PHOENIX, AZ, February 25, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – In a move that has sparked antagonism from both Republicans and Democrats, the Arizona state legislature passed a bill Thursday that would grant business owners the right to refuse service to clients on the basis of religious objections.
SB 1062 would provide business owners the grounds to deny their services to same-sex “marriages.”
The bill, which now awaits the signature of Gov. Jan Brewer, has been lambasted as discriminatory by its opponents, but its defenders say it’s a necessary protection for religious freedom.
In the past few years, there have been several cases of business owners facing lawsuits after refusing to provide their services to gay couples at their “weddings.” This bill would prevent such suits from being filed in Arizona and would protect objecting business owners from facing heavy fines.
This bill has a lion’s share of opponents.
Both of Arizona’s federal senators, each Republican, have urged Gov. Brewer to veto SB 1062. Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake conveyed their opposition via Twitter on Monday. Of the nine Arizona members of the United States House of Representatives, all four Democrats have spoken out in opposition to the bill. One Republican representative has refused to comment while the other four have not yet commented.
Daniel Mach, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s religion and belief program, said, “Religious freedom is a fundamental right, but it’s not a blank check to harm others or impose our faith on our neighbors.” The ACLU opposes the legislation.
In a column written for The Daily Beast, Kirsten Powers and Jonathon Merritt argued that if Christians have the right to deny services for gay “marriages” on a biblical basis, they should also refuse their services to other “unbiblical” ceremonies, such as those involving divorced couples.
“If you refuse to photograph one unbiblical wedding,” the columnists write, “you should refuse to photograph them all. If not, you'll be seen as a hypocrite and as a known Christian, heap shame on the Gospel. As all Christians know, Jesus saved his harshest words for the hypocritical behavior of religious people. So, if Christian wedding vendors want to live by a law the Bible does not prescribe, they must at least be consistent.”
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In a response to this article, Southern Baptist ethicist Russell D. Moore pointed out the stark difference between heterosexual and homosexual unions. He states, “In the case of a same-sex marriage, the marriage is obviously wrong, in every case. There are no circumstances in which a man and a man or a woman and a woman can be morally involved in a sexual union.”
This response followed a February 20 podcast in which Moore spelled out the distinction between unlawful heterosexual marriages and homosexual “marriages,” effectively debunking Powers and Merritt’s accusation of hypocrisy.
“While a biblical view of marriage would see that such people (fornicators, believers to unbelievers, unlawfully divorced, etc.) should not get married, and that the church has no authority to marry them, we also would affirm that such people, when married, actually are married. A pastor who joins a believer to an unbeliever bears an awful responsibility for doing something wrong, but the end result is an actual marriage.
“The same-sex marriage differs not in terms of morality, but in terms of reality. It is not that homosexuality is some sort of wholly different or unforgivable sexual sin. It's that the historic Christian view of marriage means that without sexual complementarity there is no marriage at all.”
The reaction to SB 1062 from the media has been heated to say the least. In an interview with CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo, Kelly Fiedorek, attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, tried explaining the bill and how it would protect religious freedom.
“[There’s] a basic difference,” Ms. Fiedoreck says, “between denying someone a cup of coffee or a piece of pizza or selling someone a pencil versus forcing someone to use their creative ability to create a message to support an event, to support an idea that goes against their beliefs.”
“For example,” she continued, “we would not force a Muslim to participate in a Koran-burning ceremony. We wouldn’t ask a black photographer and force them to go take a picture of a KKK event. This is America and in America we should be able to live freely and not be forced to endorse ideas.”
Cathi Herrod, president of the Center for Arizona Policy, responded to the fiery reaction to the passing of SB 1062 in a statement on Saturday.
“The attacks on SB 1062,” Herrod states, “show politics at its absolute worse. They represent precisely why so many people are sick of the modern political debate. Instead of having an honest discussion about the true meaning of religious liberty, opponents of the bill have hijacked this discussion through lies, personal attacks, and irresponsible reporting.”
“I urge Governor Brewer,” she continues, “to send a clear message to the country that in Arizona, everyone, regardless of their faith, will be protected in Arizona by signing SB 1062.”
The bill is expected to be signed or vetoed by Gov. Brewer this week. Ms. Brewer vetoed a similar bill last year during a self-imposed freeze on signing legislation until a budget was passed for the 2014 fiscal year.