The Spectacle Blog

Religious Freedom Isn’t a Cudgel

By on 2.27.14 | 12:41AM

Natalie deMacedo has replied to my critique of her post concerning Arizona S.B. 1062. For good measure, Quin Hillyer has also written a response.

It is difficult to make sense of Natalie’s six point response. She begins by asserting, “I never said I was for this bill,” nor will she defend the intentions of Arizona State Senator Yarbrough in introducing said bill.

But then she concludes that S.B. 1062 “is simply a restatement of federal law with some minor clarifications.” So if S.B. 1062 “is simply a restatement of federal law with some minor clarifications,” it is curious why Natalie can’t say she supports the bill. If Natalie doesn’t support the bill, then why doesn’t she? 

Although Natalie was kind to again post a link to the legislation “for my edification,” she did not need to do so. If she had carefully read my post she would have seen that I not only provided a link to the legislation but that I quoted directly from it. Presently, where it concerns religious freedom in Arizona, persons are defined as “a religious assembly or institution.” If SB 1062 is signed into law it is expanded to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church” and “other business organization.” With all due respect to the input of Stanford Law Professor Michael McConnell, I would hardly call this amendment “simply a restatement of federal law with some minor clarifications.”

Whether Natalie likes it or not, Senator Yarbrough’s intentions and motivations do matter even if the scope of his amendments goes well beyond matters concerning gay couples and wedding photographers. So of course one of the consequences of this bill is about Muslim cab drivers. Muslim cab drivers who seek to deny providing service to blind people with guide dogs and people carrying a bottle of alcohol in the name of claim they do so in the name of religious freedom. This is one of the “minor clarifications” to which Natalie refers. 

For her part, Natalie says she takes “no issue” with a Muslim cab driver denying her a ride because she’s a Christian. I’m not sure how sanguine Natalie would be if she needed to take a cab to the airport to catch a flight and ended up missing said flight because a Muslim driver said, “Sorry, no Christians.” Well, this doesn’t matter because the conduct of the Muslim cab driver is still illegal. And apparently Quin Hillyer is just dandy with it.

Quin argues “unless that single cab provider is a monopoly, then it is no big deal.” Well, this has been a big problem at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport where at least 75% of the drivers are Muslim. This problem has also arisen in Canada and in the U.K. So if you’re blind and need a guide dog and need a cab ride, as far as Quin is concerned, Muslim cab drivers have the “absolute right” to deny you service and to hell with our anti-discrimination laws. Who knew Quin was such an enthusiast for Sharia law?

Quin also makes the claim that my argument against SB 1062 means that I support the Obama Administration compelling the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide health insurance for abortifacients. Well, as the law in Arizona stands, “a religious assembly or institution” is already protected where it concerns religious freedoms and the present law would cover the Little Sisters of the Poor. So Quin’s argument here is simply specious.

It is one thing for a religious organization to be protected under the law to carry out its mission; it is quite another to allow individuals and businesses to use “religious freedom” and “religious conscience” to deny products and services to people who have the money to pay for them, but don’t share their faith or who are otherwise different from them. Natalie and Quin might be fine with a Christian photographer refusing to take pictures at the wedding of a gay couple, with a Muslim telling a Christian he won’t transport him in his cab, with a Christian telling a Jew that he won’t rent him an apartment. Well, it’s not fine with me. If Natalie and Quin define religious freedom as a cudgel to be used against others, then that is truly dangerous and I want no part of it.

Apparently Governor Brewer wants no part of it either, because she has vetoed the S.B. 1062. Thank God.

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