The Arizona Legislature is in the news again for yet another piece of controversial legislation. I don’t mind controversial legislation; actually it’s great for getting people to talk about politics and what their government is doing, but then there is the fact that it can be passed into law. Some times that’s good, some times that’s bad.
This new piece of legislation is about the right of religious business owners to discriminate on the basis of their religious beliefs. This has apparently been done in light of some high-profile cases where Christian business owners have refused service to gay couples for gay wedding ceremonies, most notably the cases of the wedding photographer and the wedding cake baker.
If you know me, you know that I’m an advocate of the free market – nearly anarcho-capitalist even. I believe that business owners have the right to discriminate to a particular demographic of people, if they so choose to limit themselves in that way, without legal ramifications. I do also support the right of disenfranchised consumers to boycott said business leaving the success of the business to be determined by the market.
In these high-profile cases however, anti-discrimination laws have stood in the way of business owners making these decisions, and I believe that Arizona legislators think they have found a way to solve the problem by enacting legislation that essentially makes an exception for religious business owners.
If I were Gov. Brewer …
I’d veto the legislation.
I see two major problems. First, the premise of the bill – whether intentional or not – is that the government is the originator of our rights. They are not. Our rights existed before governments were created, and therefore the right to discriminate exists whether Governor Brewer signs the bill or not. Now don’t confuse what I’m saying to mean that I condone discrimination. In most cases, I don’t. But Having a Right is Not The Same as Being Right. So when I say that business owners have the right (freedom) to discriminate, I’m not saying that they are necessarily right (correct) in doing so. What we have here is actually a violation of our rights in anti-discrimination laws. I would certainly hope that we recognize the right of gay business owners to refuse service to members of Westboro Baptist Church, and certainly if this were to happen, the LGBT community would be praising those business owners much in the same way the Chrisitan-Right praises the baker for refusing to bake a cake for a gay wedding ceremony.
The second major problem is this. The legislation presupposes that religious people have rights that non-religious people do not have. It presupposes that you as a religious person have a superior status when it comes to the right to discriminate. Let me tell you, the only entity that doesn’t have the right to discriminate is the government. But every individual, gay or straight, religious or not, has the right to discriminate, or choose whom they associate themselves with. The social ramifications of discrimination are something entirely different and should be dealt with on a social level. The great non sequitur is that the necessity of society equates to the necessity of government.
So, sorry Arizona, I think Gov. Brewer needs to veto this legislation. Clearly the authors of this legislation don’t understand the proper role of government and do not understand the origin of rights. Ultimately passage of this bill means state-sanctioned discrimination, and that is definitely unacceptable in our Constitutional republic.