Religious Freedoms or Intolerance? By Jason Martinez

     We’ve all seen the news regarding Arizona’s now-vetoed bill SB1062.  The bill, originally designed to protect the religious freedoms of the state’s Christian community from having to provide services if they felt it violated their belief systems based on their religion.  The bill, which was ultimately vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer (R), faced a backlash which the Arizona legislature had not anticipated.  Not only did it receive national attention, it cost the state money and revenue from tourism dollars, and tarnished their already unpolished reputation for being unwelcoming to minorities.

     When reading the actual wording of SB1062, it does not specifically mention homosexuality or the LGBT community.  However, it did not need to and that’s what some people don’t understand (even those in the LGBT community).  When discussing with a fervent Christian the notion of homosexuality, it is against their belief system.  Many believe homosexuality is a choice or learned “behavior.”  They also believe homosexuality has an agenda or recruitment going on amongst the youth of America.  This couldn’t be the furthest from the true.  Homosexuality is something you are born with, as is heterosexuality.  Gender identity is also something that is part of you at birth even if you don’t realize or understand until later on in life.  These things cannot be changed despite what the Christian Right may tell you.  There is no such thing as “conversion” or “reparative” therapy.  Such ideas are proven to damage a person’s mind and can lead them to suicide or severe depression. 

     Now, back to SB1062.  The bill would have allowed for businesses to discriminate freely against anyone they felt violated their belief system or their church’s teachings.  This would mean not serving religious minorities, single mothers, children born out of wedlock, homosexuals, transgender individuals, racial minorities, etc.  There’s no telling where this could have stopped.  Such legislation can easily thrust a state back into the pre-Civil Rights Movement era.  With such legislation, one can speculate businesses could post signs that say “Christians Only” or “No Gays Allowed” or “Muslims Not Welcome,” etc.  What people don’t understand is that when a person accepts their license to conduct business, they are agreeing to the laws, rules, and regulations of that state.  This means you agree to serve everyone by becoming a public business which is open to, you guessed it, the public.  If your state does not allow discrimination, you cannot take it upon yourself to alter those rules because you don’t like someone or because your church tells you to.  Religion, in the United States, does not and should not trump the laws of the nation.

     Some people, including those “Conservative” homosexuals, would argue that we should just look for other businesses that are gay-friendly.  Why should we?  Are we not part of the public sector?  Are we not tax-payers?  We live and work with everyone else so why can we not shop and consume like everyone else?  These anti-gay businesses have a right to their opinions and thoughts, they are guaranteed that through the Constitution, but they are not guaranteed their right to discriminate.  Why can they not keep their hateful opinions out of their business and keep them in their home and their places of worship?  Just because you provide goods or services to someone doesn’t mean you have to accept who they are and it doesn’t mean you’re advocating for their way of life.  Just because you promote women’s rights it doesn’t mean you’re now a woman.  Just because you may be pro-choice it doesn’t mean you have to start performing abortions.  The same goes for same-sex couples.  Just because you agree to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding, it doesn’t mean you’re for same-sex marriage and out there waving a rainbow flag in the next Pride Parade.  It just means you care about your business and its reputation in your community. 

     In closing, we really need to work past this religious freedoms frenzy spreading across the country.  It seems to people many that discrimination based on religion is getting so bad that the Christian Right thinks they need legal protection and they are now pushing for these bills.  They talk about tolerance being a two-way street but fail to see that others require that same tolerance and acceptance.  They imply that tolerance should only be geared toward Christians and no one else.  How is that tolerance?  That implies only Christians get rights, can discriminate at will, and everyone else must remain silent and stop making waves.  You know what?  Make waves!  Make that splash!  If you don’t speak up nothing can change.  Change doesn’t come to those who sit silently in the stands.  Change comes to those out in the field making a scene and calling on dialogue and discussion.  Demand change!  Don’t let things stay as they are simply because Christians and other Conservatives say that’s the way it should be. 

 

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