Got news? So what’s RFRA got to do with Arizona?

Got news? So what’s RFRA got to do with Arizona? February 28, 2014

For the past 20 years or so, while watching more and more debates over the First Amendment sneak into the headlines, I have been asking myself the following question: What should journalists call a person who waffles on free speech, waffles on freedom of association and waffles on religious liberty?

The answer: I don’t know, but the accurate term to describe this person — in the history of American political thought — is not not “liberal.”

Of course you can also turn this equation around and ask: What will mainstream journalists call a person who is strong on free speech, strong on freedom of association and strong on religious liberty?

The answer, based on the news coverage I have seen in the past year or so is this: It appears that such a person is now either a “conservative” or a very, very old member of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In other words, folks, up is down and down is up in the public square right now. After all, the fierce defense of the First Amendment used to be the very essence of American liberalism. And now?

Note the language at the top of this Washington Post A1 story, a piece that in the current atmosphere is almost radically tolerant of traditional religious believers in a variety of ancient faiths:

Conservative activists said Thursday that they will continue to press for additional legal protections for private businesses that deny service to gay men and lesbians, saying that a defeat in Arizona this week is only a minor setback and that religious-liberty legislation is the best way to stave off a rapid shift in favor of gay rights.

Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed legislation on Wednesday that would have provided a wide variety of religious exemptions to Arizona businesses, after major business groups, prominent Republicans and gay rights advocates argued that it would amount to discrimination.

Many conservatives said they will continue working to convince voters and judges that opponents of same-sex marriage and abortion are motivated by faith rather than bigotry.

“The fight has to be over what the First Amendment is,” said John C. Eastman, chairman of the National Organization for Marriage, adding that his side needs to convince the public that conservatives are not trying to deny the rights of other Americans.

Note, of course, the framing in the lede. Is the question here whether this legislation was a way to “stave off a rapid shift in favor of gay rights” or a way to protect the consciences of religious believers who want courts, in the wake of gay-rights victories, to be able to hear their appeals when state agencies of private citizens attempted to force them to commit acts that violated established doctrines central to their faith?

The desire to protect religious believers, and institutions, was — as recently as the Clinton White House — an issue on which a wide coalition of traditional liberals and conservatives could find strong agreement. We are talking, of course, about the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which President Bill Clinton proudly signed in 1993.

Now in recent coverage, journalists have faced a challenge in a highly-charged atmosphere. On one side the Arizona story were activists who saw SB1062 as anti-gay legislation. On the other side were those who saw it as an attempt to clarify and even narrow the language in Arizona’s own RFRA law.

For journalists, the goal was to accurately and fairly cover the viewpoints of people on both sides of this debate, articulate, informed activists and scholars who represented both of these points of view. Right?

So how did that go?

Writing at The Federalist, GetReligionista emeritus M.Z. Hemingway was blunt, to say the least. Her piece followed 48 hours in which she burned up the Twitter-verse defending RFRA and the need for balanced, accurate coverage of the Arizona law.

Here is the top of her fierce essay dissecting the mainstream media coverage:

In the aftermath of the abominable media coverage of Arizona’s religious liberty bill, an editor shared his hypothesis that journalists care about freedom of speech and of the press because they practice them. And journalists don’t care about freedom of religion because they don’t.

But one of the most interesting things about modern media’s deep hostility toward the religious, their religions, and religious liberty in general is that press freedom in America is rooted in religion.

The John Peter Zenger case of 1735, argued successfully by Andrew Hamilton, wasn’t just an important legal event but an important symbolic event in the development of American freedom of expression. We remember Hamilton’s now-famous plea that truth should be admitted as a defense.

