One can only imagine the outrage that would grip the Christian communities of the United States if signs across the businesses of the nation started appearing that insisted “Christians will not be served here”, or perhaps firefighters refusing to serve the needs of Christians in trouble, or teachers refusing to teach kids who identified as Christian. Screams of anti-Christian discrimination would take over Fox News and the World would be treated to hour after hour of journalists asking for Sarah Palin’s vacant opinion. And yet, this same discriminatory tone is exactly what the Christian-right in Arizona is attempting to force upon the LGBT community and non-religious folk in the state.
Arizona’s now infamous SB1062/HB2153 law allowing businesses to deny services to the LGBT community, passed by both the Republican controlled Arizona State Senate, and House is proving to be a disaster for the GOP. The response from Republicans in the State Legislature and beyond, has been almost as shameful as their willingness to pass such a vicious piece of Theocratic and bigoted legislation in the first place. It isn’t the targeting and dehumanising of gay people for discrimination – in a very Jim Crow like manner – that has bothered their conscience over the past couple of days; it has been the national and international attentional the state has received for the hideous Bill.
According to the Bill, religious freedom is only fully recognised if religious folk have the legalised right to oppress those they don’t particularly like, and deny those people equal rights. During the debate, Democrats tried to amend the Bill so as to not include firefighters and police (the fact that this was even up for debate, is horrendous in itself). Republicans voted against the amendment. As it stands, the Republicans in Arizona have revoked equal protection under the secular, constitutional law, if Christians don’t like them. Creeping Theocracy, framed as ‘religious freedom’. The same horrendous argument was used to permit an Arizonan constitutional amendment in 2008, banning same-sex marriage. Christians with the right to marry, restricting the same right for same-sex couples to marry, is hard to describe as anything other than Theocratic and a belief that Christianity must be considered supreme. It is the institutionalising of Christian ‘values’ above all others. The same is true for SB1062/HB2153. Christian supremacists in Arizona are targeting an unprotected group that they take great pleasure in oppressing, for the sake of further empowering their ideology, in much the same way that white supremacists took great pleasure in protecting their privilege by oppressing the rights of anyone with darker skin. Arizona’s Christian conservatives, have publicly set fire to the United States Constitution, and replaced it with Leviticus.
Republican State Sen. Steve Pierce – a man who voted to legalise anti-gay discrimination and enshrine Christian privilege into law – has decided he now hopes Gov. Jan Brewer will veto it. You may think he’s had a change of heart? You may think he now acknowledges that there is no fundamental right to oppress that overrides the right to equal protection and citizenship under the law. Perhaps he believes it is wholly wrong to institutionalise discrimination. Perhaps he’s accepted that Christians have no privileged right to decide who should be treated as a second class citizen based on sexuality, in much the same way that white Americans had no privileged right to decide who should treated as a second class citizen based on skin tone. Maybe Republican State Sen. Steve Pierce had a change of heart. Well, no. In explaining why he now opposes the Bill, Pierce said:
“I don’t like the negative picture of Arizona, and I’m on board asking the governor to veto the bill.”
- Steve Pierce is far more concerned about looking bad, and the negative attention that comes with legalising discrimination, than he is with legalised discrimination itself. Pierce then signed a letter, along with Senators Bob Worsley, and Adam Driggs.
“While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance. These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.”
- Yes. It’s pointing out the theocratic and bigoted nature of the Bill that is the problem. Their complaint is that they aren’t allowed to discriminate in peace. Following the line of ‘a shield’ protecting all citizens’ religious liberties; if this bill were active in Texas, it would afford the right for a business owner of a member of the congregation of the Appleby Baptist Church in Nacogdoches – who believe in racial segregation based on the ‘curse of Ham’ – to place a ‘whites only’ sign in his shop window, and claim it on ‘sincerely held religious belief’.
I’m almost certain the same Republican state representatives don’t take issue with their salaries being partly funded by LGBT taxpayers, or the roads they drive on, or the state education their children receive, or the police protection they enjoy. Conveniently, I’m sure none of that violates their ‘sincerely held religious belief’.
But the State Republicans aren’t the only ones to provide awful responses to the controversy. Kristin Jarnagin, vice president of the Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association said:
“We have already lost untold amounts of tax dollars due to the negative perception that this legislation attaches to our state’s image, and the bill hasn’t even been signed into law yet.”
- Similarly, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council said:
“With major events approaching in the coming year, including Super Bowl XLIX, Arizona will be the center of the world’s stage. This legislation has the potential of subjecting the Super Bowl, and major events surrounding it, to the threats of boycotts.”
- Yes! That’s the problem! Tax dollars and the effect on a sporting event. Apparently bigotry is fine, if it doesn’t interfere with tourism. That’s what they seem to have decided is the problem. Not the further institutionalising of heterosexual privilege and legalisation of bigotry and bullying. Not the subtle message sent out that the rights of all non-Christians should be secondary to the rights of Christians, and dependent on the demands of those Christians. This legislation not only legalises discrimination against the LGBT community – and, well, anyone else that Christians decide they’re not too keen on – it tells the LGBT community and non-Christians that they are not to be considered equal citizens, will not be entitled the same rights as Christians, and that their right to equal citizenship and protection should be decided upon by Theocrats, on the basis of Biblical ‘morality’. It is the grotesque concept of the state recognising and establishing religious intolerance at the expense of equal rights. Completely anti-constitutional. It is the state placing the supremacy of the Bible, above the Constitution. It is the state creating two classes of citizen; the religious, and the non-religious, with the former to be given a privileged societal position above the latter. This is illegitimate and extremely dangerous religious (and so, Christian) supremacy, in much the same way as Jim Crow was illegitimate and extremely dangerous white supremacy.
It seems to be the case that conservative Christians struggle to identify the difference between being persecuted for their faith, and challenges to the supremacy of their faith. The latter, is not the same as the former. The Bill authorises persecution, for the sake of the supremacy of faith. A state based on the supremacy of one religion should be considered as vile and dangerous as a state based on the supremacy of one skin tone. It is vastly anti-secular, and vastly anti-American. It is a dehumanising bill that should offend all who value equality, human dignity, secular protections, and the Constitution. There is so much wrong with this Bill, and the response to it, that it’s difficult to know where to even begin.