Arizona "Religious Freedom" Bill Could be a Step Back

Letters to the Editor
New York Times

To the Editor:

It is undeniable that Arizona’s so-called “Religious Freedom” bill now under consideration by Gov. Jan Brewer is intended to sanction discrimination by citizens and businesses against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, but this expansive measure would authorize many forms of discrimination.  Intentional or not, it carries within it echoes of Jim Crow (“A License to Discriminate,” Editorial, Feb. 24).

Unlike the Kansas and Tennessee bills that died last week, the Arizona bill is not limited to conduct associated with unrecognized marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships.  Rather, it provides a powerful legal defense to anyone who denies service to a person based on a “sincerely held religious belief.” 

If this bill were to become law, a Christian business owner could deny service to a Jew, Hindu, Mormon, or Muslim who engaged in a practice objectionable to Christians.  A Muslim or Mormon taxi driver could refuse a passenger carrying a bottle of wine.  And an adherent to a racist religion, such as Christian Identity or Nation of Islam, could deny service to a person who is Asian, Black, Caucasian or Hispanic.

Regrettably, our nation has an odious history of using religion to justify discrimination.  Implementing this legislation would be a toxic and harmful step backward that will stain Arizona’s reputation for years to come, as well as damage its economy.  Gov. Brewer should veto this discriminatory legislation.


The Anti-Defamation League

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