Allowing people to discriminate based on their religious views carries some serious ethical repercussions. These kinds of avenues open a window to higher levels of prejudice, whether sexist, racist or otherwise. I mean, is starting a new religion really all that difficult? There could be a church of the KKK, and as long as the person holds sincere beliefs, they’d have an acceptable defense against discrimination (under SB 1062). Just because the people creating the law are followers of “mainline churches” doesn’t mean they get to decide what constitutes a legitimate religion – that would certainly be a violation of the Constitution.

As Gov. Brewer pointed out, the bill “does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty.” This kind of legislation is overkill, unnecessary – so why even bring it up? Because there’s a growing panic over in the far right – Sen. Melvin’s aforementioned statement is a perfect example (“all the pillars of society are under attack”). In their struggle to keep relevancy, religious fundamentalists are obviously willing to cross into dangerous territory without much consideration for consequences.