Arizona Passes Bill Allowing Business Owners to Refuse Service Based on Their Religious Beliefs

Arizona Passes Bill Allowing Business Owners to Refuse Service Based on Their Religious Beliefs February 21, 2014

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Arizona’s state legislature has passed a bill aimed at curbing lawsuits against business owners who refuse services based on their religious beliefs.

According to a news story by, the bill is a response to the court decision in New Mexico forcing a baker to provide a cake for a gay wedding.

I haven’t read the bill, and don’t have an opinion about its specific language. I do, however support the concept of conscience rights. I think we’re going to see more of this type of legislation. Based on recent court rulings and the spate of lawsuits filed against mom and pop businesses, a legislative solution is needed.

However, I don’t think such solutions as these will work long-term, or even short-term. The entire issue has become court-based, and the courts seem willing to override the will of the people with very little consideration for the gravity involved in taking that action. The DOMA decision is the Roe of gay marriage, and it will end up having similar results.

If the court had allowed DOMA to stand, that would have pushed the debate back to a legislative level. If courts had refused to overturn votes of the people in the domino fashion which they are doing, I think the entire issue would have been settled in a long series of legislative battles at the state level. This would have taken more time, but it ultimately would have saved America what is going to be an ugly, on-going battle that will polarize and damage our country even further.

I think the resistance to gay marriage will end up in a fight to amend the Constitution, and that will become a protracted and painful battle involving increasing public disenchantment with what we have wrought, much like the fight about abortion.

If you follow this link, you’ll be able to watch a news video about the vote. You can see how difficult this vote was for everyone involved. As one legislator to another, my heart goes out to all of them, on both sides of the question. From

The Arizona Legislature has passed a controversial religion bill that is again thrusting Arizona into the national spotlight in a debate over discrimination.

House Bill 2153, written by the conservative advocacy group Center for Arizona Policy and the Christian legal organization Alliance Defending Freedom, would allow individuals to use religious beliefs as a defense against a lawsuit.

The bill, which was introduced last month and has been described by opponents as discriminatory against gays and lesbians, has drawn national media coverage. Discussion of the bill went viral on social media during the House floor debate Thursday.

Opponents have dubbed it the “right to discriminate” bill and say it could prompt an economic backlash against the state, similar to what they say occurred when the state passed the controversial immigration law Senate Bill 1070 in 2010.

Proponents argue that the bill is simply a tweak to existing state religious-freedom laws to ensure individuals and businesses are not forced to do something that goes against their beliefs.

The bill will be sent to Gov. Jan Brewer, who has five days to sign it into law, veto it or do nothing and allow it to become law.

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60 responses to “Arizona Passes Bill Allowing Business Owners to Refuse Service Based on Their Religious Beliefs”

  1. I wish it wasn’ Repubs writing these bills but I know the Dems won’t. Trouble is both sides will only support conscience rights in narrow areas that fit their political agendas rather than a holistic approach that respects the Constitution and the intent of our Founding Fathers.

    • These bills are being written so broadly that they allow discrimination against gays not only in “public accommodations” but also in state services such as fire and police. This strictly violates the SC precedent set in Romer v. Evans which overturned Colorado Amendment II. The precedent said that no state could declare a group of citizens strangers to the law, which is precisely what these laws do.

      • You are obviously a lawyer, and are obviously preparing to feed on this ridiculous precedent. Eat, eat while you can.

      • You are incorrect. In Romer v Evans the law in question specifically aimed at gays. This law is a general law, a copy of a law the Federal government already has – the Religious freedom restoration act. That act was sponsored by Joe Biden, by the way and signed by Bill Clinton.
        The arizona law provides a general rule that if you have strong religious objections, the state may not force you to violate your conscience, unless the state has some compellign interest that justifies such interference with personal conscience matters. The gay baker thing is just one example.
        Furthermore, our Constitution says that “Congress shall make no law abridging the free exercise of religion” Clearly discrimination laws have now reached a new level – where they do abridge freedom of religion. This was not the case with discrimination against blacks or women. There were no religious objections to those discrimination laws (at least not by any serious, established religion. In fact most religious people supported them)
        This attemtpt to force gay rights down people’s throats is something quite different. Most people wish gays well, and are perfectly willing to live and let live. But when you are forced to participate in their activities, or affirm their lifestyles when you don’t, it is a serious violation of rights of conscience.

