Faith is no excuse to discriminate

By Isabelle Cavazos, COLUMNIST
On February 24, 2014

 

Though some prefer to separate business from their personal lives, some conservative business owners in Arizona may soon have the privilege to combine both
without consequence.

The Arizona Legislature recently passed a controversial bill that would give businesses the
freedom to deny services to individuals based on the owners’ religious beliefs. Arizona Democrats believe the bill, which was introduced by Arizona’s Republican-dominated Senate, would allow business owners to justify discrimination against the LGBT community and permit intolerance based on other factors such as race, religious association, nationality and sex.

Coined “religious liberty,” the intention of this bill is not rooted in fair religious expression. Rather, it is a tool used to suppress the LGBT community in favor of religious dominance.

It is discouraging enough that companies such as Barilla and Chick-fil-A publicly voice their homophobic attitudes, yet it is worse that companies in Arizona may have legal grounds in acting on these values.

One of the bill’s sponsors, Senator Steve Yarbrough, seems incapable of fathoming how the bill could negatively impact any group outside the one he defends, and said the bill intends to “(prevent) discrimination against people who are clearly living out their faith.” Apparently, ensuring certain religious groups are not burdened by servicing anyone outside of their comfort zones takes priority over promising equal treatment.

In defense of the bill, Yarbrough referred to a New Mexico case in which a wedding photographer denied services to a lesbian couple, an action the Supreme Court banned last year. If Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer approves this prejudiced bill, such regressive behavior would not be deemed a grievance by law.

The bill’s progression to the governor’s consideration exhibits that those who Yarbrough sympathize with are privileged above the groups that “offend” their personal, religious practices. If enacted, it would not only hand conservative business owners government approval to discriminate, but would also grant them the power to do so against anyone they choose.

Since Yarbrough referred to the wedding photographer’s case, it is clear the concern inspiring the bill was with business owners serving the LGBT community specifically. While Republican lawmakers in South Dakota argued that private businesses, like citizens, should have the security to form their own stances on sexual orientation in a similar proposal, such comparisons are incompatible.

Private businesses, even those constructed with the preferences of the owner, have the objective to provide services to customers. Though some business owners feel their own reputation, or that of their business, is tainted by providing for people whose
sexuality does not align with their faith, they are still obligated to fulfill this responsibility regardless of their personal affiliations.

Because private businesses are expected to express their personal ideals differently than citizens, religious preferences should be removed from business. Additionally, rather than be concerned about exclusivity, businesses should embrace the diversity of their customer base.

Arizona lawmakers should worry less about a breach in “religious liberty” and instead defend the rights of the groups and minorities that would be truly burdened.

 

Isabelle Cavazos is a sophomore majoring in English.

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