But perhaps we don’t understand that the members of the jury ruled in favor of press freedom because of their belief in the foundational importance of religion and religious liberty. The Zenger press freedom case was a “disputation on truth and on how truth is revealed to man,” noted David Paul Nord in 2006?s “A History of American Newspapers and Their Readers.” This is another way of saying “religion.” In the Cato letters printed in Zenger’s New York Weekly Journal, it was argued that each individual had not just the right but the duty to seek truth in his own way. From the book (emphasis mine):

“Every man’s religion is his own,” Cato declared, “nor can the religion of any man, of what nature or figure soever, be the religion of another man, unless he also chooses it; which action utterly excludes all force, power or government.”

The media now call people who agree with this notion “bigots” or “Jim Crow” types.

Let’s return to the essential news question: Is the religious liberty content of the Arizona debate merely a “conservative” idea, a piece of inaccurate information that journalists should ignore rather than introduce “false balance” into their coverage?

One way to have approached that question was to seek out the view of old-fashioned liberals — scholars, lawyers, etc. — who recognized the connection between RFRA and the Arizona law. On Feb. 25th, one such left-right coalition released a letter (click here for the .pdf) that opened with this statement, which indirectly addresses press coverage issues:

Dear Gov. Brewer:

SB1062, which amends Arizona’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, is on your desk for signature. The bill has been egregiously misrepresented by many of its critics. We write because we believe that you should make your decision on the basis of accurate information.

Some of us are Republicans; some of us are Democrats. Some of us are religious; some of us are not. Some of us oppose same-sex marriage; some of us support it. Nine of the eleven signers of this letter believe that you should sign the bill; two are unsure. But all of us believe that many criticisms of the Arizona bill are deeply misleading.

The federal government and eighteen states have Religious Freedom Restoration Acts (RFRAs). Another twelve or thirteen states interpret their state constitutions to provide similar protections. These laws enact a uniform standard to be interpreted and applied to individual cases by courts. They say that before the government can burden a person’s religious exercise, the government has to show a compelling justification.

That standard makes sense. We should not punish people for practicing their religions unless we have a very good reason. Arizona has had a RFRA for nearly fifteen years now; the federal government has had one since 1993; and RFRA’s standard was the constitutional standard for the entire country from 1963 to 1990. There have been relatively few cases; if you knew little about the Arizona RFRA until the current controversy, that is because it has had no disruptive effect in Arizona.

Journalists (and news consumers): Please read it all.

As you read it, ask yourself this question: In the major daily news stories about the Arizona law and the governor’s veto — as opposed to online essays and a few sidebars — how often did you read or hear references to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act?

Let me stress, once again, that I am not calling for the RFRA angle to be the defining, framing element of coverage of this issue in Arizona or in other states. I am asking how journalists can accurate and fairly include the viewpoints of RFRA defenders — conservatives AND LIBERALS — in their news coverage.

And, as our presidents always say, “God bless America.” And God bless the First Amendment, too.

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47 responses to “Got news? So what’s RFRA got to do with Arizona?”

  1. The WaPo article claims the law discriminates against gay people. I think everyone recognizes that what’s at issue is participation in gay weddings. That confusion frames the entire discussion in a manner that can’t be resolved, except by nullifying the first amendment. Is that responsible journalism? I’m not suggesting that journalists should take a side, only that they have.

    • Nope. The law NEVER mentions weddings. Or indeed places ANY restrictions on what services a public accommodation can deny based on their religion.
      Here is the text of the bill:


      2. “Exercise of religion” means the PRACTICE OR OBSERVANCE OF
      9 RELIGION, INCLUDING THE ability to act or refusal to act in a manner
      10 substantially motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is
      11 compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.

      So, if someone is substantially motivated by a religious belief to refuse to sell a newspaper to a Jewish person, then that is covered by the law.

      • The problem is, the Jewish person in that example has exactly the same right to buy that paper regardless of their religion.

        That is what these attempts to modify RFRA acts to include private individuals will cause – every lawsuit that is important to the people who want these changes will be framed as religion v religion rather than religion v sexual orientation.

