The headline reads “A License to Discriminate.” And the New York Times editorial board goes on to claim that Arizona has just passed “noxious measures to give businesses and individuals the broad right to deny services to same-sex couples in the name of protecting religious liberty.” The Times got it wrong. The proposed legislation never even mentions same-sex couples; it simply clarifies and improves existing state protections for religious liberty. And as the multitude of lawsuits against the coercive HHS mandate and the cases of photographers, florists and bakers show, we need protection for religious liberty now more than ever.
In 1993, overwhelming bipartisan majorities of both houses of congress passed, and President Bill Clinton signed, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The Act states that the federal government “shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion” unless it can demonstrate that such a burden “is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling interest.”
In 1999 the state of Arizona passed similar legislation that prevents the state government from similarly burdening the free exercise of religion. The bill that the Arizona legislature just passed is an amendment to the 1999 state RFRA clarifying that the protections extend to any “state action” and would apply to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.” In other words, it protects all citizens and the associations they form from undue burdens by the government on their religious liberty or from private lawsuits that would have the same result.
Respecting religious liberty for all those in the marketplace is particularly important. After all, as first lady Michelle Obama put it, religious faith “isn’t just about showing up on Sunday for a good sermon and good music and a good meal. It’s about what we do Monday through Saturday as well.”
Read more at The Foundry