  2. You are way more optimistic than I am. I see this battle as the straw breaking the constitutional camel’s back- with only one way out, civil war.

    And I say that as a pro-lifer paleoconservative who believes the ONLY justification for war is invasion by a foreign power. But with the DOMA overturn, that is exactly what our courts have become- an extra-constitutional foreign power.

    Edit to reply to something that might not make it out of moderation. If it does, I’ll reply to the reply.

    It isn’t over “whether or not gays can marry” anymore. It is over “Can or should the courts tell a private business owner what they can say and do”. It hasn’t been over “whether or not gays can marry” for 5 years now. Jumped the shark the day the courts decided to start overturning democratic votes for their own personal biases and bigotries.

    • Ted, some of your comments remind me of Christians who blame bad weather events on gays. I know you don’t mean that. Or do you?

      Civil war over whether or not gays can marry? I don’t see that happening as most of the population in this country are not gay and don’t care about this issue one way or the other.

      • And they will of course applaud and cheer when they begin to see people being taken to jail for disagreeing with it. After all, no American cares a damn about individual freedom. That was what the South thought until 1859.

      • It isn’t over “whether or not gays can marry” anymore. It is over “Can or should the courts tell a private business owner what they can say and do”. It hasn’t been over “whether or not gays can marry” for 5 years now. Jumped the shark the day the courts decided to start overturning democratic votes for their own personal biases and bigotries.

        Doesn’t even matter that most of the population doesn’t care. All it takes is small, embedded minorities willing to get violent over the issue for it to explode.

        “You have my sympathies on this one, but I just don’t see civil war (for any reason) being successful. ”

        It doesn’t matter if it is successful or not. And the civil war won’t necessarily be with the feds- it will be infighting between those in the “gay agenda” and those who are harmed by the government through the gay agenda.

        The targets won’t be the police. Or the legislature. Or even the executives. The targets will be individual judges and other activists on the opposite side.

        And it will take nuclear weapons to stop it. Not that the feds won’t use them.

        • Nukes? To stop some lunatic fringe that most pro-family Christians (I hope) don’t even want to be tarred with? To stop some disgruntled wedding caterer who flips out? It didn’t take nukes to stop the Dixie rebellion in the 60s, which truly had the makings of war, with half the states and their governments in defiance of Washington. It didn’t take nuclear weapons to get Bin Laden or his hundreds of would-be replacements who had the cover of some of the remotest and most dangerous territory in the world. They didn’t need the launch codes to get the Tsaranev boys or Tim McVeigh or to keep in check the hard drive’s worth of lunatics who regularly threaten the president.

          Even the cartels, who have enormous reach and capacity for violence, rarely get to our federal judges, and most often won’t try because of the heat it brings down on them. Homegrown terrorists are usually not the sharpest knives in the drawer either. They usually fall for the first trap set by an informant or undercover agent and then get 50 years to work on their memoirs.

          Will a few angry loons lash out and get a few victims? I’ve no doubt of it. But I don’t see gay marriage or civil rights unraveling America like the Weimar Republic. I don’t think most Christians will find these changes a huge imposition to their lives. Most of those who do will not let themselves be consumed by it, and those few who do will not constitute any serious threat to the republic.

          • You are thinking only ONE side of the nuts is the problem. Equal in capacity for violence to the extreme pro-family Christians, are the extreme anti-family homosexuals. I have NO doubt that they are one bad court case away from exploding in violence. It isn’t just the Christians who will find the resulting hodgepodge of conflicting laws imposing in their lives- the homosexuals will as well. As will *everybody* who has to deal with the resulting mess this will make of anything left resembling the social order.