        Lets be clear, these changes are because the states who implemented these laws copied the federal statute which is solely about a citizen’s religious rights against a government which has no religious rights – obviously the citizen should be win in such a challenge in most cases.

        And that’s why the photography studio in New Mexico couldn’t use the state RFRA in their defense – this was between two citizens. These attempts to ‘amend’ the Arizona RFRA were to try and make it possible to evoke an RFRA when another citizen is involved on the other side, but that is also a very big problem.

        The Arizona constitution specifically says in Article 2 Section 12 that religious conscience doesn’t excuse ‘licentious acts’ which in 19th century legalese is “doing as one wills without regard for the rights of others” which in this case would be their religious rights to have their own freedom of exercise.

        Any law that would take one citizen’s side (the business) on religious liberty against another citizen’s (the customer) instantly becomes unconstitutional – the government quite literally cannot even make such a law.

        And add in that regardless of how generic they try to make this law sound it really has one primary motivation – to make cases like the NM photography studio against the people who belief in same sex marriage covered. And that wouldn’t fly with the Supreme Court.

        Very similar case with business selling goats having to sell to someone who was going to religiously sacrifice it. They didn’t want to and the city helped out by ‘gerrymandering’ the laws so such killing of goats was about the only thing that wasn’t legal in the city. In a 9-0 ruling the court said such laws were not neutral and unconstitutional. As Scalia said such obvious efforts to allow religious discrimination count even if indirect in their implementation, “a tax on yarmulkes is a tax on Jews.” Similarly a law that is designed to let a business religiously discriminate against the religious views of a customer is similar discrimination.

        I truly think that people should stop trying to tinker with the state level RFRAs. They just heighten awareness of them so no more can pass, and trying to tinker in this kind of overt religious discrimination of business against a citizen might just break them entirely.

      • Which would be relevant if sexual preference were a protected class in Arizona, which it’s not. A fact I’ve barely read in the press.

        BTW, a fair few folks otherwise sympathetic to the law’s goals recognize that it’s poorly written.

        • Sex is though. And the refusal to serve a gay couple is based on the sex of at least one of the couple.

  2. If law abiding citizens are getting married and a business is in the business of selling wedding cakes (for instance), then a business has NO BUSINESS deciding which weddings they will or won’t sell cakes for. Selling an item or a service to the public does not require that the business owner ‘approve’ of the customer. I know this isn’t exactly a comment on the ‘journalism’, but I have been more and more – annoyed? – over the past year by the consistent and insistent focus of this website almost solely on ‘gay marriage/religious freedom’ issues and invariably (it seems to me) taking the side of the ‘religious’ position. Can’t ‘gay people’ be ‘religious’ too? Surely there is more to talk about than that. Besides, this should have been settled fifty years ago: a business owner’s personal beliefs don’t trump civil rights. Period.
    First amendment issues don’t apply – I don’t expect my car service dealer to care about my soul, I expect him to care about my CAR. Requiring the service dealer to deal in the service he or she provides to the public is not infringing on anybody’s first amendment rights, unless it is against the business owner’s religion to provide GOOD SERVICE TO THE PUBLIC. Providing good service doesn’t involve condoning the customer’s actions, lifestyles or beliefs.

      • No I just got tired of talking about ‘wedding cakes’ and bakers. How about ‘cheesemakers’? A metaphor for all manufacturing and service personnel. They sell or provide services to the public, they don’t have the right to pick and choose WHICH public. Suppose I sell widgets and suppose I disapprove of people shacking up. Is it my ‘right’ to require that prospective customers exhibit their marriage licenses before I sell them a widget? No. Selling them a widget does not and should not indicate that I ‘approve’ of their ‘lifestyle’. I approve of people buying widgets and giving me money for them.

        • Blessed are the cheesemakers!
          There is no particular homosexual or heterosexual or married or single way of using widgets. There are heterosexual and homosexual ways of “getting married”.

        • And someone who really hates homosexuals would call it a “perversion”, not a “lifestyle”.

