Brewer Vetoes Discriminatory “Religious Freedom” Bill

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a 2-page bill which supporters claim would have protected religious freedom. It would have allowed businesses to deny serving customers on the grounds of religious objection. Her veto came after numerous corporations pleaded with her to do so. The religious crowd lost to the commercial faction of the GOP. And in this case, it is good for the right that it turned out this way, preventing them from defending another lost cause.

The bill was unconstitutional on the face of it. Religion is a private matter in America, and commerce is public. Where one begins the other ends. A white lunch counter operator may have religious objections to serving black customers, but this fight got settled 50 years ago. Muslim cab drivers must take unescorted women to bars if that’s where the fare wants to go regardless of what the Koran may say. Jewish landlords must rent to gentiles. Religious freedom is not absolute, or there would be human sacrifice, polygamy and forced female genital mutilation in America.

The biggest noise came from the LGBT activists who knew that the bill was targeted at them as a counter to the growing acceptance of same sex marriage. They agitated, protested, and called up legislators and journalists. That got the business people concerned about the effect the bill would have on them. The NFL, for instance, is about to deal with its first openly gay player, and the Super Bowl is set for Arizona. How would it look if the game went ahead in a place where that player could be denied any service his straight teammates could enjoy? Hotel and restaurant chains faced revenue troubles if there were a boycott of Arizona.

So the religious yahoos (whose hatred of their fellow man is a wonderful advertisement for atheism) got their bill vetoed. They are probably upset this morning, but Governor Brewer has saved them from fighting another losing battle. Not only was this bill unconstitutional, the potential for civil lawsuits was overwhelming. Imagine a major hamburger chain’s manager denying service to a man thought to be gay who isn’t? Or a woman and her sister denied a hotel room because of a misunderstanding of their relationship? Multi-million dollar civil proceedings awaited. And all of this in the name of denying people the right to participate in the marketplace.

What is particularly stupid is that most of the businesses in America are corporations. Whether it’s a Fortune 500 firm or an S-corporation set up for a Mom and Pop corner store, most commercial enterprises are separate legal persons distinct from their owners. That being the case, it is hard to see how the legal person involved in any commercial transaction can have religious objections to anything. One is willing to wager that there is no case in the country of a corporation being baptized, bar mitzvahed or given extreme unction. Their shareholders may be zealots of the highest order, but the corporation itself has no religion because it has never enrolled in one.

Dan Savage, columnist and gay activist, made an interesting suggestion. Rather than pass this kind of bill, why not just have a website where those who want to discriminate against certain segments of society can post their names and business addresses? That way, a potential customer who is on the naughty list knows what he or she faces. Of course, that would require a business person stating his position in public, and bigots are lack the courage to stand in the public square and make their feelings known. That why the KKK always wears hoods — they are ashamed to show their faces.