    • You have my sympathies on this one, but I just don’t see civil war (for any reason) being successful. Realistically, the “enemy” controls the greatest military in the world and has had multiple years to replace significant amounts of leadership within the military with those more ideologically aligned with them and therefore more willing to apply force against fellow citizens “for the greater good.” Many soldiers would object and defect, but things are very automatized now and you don’t NEED everyone to go along, just enough to carry out targeted strikes to eliminate opposition leadership and any infrastructure supporting those rebelling (including power supplies, food/medical supply lines, banking…). The spying aparatus that has been in place “for our good” is quite capable of identifying such targets. And then the communications powerhouses are all in the hands of those who would align themselves with those in power (or be seized by those who are), and those control and intercept data–without communications secure, no organized opposition stands a chance. At this point, it would be very, VERY difficult even for a large state like TX to get away from the Feds. Virtually impossible, I think. If change can’t be voted for, I don’t think it’s going to happen.

    • “Can or should the courts tell a private business owner what they can say and do”?

      That’s a question that was settled in the affirmative nearly 50 years ago with civil rights public accommodation laws. A century ago if you include things like anti-trust law.

      I don’t think our government has much to fear from an anti-SSM terrorist movement. It would furnish them a wonderful pretext for expanding and finalizing a police state infrastructure. It would also drive a stake through whatever public support still remains for traditional marriage advocates.

      • “That’s a question that was settled in the affirmative nearly 50 years ago with civil rights public accommodation laws. A century ago if you include things like anti-trust law.”

        It is entirely possible that these things are severe errors.

        “I don’t think our government has much to fear from an anti-SSM terrorist movement.”

        There’s also the pro-SSM terrorist movement to worry about. A rock and a hard place indeed.

  3. I am happy to hear about this bill, and not surprised it was thought of and passed here, but I also doubt this will stand in the way of judges who’ve decided no one can have the right to refuse service if it’s based on religious conscience. Unfortunately for the country, this isn’t even the only polarizing matter of the day. If it was, we might be able to come to grips with it. But it isn’t, and no, it’s not being helped by those in “official positions” who’ve decide to issue decrees to create the society THEY want, the “backward” population be damned. :-/

    • I think bills like this demonstrate animus very clearly and will help sexual orientation to be seen not only as a suspect class but as one entitled to strict scrutiny.

      • I think bills like this demostrate a natural and reasonable backlash to the civil abuses perpetrated on small business owners by gays who’ve had their noses bent but have suffered no real harm. Don’t want laws like this? Don’t misuse laws meant to protect gays from real discrimination as a way to try and force everyone to approve, accommodate, or celebrate your lifestyle.

  4. My first inclination (being fairly ignorant of the current laws on the matter) is that a private business should have the right to deny service, based on the fact that it’s private (and if people don’t like what you’re about as a business, then it’s their right not to buy from that business, and that could affect how you succeed). So, what if a business took a federal loan, or money that is tied into public funds. (is there such a thing?) Then would that business be subject to anti-discrimination regs? Finally, are private businesses currently subject to lawsuits if they don’t have disability access? If so, I think that would be a segway for a variety of discrimination lawsuits.

  5. All the bakeries and photographers and caterers that people think are being so horribly put-upon? They aren’t in the business of providing spiritual guidance or enforcing moral doctrines. They are there to turn a profit. As such, they are obligated to abide by prevailing civil rights laws, whether those laws protect people from discrimination based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.

    Should a restaurant owner be able to refuse service to Blacks because he has “moral objections” to race-mixing? Should an employer be able to fire a Muslim employee because he wants to run “a nice Christian workplace”?

    If they answer to both questions is NO, what justification is there refusing service to a Gay couple who wish to get a wedding cake or celebrate their anniversary in a restaurant? Does this bill allow people to use “religious freedom” as a justification for discriminating against ANY customer, or does it simply single out Gay citizens?

    Either way, it’s going to do WONDERS for tourism.

    • The fact that you think that they exist solely to turn a profit (which is probably not what they think) does not mean that you can force them to disregard their morals to do so.

      • Why would one start a business if they didn’t think they could turn a profit while doing it? Most business folks need that “profit” to survive, such as pay bills for their home/rent, buy clothes & food etc., unless the business is a hobby and no profit is necessary!