    • The reason this website focuses so much on the “gay marriage”/religious freedom issue is because people’s religious freedom is under attack by those advocating for “gay marriage” and the mainstream media are covering the issues almost solely from the gay lobby’s perspective. The press’s job is to report the news, not advocate for one side or the other. Yes, “gay people” can be religious, too, and that should be covered as well, but that is generally done. There have been lots of stories about churches catering to gay couples, etc.

      But when it comes to bakers, photographers, caterers, hotel/B&B owners, wedding hall owners, florists, etc., their desires to exercise their religious liberty in not serving “gay weddings” should be taken at face value by the media without putting “religious freedom” in scare quotes and without dismissing their claims as backward and intolerant by overloading the story with quotes from supporters of “gay marriage.”

      • Like every ‘liberty’, your rights – and mine – end at the ‘nose’ of the other party. Someone in business isn’t ‘approving’ of their customers by carrying out a normal business function. REFUSING to carry out a normal business function out of a personal preference not to deal with that person AS a person – because the person involved is black, or non-native English speaking, or an atheist, or gay – now THAT is ‘discrimination’ and it is illegal. You may very well say that ‘being gay’ is not currently a protected class. No, but it is not illegal to be gay, either, nor is it illegal to be gay and buying flowers. Or a cake. Or wedding invitations. An individual can be as bigoted as he likes – but he can’t use that bigotry as an excuse to fail to do a fair business with the object of that bigotry. That’s not a ‘First Amendment’ protection. A baker, a caterer, a wedding hall owner, a florist – these are selling a product or a service: they are not being asked to endorse their customer’s life choices, they are being asked to sell their product or service. Period. They sell to ‘anybody’, they sell to ‘all customers’ – they can’t suddenly decide that SOME customers are more equal than others.

        • And, again, how does your comment address the journalism issues in my post, the need to cover both sides of the argument accurately?

          • Dear Terry –
            My FIRST post addressed journalism: not the WaPo article, but GetReligion’s coverage. I used to visit GetReligion almost daily, because I am interested in church/state issues, and because GetReligion was interesting.
            Over the past few years however, the tone has changed, it seems to me. If there is an issue of religion in the media, and GetReligion covers it, I can be sure before I even read the blog that it is going to be partisan, and it is going to be partisan on the side of anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-liberal. I don’t think ‘the media’ has suddenly become MORE ‘liberal’, I think GetReligion is the party that has changed.
            Take a look back for yourself if you will: GetReligion is ALSO a ‘media outlet’.
            After the first post, I was only responding to previous comments and those were definitely not ‘on journalism’. I apologize, and now I am going away. I’m sorry I missed your first question, but as it happens, I no longer visit GetReligion on a daily basis.

    • And how does your comment address the journalism issues in my post, the need to cover both sides of the argument accurately?

      • Letting the Nazis march in Skokie isn’t the same as letting them make the Jewish residents of Skokie wear yellow stars. As an ACLU member, I find your remark ludicrous.

        • Is someone proposing to make homosexuals wear pink triangles, and what does that have to do with Tmatt’s “ludicrous” question?

    • Odd that you would analogize “fixing my car for me” with “helping me marry the person I love.”

      A Christian is raised to think that marriage is more than a transaction between two people involving an inanimate object, like a car or other property to be held in common.

      Because, technically speaking, there may be an animate object created by the biological union of a man and a woman. (Science!)

      Your analogy indicates you want to force Christians to behave outwardly as though participation in a wedding is the same as participation in the fixing of an inanimate object like a non-running car. So I guess your analogy speaks volumes: weddings are nothing more than a consumer purchase to be facilitated.

      • Baking a cake is not “helping me marry the person I love.” It’s baking a cake…

          • No, that’s the heart of the issue. Can a business discriminate against certain classes of people and refuse to serve them just because of who they are?

