OpinionMon Mar 3, 2014 - 6:51 pm EST
The hysterical misrepresentation of Arizona’s religious freedom bill
March 3, 2014 (FRC) - At 680 words, Arizona's SB 1062 didn't take a yeoman's effort to read. But it was an effort, unfortunately, that few people bothered to make. If they had, the debate over the state's religious liberty measure would have been met by more yawns than pitchforks. Instead, Arizona's innocent attempt to tweak a law once embraced by the likes of Ted Kennedy turned into a blowup of national proportions. In a matter of days, liberal activists from across the country descended on Arizona and whipped up a frenzy of opposition based on what even liberal law professors called "egregious misrepresentations."
The media's coverage stunned supporters of SB 1062, who wondered how the press could be talking about the same bill the legislature had just passed. To hear reporters tell it, the measure was a license for widespread discrimination -- when in reality, the only thing being discriminated against was the truth! All SB 1062 did was ensure the government couldn't force business owners to violate their religious beliefs. If that's controversial, then so is the First Amendment.
Even so, the bill became a political football -- literally -- when the Super Bowl threatened to move the event out of Glendale in retaliation. That, combined with the pressure from outside companies and spineless Republicans, was enough for Governor Jan Brewer (R). The once-gutsy leader buckled in the cloud of distortions and vetoed the bill.
In explaining her decision, Brewer said she believed "that Senate Bill 1062... could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and nobody could ever want... Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value," she insisted. "So is nondiscrimination."
What the Governor doesn't seem to understand is that the religious freedom and nondiscrimination are not -- and have never been -- mutually exclusive. As Americans, we have a proud tradition of respecting each other's differences -- a tradition that was never threatened by this bill. On the contrary, it would have extended to Christians, who have suffered the loss of jobs, security, and money at the hands of the liberal agenda, the same courtesy of tolerance.
As Rich Lowry wrote in a great piece for Politico, "The question isn't whether businesses run by people opposed to gay marriage should provide their services for gay weddings; it is whether they should be compelled to by government. The critics of the much-maligned Arizona bill pride themselves on their live-and-let-live open-mindedness, but they are highly moralistic in their support of gay marriage, judgmental of those who oppose it and tolerant of only one point of view -- their own."
Of course, these issues are only now being raised by the mainstream press. The lead headline on Google News on Thursday morning, "Was the Vetoed Arizona Bill Misrepresented?" arrived after the fact. As I said the previous night on Fox News's "Kelly File," when the dust settles and the Left's hired guns leave the state, Arizonans will realized they were hoodwinked. But unfortunately for them, it will be too late; the damage will have already been done.
And while Governor Brewer insists the state needs to focus on more "pressing issues," I defy anyone to find a more pressing issue than the destruction of people's livelihoods and security. One pro-SB 1062 business owner in Gilbert, Arizona is living in fear after a liberal activist's death threats to her family. "I hope your children die too!" the message said -- one of several hate emails she's received since publicly expressing her support. "If you're wondering where the supporters are, they're home protecting their children from death threats," said Alliance Defending Freedom's Doug Napier.
Where is the tolerance in threatening to kill those you oppose? Once again, the same activists demanding civility are the ones endangering people's lives. So remind me again why Arizona Christians don't need protection?
Reprinted with permission from the Family Research Council.