        • Of course they thought they could make money, and of course they need to make money, but that may not be what they consider their purpose. And even if it is, it doesn’t matter – you can’t force people to violate their morals just because you personally think their morals aren’t related to what you think their purpose is.

  6. Hmm, does it refer to something like catering services? Or does it mean that a business owner can legally refuse to sell bread to a fellow for ‘religious reasons’?

  7. IMHO conscience laws like these are impracticable and unenforceable. what if my religion holds that women should not exercise any authority and should instead remain quiet? May I operate a “we serve men only” bike repair shop?

  8. I am glad to see this but based on what I read in the msm it looks too open to any old ‘religious’ objection and could lead to excuses for discrimination rather than protection of religious freedom. I think it needs some stronger boundaries that keep the objections legitimate.

    I would also like to see something that prevents/penalizes the frivolous, and I think sometimes predatory lawsuits against small businesses where no harm is done and services are readily available elsewhere. Most of them are nothing but manufactured gay outrage at having someone tell them they don’t like their lifestyle and won’t help them celebrate it. If actual systematic discrimination that led to actual harm crept in it could be addressed. A baker should have the same right to refuse to bake a ss ‘wedding’ cake as they have to refuse to bake a cake shaped like male genitals for a bachelorette party. I’m not saying they are morally equal, I’m saying that the baker should have a right to exercise their personal moral objection to refuse what someone asks them to create.

  9. The proposed law seems overly broad. It allows a person to say that anything is his religious belief, independent from the teachings of any organized religion. Here is the relevant line from the bill:

    2. “Exercise of religion” means the practice or observance of religion, including
    the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially
    motivated by a religious belief, whether or not the exercise is compulsory or
    central to a larger system of religious belief.

    I agree with Rebecca that it is important the rights of conscience be protected. However, in such cases as in the New Mexico photographers, or the Colorado baker, or the Oregon florist the issue is the anti-discrimination law. The law in those states is applied to any public accommodation, which those businesses are. However, simply removing “sexual orientation.” as a protected class, should eliminate the problem.

  10. A business owner says they do not want to bake cakes for gay weddings because gay marriage is against their religion. The business starts failing because people who aren’t gay won’t buy their wedding cakes there anymore.

    Are the people going to be sued for not patronizing the business who won’t make cakes for gay weddings?

    Let’s say you take an order for a wedding cake. You don’t ask if it’s for a gay wedding and it isn’t volunteered. You assumed it was for heterosexuals because a man and a woman ordered it. After the baker is paid and the cake is eaten you find out it was a gay wedding. What happens then?

    Again, where are our bishops? What does Rome think of this? Is your morality in question if you own a bakery and bake a cake for a gay wedding or are you providing for your family and can do that without it being a moral question because the cake for someone that isn’t in your family or for yourself?

    • Oh…it’s volunteered…loud and clear. And businesses will not “start to fail” just because a few people are miffed. If it’s not volunteered (which would odd), then, so what? The cake gets baked and eaten…no problem. At the same time, a hetero bride, or her parents, don’t go around telling bakers, etc.,’my daughter is hetero’…, let’s get real on that. As far as Catholic bishops and Rome goes: we know what Christ says about the matter: He condemns the act. Period. As far as ‘providing for family goes: the vast majority of people are hetero, so that’s how they provide for their families. Thus, when gays, etc., start treating retailers in the same manner as heteros….not flaunting whatever….then gays, etc., will get their cakes or whatever. It’s the flaunting….the ‘bragging’ that their transgressions against God are ‘good’…that causes the trouble, and they *know* it.

        • How hard is it to find another baker, or photographer etc.? They might even do a better job because they do not feel like they are being forced into it.

          It’s sends the message that if you disagree with the gay community, on any issue you will pay.

          This is revenge.

          These are the same people who want others to love and respect them?

          Can they love and respect those who do not think like them?

  11. I wish it didn’t have to come to this. If someone is gay I just don’t understand why they have to force a believing Christian to violate his reigion. If the law allows gays to marry, no matter how absurd i think it is, I’m not going to stop them. Why should they force others who don’t want to participate to have to go along? But they do and so the need for this law. However, I think you’re right, courts violate the will of the people all the time. Once upon a time we were a free country. Once upon a time.

