Good Questions and Bad Law

Good Questions and Bad Law March 3, 2014

JT posted a clip of Anderson Cooper interviewing Al Melvin, Republican member of the Arizona Senate. Melvin was one of the supporters of the recent “religious freedom” bill.

You can go to JT’s site for the interview, or for Jon Stewart’s take on the interview. There’s one particular exchange that caught my attention, so here’s a segment of the CNN transcript:

COOPER: Help me understand. Under your law, under this law, if I’m a Catholic loan officer, say, in a bank, and I don’t like the idea of loaning money to a divorced woman because Jesus spoke against divorce very strongly, or I don’t want to loan money to an unwed mother, even though she might be, you know, able to pay me back as a loan officer. I just don’t — it’s against my religious belief and my religious belief is sincere.

Under your law, I could refuse to do business with an unwed mother or a divorced woman, correct?

MELVIN: I don’t know where you’re getting your hypotheticals from, sir. Divorced women and what was the other one you cited?

COOPER: Unwed mother. I mean, Jesus spoke —

MELVIN: Who would be against an unwed mother? I wouldn’t be, I wouldn’t be against a divorced woman.

[crosstalk snipped]

COOPER: No, actually, sir, I’m just talking about what Jesus talked. Jesus spoke against divorce. He actually spoke against divorce, he never said anything about gay people. So there are plenty of people who would oppose doing business with a gay person. I’m saying, if under your law, if it’s a sincere belief on the part of that loan officer and doing business with that unwed mother or that divorced woman, would not be a trivial or a technical or a minor burden on my beliefs, and that’s my argument under your law, I don’t have to do business with that person.

MELVIN: I think you’re being farfetched, with all due respect, sir. As a Christian, as most God-fearing men and women would respect unwed mothers, divorced women, who would discriminate against them? I’ve never heard of discriminating against people like that. I never have. I — I don’t know where you’re —

“What are you talking about, Cooper? There are no Catholics in Arizona!”

This is the part that frustrates me. The bills in Arizona, Georgia and Kansas are not just hateful rear-guard actions by a failing majority. They are also bad law, pure and simple. They are far too broad for the limited goal they are trying to achieve. In an attempt to protect themselves from the specter of gay marriage, the bill’s proponents are completely changing the relationship between the state and religion.

Faced with this, folks like Melvin seem clueless. They have no idea what they are doing. They don’t understand the implications of the very bill they’ve passed. Confronted with the fact that someone might use the bill to harass someone who is not a member of a hated minority, all Melvin can do is say, “We would never do that!” The idea that there might be people out there with religious views that are contrary to his own must come as a shock.

Cooper can’t pin Melvin down, and doesn’t really try. There’s little point, since the bill was going to be killed in the courts no matter what the Governor did.

One of the phrases that’s getting kicked around in the political blogs is “post-policy GOP.” Essentially, we’ve reached a point where the conservative movement no longer cares about achieving its goals, and is now completely focused on politics. Whether or not the bill actually achieves its goals is less important than that the lawmakers strike the right martyred pose and piss off the right liberals. They’re faced with a cultural shift that may soon push them out of power, so they’ve given up on governing completely.

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