          • So you admit that it’s not about getting a cake, but normalizing same-sex attraction, which is not like being a woman or an African American, but rather a subjective, self reported claim about a psychological state.

            But now I’ve done these good bloggers journalism website to amuse myself at your expense. Well, there is a journalism tie in, since you reflect in your twisted thinking the obsession of the national press with All Things Gay. But it’s a tenuous connection.

          • It’s about equal treatment under the law and in the marketplace. Whether sexual orientation is innately biological or simply a choice (and it’s probably a bit of both) is frankly irrelevant. Whether the basis of discrimination is some inherent characteristic like skin colour or a “subjective self reported claim” like one’s religion there should be no exclusion from such fair and equal treatment.

  3. One thing not covered has been how deeply and personally involved photographers and bakers wind up being in many weddings. It is not some sort of “assembly line” impersonal job.
    In many cases photographers have to be virtual choreographers of the ceremony and reception events to get decent photographs or videos.
    And many wedding cakes these days are virtual artistic and very personalistic creations.
    Also, most coverage I have seen just willy-nilly takes the attitude that no one in business has any right to follow his religious convictions on anything (unless it is a politically correct conscience). But when did the First Amendment get ripped from the Constitution?
    And the media overall has let itself be used as a propaganda organ for erroneously conflating gay civil rights issues with Black civil rights issues–the question in the Gay cases is: who are the one’s being persecuted by government power the Gays or the photographers, etc””.. Blacks clearly were the victims of government power. But in many cases it is now bakers and photographers, etc. who are being stomped on by government power..
    And no one has brought up the issue that a photographer–to do his job correctly–has to attend what is usually a religious service or a secular ceremony. But separate from the Gay issue—many people have serious moral scruples about attending some type ceremonies or services–and one would think the courts would protect someone from government forced attendance.

    • One thing not covered has been how deeply and personally involved photographers and bakers wind up being in many weddings. It is not some sort of “assembly line” impersonal job.

      My wife runs a bakery that does a lot of wedding cakes. You’re right, it’s not an impersonal job. But it can be a professional one. I can assure you my wife doesn’t agree with or like everyone who comes through her door, but she manages to provide all of them with professional service.

      Blacks clearly were the victims of government power.

      But not homosexuals? And it wasn’t only government power that victimized blacks, for that matter.

      And no one has brought up the issue that a photographer–to do his job correctly–has to attend what is usually a religious service or a secular ceremony.

      How about a private photography business for your fellow churchgoers? That would ensure that you wouldn’t come into contact with anyone who didn’t share your religious views. If you open up a business to the public, though, aren’t you by that very fact accepting that people who might have views very different from you might become your customers?

      • And so a Jewish photographer or baker couldn’t refuse to do the photography or provide the refreshments for a neo-Nazi ceremony? I do think there’s a difference between discriminating against a person (as in, the Jewish baker should probably sell the neo-Nazi a loaf of bread or a pastry if the neo-Nazi comes in the door of the bakery) and refusing to signal endorsement of an activity by refraining from participating in it (so the Jewish person should be able to refuse to go to the Neo-Nazi rally). Not only are there freedom of religion issues here, there are freedom of expression issues.

        • A business open to the public has to provide its services to the public. It doesn’t have to provide special services, but services available to the rest of the public have to be offered to individuals.

          An example. Her bakery is one of only two in our area that offers eggless cakes. The Jain religion forbids eating all animal products, so if they’re going to have a wedding cake, it must be eggless. Other bakeries are not engaging in religious discrimination by not offering eggless cakes; making them is tricky and requires practice.

          But if my wife offered eggless cakes, yet refused to make them for Jain weddings, that would be religious discrimination.

          Note, too, that none of the laws I’ve seen proposed are specifically tailored to artisans – they are intended to apply to any employee of any business. If “freedom of expression” issues are really in play, why aren’t the bills tailored in such a way?

