Tactics and Strategy in Arizona
Religious liberty lost because opponents successfully rewrote the narrative.
Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer on Wednesday vetoed controversial Senate Bill 1062, which was intended to protect religious liberty for business owners who chose not to provide services on religious grounds. The governor was under immense pressure from every direction to issue a veto. Naturally, leftist groups vehemently objected, but even Republicans from Mitt Romney and John McCain to two of the state legislators who initially voted for the bill urged a veto.
Brewer said she worried the bill was too “broadly worded” and that it “could result in unintended and negative consequences.” She conceded that “long-held norms about marriage and family are being challenged as never before,” but she said the bill in question “has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve.” She claimed, “I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.” In the end, the political reality was that the homosexual lobby and their Leftmedia mouthpieces already had full control of the debate and they were making Arizona a lightning rod, so Brewer had little choice.
But how about a look at the facts? Arizona’s bill was an amendment to Arizona’s 1999 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which, like 17 other state laws, mirrored a federal law by the same name written by then-Rep. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and signed into law by Bill Clinton in 1993. (How times have changed.) A bipartisan group of law professors wrote Gov. Brewer laying out its rationale: “SB1062 would amend the Arizona RFRA to address two ambiguities that have been the subject of litigation under other RFRAs. It would provide that people are covered when state or local government requires them to violate their religion in the conduct of their business, and it would provide that people are covered when sued by a private citizen invoking state or local law to demand that they violate their religion.” All it would grant is the right to claim religious beliefs as a legal defense; it did not guarantee legal victory to either side.
That’s it. Nothing about homosexuals or discrimination or hate.
The Heritage Foundation’s Ryan T. Anderson explains that “because of constant misrepresentation in the media, a bill that never mentioned gays, lesbians, marriage or same-sex anything was labeled anti-gay Jim Crow legislation. In truth the bill merely protected religious liberty and took nothing away from anyone.” Furthermore, neither sexual orientation nor so-called gender identity are currently protected classes under Arizona law, or most other states’ law. Yet despite the apocalyptic claims of mass discrimination that would result from the now-vetoed bill, somehow such discrimination isn’t already happening.
In truth, the bill was written in large part because the homosexual agenda seeks to discriminate against Christians. Witness the numerous lawsuits around the country against bakers, florists and photographers who wish not to condone same-sex weddings by providing services for them. Would these same thought police force a Jew to cater a Nazi event? Or a black person to dry clean KKK robes? Yet when it comes to the homosexual agenda, where leftists can’t win affirmation they want coercion; intolerance in the name of tolerance. Religious liberty is sacrificed at the altar of that agenda, which aims to radically redefine civilization’s centuries-old building block.
Even so, legislation like Arizona’s must be pursued strategically. This was a tactical move – however right it was – but proponents were badly outflanked, in part by another GOP circular firing squad. The real issue was religious liberty, but when the bill’s opponents successfully rewrote the narrative, the battle was lost.