Tag Archives: Arizona

Religious Right to Discriminate–One More Time

Apparently, the right of religious folks to discriminate based upon their sincere beliefs is the issue du jour. 

Yesterday’s post centered upon a subset of that debate, but the broader question is the one posed by an Arizona law currently awaiting Governor Jan Brewer’s signature. That measure–which has most of the state’s business community demanding a veto–would allow shop owners and merchants to refuse service to people to whom they have some sort of religious objection.

Observers have assumed that the law is intended to target the GLBT community, but as written, it protects a merchant’s right to refuse service to anyone, so long as the proprietor can claim a “sincere” religious belief as motivation.

It boils down to a fairly simple question. Does government violate a fundamental liberty by forcing a devout person to do business with people he believes to be sinful?

As the saying goes, this debate is deja vu all over again.

This is the same argument that erupted when Congress enacted the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Opponents argued that being forced to hire or do business with women or people of color violated their liberty to choose their associates. And they were correct; it did limit their liberty. Of course, in a civilized society, our liberties are constrained in all sorts of ways; I don’t have the liberty to take your property, or play loud music next to your house at 2:00 a.m., or drive my car 100 miles per hour down a city street. Etc.

Here’s the deal: The guy who opens a bakery– or a shoe store or a bank or any other business– relies on an implied social contract. He expects police and fire departments to protect his store, and local government to maintain the streets that enable people to get there–and he expects government to provide those and numerous other services to all citizens, not just white citizens or male citizens or Christian citizens. In return for financing the government that provides those services, We the People expect those who are “open for business” to provide cakes or shoes or loans to anyone willing to pay for them.

Opening a business implies a “come one, come all” invitation to the general public. (For purely practical reasons, people who don’t want to issue that invitation probably shouldn’t open a business.)

Bottom line: If you don’t approve of gay people, or African-Americans or Jews, or whoever–don’t invite them over for dinner. I’ll fight for your right to entertain only the people you like. I’ll fight for your right to exclude “sinners” from your church, your private club and your living room.

Your hardware store, not so much.



Sometimes, It Comes Back to Bite You in the You-Know-What

It’s no secret that Arizona’s mean-spirited Immigration law was prompted primarily by animus against brown folks. The state that nurtured racist sheriff Joe Arpaio saw much of the law struck down by the Supreme Court last term (oh, that pesky 4th Amendment!), but not after beginning to see what policy wonks like to call–delicately–negative unintended consequences.

Now the libertarian Cato Institute has issued an analysis of Arizona’s SB 1070, titled “The Economic Case against Arizona’s Immigration Laws.” The upshot: the laws did–and continue to do–grave damage to the state’s economy. According to Cato, the 2012 “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act” joined with the (less Soviet-sounding) earlier “Legal Arizona Workers Act” to raise the costs of hiring all employees and create what Cato calls “regulatory uncertainty for employers,” driving many out of the states. Cato’s findings are consistent with headlines a couple of months back pointing to the problem faced by state farmers who could not find laborers willing to pick their crops; a significant amount of produce ended up rotting on the ground.

According to the Cato report,

“SB 1070’s enforcement policies outside the workplace drove many unauthorized immigrants from the state, lowered the state’s population, hobbled the labor market, accelerated residential property price declines, and exacerbated the Great Recession in Arizona.”

Ain’t karma a bitch?