          • The AZ law was tailored to religion not freedom of expression because it was an attempt to amend AZ’s version of the RFRA. (If I’ve got the history right, the RFRA was the bill passed as a response to the Smith v. Oregon decision (majority opinion written by Scalia) which held that a state could deny someone unemployment compensation because he was fired for using peyote, even though peyote was part of his Native American religious practice. Congress thought this was too much of an imposition on religious freedom so they passed the RFRA. But then the court came back and said that congress could perhaps make rules about the fed gov’t, but not the states. So the states (some of them at least) responded with their own versions. AZ’s proposed amendment to their RFRA act said that businesses could raise religious freedom as a defense to accusations of discrimination. (Note that the bill did not say that such defenses would necessarily prevail.) The Elana photography case (which is currently at the Court) explicitly is a freedom of expression case not a religious liberty case. (There’s an article in the Vanderbilt Law Review which explicitly takes up the conflicts between the public accommodations law and freedom of expression, including in the Elana case, though I don’t have the cite to hand.) I think the Jain analogy is backwards – the right analogy would not be a baker who refuses to make a cake for the Jain couple because the baker does not like Jains but a Jain baker who is being told that he/she must put eggs in the cake because the customer wants a cake with eggs regardless of the Jain’s religious beliefs. (Note that I’m no particular defender of the religious right – I’m an atheist myself. But I do take freedom of conscience very seriously. The state does not get to tell me what I have to believe, and there are limits to how the state can make me act in conflict with my beliefs. This liberty is, of course, not unlimited – there always has to be a balancing test. But I just don’t see that telling a couple to go find a different baker, who doesn’t think that same sex marriage is a sin, is that big a deal. It seems worse to me to make the Jain baker bake the cake with eggs than to make the egg-wanting customer find a different baker.)

          • Sorry there aren’t any paragraphs in that screed – I sort of learned to not use paragraphs on facebook, because I always ended up accidentally posting when I was just trying to start a new paragraph, but it does make it hard to read when it’s all run together like that.

          • You proposed the case of a Jewish baker providing an otherwise standard cake to a Nazi customer. Now you’re switching to a Jain providing a non-standard cake that they don’t offer to the rest of the public. I’m afraid I can’t keep up.

          • Ummm… the jain example was _yours_. I was responding to _your_ comment. So I’m a bit confused by why you say you can’t keep up. I disagree with the way you thought the analogy went. It would be appropriate here to defend your interpretation of your analogy, but I don’t see the point of complaining that we’re now talking about Jains…..
            And, yes, an appropriate response to my interpretation of the analogy is that the egg-cake is a non-standard cake (from the perspective of the Jain baker) and so the baker has no obligation to provide a different sort of cake, and so that’s different from the wedding case, where a cake is a cake is a cake, after all. But why can’t the baker likewise say that he/she does wedding cakes for, well, traditional marriages? That’s the service that he/she provides. (That a cake is a cake is why I’m actually less sympathetic to the religious liberty claim for bakers – it seems stronger to me for photographers, who have much more involvement in the actual goings-on. But still, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s a slam dunk in the case of bakers – there is a religious liberty argument that can be made, even if it’s not as strong.)

          • As to analogies, I wasn’t objecting to Jains – I was pointing out that “I disagree with the way you thought the analogy went”. Not only that, I explained why.

            Indeed, forcing the Jain baker to use eggs is problematic because it’s not a service they offer to the public. However:

            But why can’t the baker likewise say that he/she does wedding cakes for, well, traditional marriages?

            From a legal perspective, they make decorated cakes, period. They might be able to argue that they don’t provide “groom/groom” figurines, but as I noted to wlinden, figurines are actually quite rare in modern practice.

            I agree that if the proposed laws were tailored to cover custom artisans, they’d probably be a lot more defensible. A key problem – as I’ve also noted already – is that they want to apply to anyone, even government employees providing public services.

