I’m starting to feel like an unwilling resident of Masada in 73 AD. (Or, for the benefit of my politically correct friends, 73 CE.)
As the story goes, a group of over 900 Jewish zealots retreated from the Romans and closed themselves up in a fortress atop a plateau overlooking the Dead Sea. When the Romans found a way to finally breach the fortress, what they discovered was every building burnt and all but seven of the 900+ residents dead from having their throat slit. Or in other words, they walked into Arizona, politically speaking, in 2014.
I mean, how else can you describe the destruction our legislature keeps trying to heap upon our backs. And each time, they claim they are doing it out of either a religious obligation or something similar. It’s starting to enter the realm of insanity.
For those who are wondering what the heck I’m talking about, let me take you back to the beginning. And the beginning would be SB 1070.
SB 1070 was a bill passed in Arizona to combat the issue we have in this state with illegal immigration. The impetus for this bill was the murder of an American citizen, a rancher simply monitoring his fence line, along the Mexican border. He was killed by members of the criminal cartels of Mexico who consider our border to be a running joke. It was a serious issue that demanded a serious response.
Instead, we got a law that did little to address the criminal cartels and instead urged cops to demand that anyone with a Hispanic appearance produce paperwork proving their American citizenship or face deportation. These requests/demands could be made during any type of “criminal” investigation up to and including a traffic stop. Sadly, I will admit that in the early going of this law being drafted, I bought into the hype regarding our illegal immigration issues and supported this law. The resulting fall-out forced me to look deeper into the issue and in the end led me to a complete reversal of my illegal immigration stance.
It was a bad law. And if a person of sound logic took time to think through the ramifications of it, they would quickly realize just how bad it was. But the worst part of the whole thing is what it did to businesses, or rather individual’s livelihoods. It caused a boycott of our state (not the first as we were the one state to refuse to acknowledge MLK day decades ago, again out of religious protest, supposedly.) It hurt literally thousands of jobs reliant on tourism. And for what? Not much. Some of it got thrown out by the Supreme Court and the rest has been deemed unenforceable by much of our state’s law enforcement.
But at the time, it was presented as necessary in order to fulfill our moral obligation to our nation’s laws. In fact, Senate President Russell Pierce, a good upstanding Mormon from the East Valley who introduced the law, said his impetus in creating the law was to uphold his belief in the 12th Article of Faith of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Anyway, after this debacle was finally put to rest, legislators then took up a new crusade. They decided they needed to teach the federal government a lesson or two about fiscal responsibility. Under the ACA (Obamacare), states must use their federal Medicaid dollars along with their own budgets to fund Medicaid coverage up to 133% of the federal poverty level. Despite a voter approved measure some years earlier, legislators had dropped Medicaid funding down to well below the poverty level in order to “balance the budget.” Or in other words stopped paying hospitals and doctors for care they were legally obligated to provide in order to be “self-sufficient” and “fiscally responsible.” Never mind those people still get sick and go to hospitals or doctors with no way to pay. According to some legislators way of thinking, those ne’er-do-wells were sinking our economy and must be cut off. But when the ACA demanded the level of funding be returned to 133%, those same legislators said, “Screw the federal government and their money. We don’t think they should be spending it on this in the first place so we won’t do it and we will write off $7 billion that would be used to pay hospitals and doctors that desperately need it for the care they currently providing for free.”
Thankfully, Governor Jan Brewer stepped in and forced a plan through that would meet the federal government’s requirements and restore the $7 billion to our state. And what was the response of those legislators who consider themselves the moral arbiters of our state? They sued the governor to stop her plan from being enacted. Thankfully, their lawsuit was eventually thrown out.
But, not wanting to let a few discouragements get in the way of their religious fervor, the Arizona legislature this last week passed a law allowing anyone who owns a business to cite “religious beliefs” as a reason to deny services to someone else. At an initial glance, it seems like a fairly reasonable law. People should not be forced to go against their religion in order to do business, right?
However, what this is really about is the fear that homosexual couples will sue businesses associated with the wedding industry who don’t want to provide services to those seeking a same-sex marriage. And this knee-jerk reaction masking itself as a law is an abomination that will again give Arizona a black-eye and hurt its citizens badly in the short term.
The main problem here as I see it is that those supporting this law who belong to the LDS faith are treading on thin ground-for many reasons. First, aren’t we the church that likes to point to the extermination order in Missouri as an example of government overstepping its bounds? Well, what’s different here? So we belong to a faith that doesn’t theologically agree with the practice of homosexuality or its off-shoot of same-sex marriage. But aren’t we also the faith that claims the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our conscience while allowing all men the same privilege?
Being a Mormon business owner who doesn’t want to provide services to individuals who don’t hold the same religious standards as they do is a dangerous precedent to get into. For instance, what justification does a wedding photographer have if they agree to service a wedding where the bride is wearing a strapless gown, or take pictures at a reception where alcohol is flowing but then refuses to be the photographer at a gay wedding? Theoretically, on religious grounds, they should refuse all three.
Oh come on, that’s not the same!
Isn’t it? What’s the difference?
What makes this law even more offensive is that it opens the door far beyond wedding services. And my question then becomes, where does this end? Can a Baptist business owner who considers the Mormon faith a cult deny services to any Latter-Day Saint? If his religious convictions can theoretically be “offended”, I would say he has a case under this law.
Bottom line, is this really where we want to go? At least as Mormons, we have been counseled to show kindness and respect to those with whom we disagree, including those who support gay marriage. We are counseled to love everyone, including those who are homosexual. Finding excuses to exclude doesn’t seem like kindness, respect or love to me. If a person’s business takes them to a gay wedding, even though they may personally not believe gay marriage is conducive with God’s teachings, it doesn’t affect their faith any more than attending a heterosexual wedding presided over by a Wiccan priestess would. So how about our legislators stop trying to suggest that it does.
Furthermore, if our governor doesn’t veto this bill, we will once again become the target of boycotts and thousands of jobs will be adversely affected. And for what? So that some politicians can score political points by saying they are protecting the religious freedoms of their constituents? Bull Crap! The law will be struck down eventually anyway, and everyone knows it. So instead of doing things that will benefit our communities and our economy for decades to come, these law makers will slit the throats economically of thousands of Arizona citizens for a cause and a law that won’t last the year.
I vote we slit the throat of their political careers instead.
Governor Brewer, for the good of every Arizonan, please veto SB 1062. Our state has enough issues to keep it busy without it.