  12. Arizona isn’t the first state or other local government to try to pass a law saying “the Fourteenth Amendment doesn’t apply here.” It won’t get any farther than any of the others did.

  13. I support this bill 100%! Its about time something was done to protect religious freedom from homosexual activists who seek to take it away from us!

  14. Imagine this scenario:

    Sally Jones, who is visually impaired, takes her faithful guide dog and rides the bus to the grocery store.

    There she buys her usual staples, including some bacon, sliced ham, and a bottle of wine.

    She then calls for a cab, but the mahometan cab driver refuses to transport her for three reasons. She’s an unveiled and unaccompanied woman, carrying alcohol and pork, and a dog. All of these offend the driver’s deeply held religious sensibilities.

    THIS is something that SB 1062 will allow.

    • Is he a private cab unaffiliated with any cab company? If so, then the marketplace would sort him out correct?

      Is he merely being asked to sell a ride, his standard product (compare to an off the shelf cake or flower arrangement) or is he being asked to walk the dog, make the lady a ham sandwich and pour her a glass of wine (compare to custom wedding cake/flowers and set up at reception)? It’s even worse for photographers and wedding/event planners who really have to get involved big time.

  15. Sorry Rebecca. Second thoughts on what I said. I believe it but using your place to say it is hateful and mean. I can’t figure out how to delete it so I edited.

  16. i don’t understand the comment protocols on this site. I tried to post a few times, and no-go.

    Anyway, (without trying to reproduce my earlier remarks) this whole thing troubles me. Conscientious objection to killing makes sense to me. When faced with conscription into the military, a conscientious objector will theoretically be given duties that do not require him or her to bear arms. (unless I have that wrong.) And there’s a case to be made where abortion is the issue. Requiring someone to end life, when it goes against their conscience to do so, is very wrong.

    Selling wedding cakes seems different. It seems more fitting, with respect to this arena of conscience, to reflect that God allows His rain to fall and makes His sun to shine on the just and the unjust alike. And to recall that we are told to be like God.

    Rendering a moral judgement, not in the realm of thought and belief, which are inviolable, but in actual worldly action, and then imposing a sentence, seems the height of arrogance to me. To do so, I think, assumes fore one’s self a degree of discernment and judgement, flawed though one knows one is, such as God does not exercise until after we die. I worry that there is a grave moral error here.

    That this particular baker saw fit only to deny them a wedding cake, rather than some other sort of cake, or bread, is merely an expression of his individual conscience. He said, “I will only persecute them this much” and even seemed to credit himself for not having denied them everything in the store, for only having denied them what they needed. “I couldn’t, in good conscience, have sold them bread, but I said they were welcome to purchase as many stones as they liked. I do have a heart, you know. And then they went and made a fuss, which totally proves my point, that there is something wrong with those people.”

    Oy vey.

      • No, just me-as-me, same as ever. Maybe it was my guardian angel, trying to save me from embarrassing myself. There are some very knowledgeable and well-spoken people on your site, and I’m generally just trying to muddle through the issues. I usually delete rather than post. Anyway, thanks for asking, and also for your sincere and humane work. I don’t always agree, but I do admire.

  17. I wonder if this law will allow people to tell Christians they won’t bake cakes for them because they don’t believe in their religion.

    I also wonder if service could be denied to people who appear gay like a man who has effeminate gestures or a woman that has a manly appearance.

    If a business owner wants to refuse business based on their religious views, they have to take every Church teaching and apply it to every couple. We have premarital counseling by the Priest and Pre-Cana classes. We’ll add bakers and photographers to the list.

    Christian couples won’t mind getting into whether they have premarital sex with the baker. I mean anything so that the gays don’t get their cake and eat it too!

  18. Bad law is no law at all. If a grand jury is empaneled to decide whether to bring charges against a business owner who refused to be cowed by the militant aggressors, the grand jury can refuse to indict.
    If a jury sits through a jury trial, it CAN ignore the ‘instructions’ of the judge and nullify the law by refusing to convict (jury nullification).
    This tide may be turned back even if only one lawsuit at a time.

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