          • Also, there is nothing peculiarly Jain about vegan recipes. (Are all vegan establishments Jain?) While someone who was instructed to, say, decorate the cake with two “groom” figures might reasonably think that it was for a homosexual “wedding”, or the orderer was deliberately picking a fight. (or both.)

          • There’s nothing particularly ‘gay’ or ‘straight’ about a cake, either. In fact, I’m in a position to say that little ‘bride’ or ‘groom’ figurines on top of the cake are actually quite rare. My wife takes pictures of every cake they make and/or deliver. I’ve helped deliver plenty myself. And I honestly can’t recall even one (out of hundreds) with figurines.

            And we need to know names and such. We need to know more than last names when delivering a cake – if I have “Dorner/Garrett” or something on the form, but the venue has three weddings going on and they’re labeled “Julie/Steve”, I’m going to have trouble. Not to mention full names for payment and such. Revealing the names of both members of the couple isn’t an aggressive act; in fact, it’s almost unavoidable.

          • But, as someone on Religionlaw just lambasted me, you can’t be sure from the names either.

            Now, if it was to be delivered to the “Metropolitan Community Church” or the “LGBT Community Center”, there would be a prima facie assumption.

            I am still wondering how the alleged horde of “bigots” who are champing to “refuse service to gays” for any and all transactions mean to identify them. So far, all anyone has done is fly into a rage and claim I am objecting to “flaunting”, something only they have mentioned.

          • I just got in from my niece’s wedding, including the cake figures you say are “quite rare”. So, nyaaa, nyaaa, NYAAAAA!

          • Yup, you win. One anecdote completely disproves hundreds of cakes by a professional. Go live your life with my blessings.

  4. Forcing people to participate in gay weddings. That is what this is all about. Period. End of story.

  5. It’s interesting, Terry, that you police only those comments that are in support of gay marriage and against the law. Those commenters, like the Deacon or others that are simply expressions of how much the poster hate gay marriage don’t receive the same response from you. Why is that, I wonder?

    • This is all for the exact same reason there is no comment system on creationist websites or heavily policed comment sections on websites like LifeSiteNews or CharismaNews etc.

      These forums aren’t about debate. These articles aren’t about discourse. It’s about preaching.

  6. As to journalism, there is an assumption made that the motives of the sponsors are as stated, that they are faithfully presenting an honest issue of religious rights. To borrow from Ross Douthat, that this is a sort of negotiation of peace. So the question becomes: is this assumption of good faith warranted? If so, then the critique stands.

    Over against this has been the pattern of conservative legislation that has been more assertive, and oftentimes more opaque as to origination, where legislation is written to conform to models developed by third party groups. Legislation is not as it seems, but rather often is constructed in ways to achieve more partisan or self-serving objectives. Neutrality may only be a sort of scrim. Leveraging this present is the recent memory the 2004 sweep of DOMA state amendments and the like.

    In the context of current “conservative” legislation and with the memory of the Religious Right at its apex a decade ago, the belief that the sponsors motives are as stated certainly can be challenged. At the very least the coverage points to the poison of polarization that robs both sides of the trust necessary for pursuing justice and the common good.

  7. Why not ask the people massacred at Waco about their religious freedom that Clinton helped them with.

  8. Total and utter smoke and mirrors. The AZ law is about defining a person as including corporations and other business entities. What nonsense. A business (whether corporation, partnership or licensed proprietorship) is a legal abstraction subservient to that other great abstraction – the government. Imbuing and anthropomorphizing such abstractions with the rights of living breathing people is the scary part. RFRA does an adequate job of protecting real live people’s rights with respect to religious beliefs. The various commerce laws do a good job of codifying what is acceptable behavior in the areas of the common public marketplace. It is truly lipstick on a pig to say that AZ SB1062 is anything other than a bare knuckled attempt to allow bigotry to hide behind the corporate veil. Next they’ll be advocated for the right to vote for corporations (oh wait a Montana GOP’er put forth a bill to do just that last year).