On Feb. 26, as the gay community marched in the streets of Phoenix, the capital of Arizona, opposing Senate Bill 1062, Arizona Gov. Janet Brewer was holding a nationally televised news conference announcing that she was vetoing this “controversial” bill.
In her address, she stated that the legislation “does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
She stated, “I believe that this bill has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve,” and, “Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value. So is non-discrimination.”
What is this heinous bill that required the National Football League to threaten to withdraw the Super Bowl from Arizona if it passed?
What is in this legislation that would illicit this outcry from Alessandra Soler, executive director of the ACLU of Arizona: “We’re grateful that the governor has stopped this disgraceful law from taking effect, and that Arizona will remain open for business to everyone.”
This supposedly controversial bill simply redefined what a “person” is under Arizona state law.
Under the current law, a “person” is considered to be an individual and also “a religious assembly or institution.” The new law would have broadened the definition to include “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution or other business organization.”
Why is this clarification so important and necessary?
In 1970, David Green started a miniature picture frame company in his garage in Oklahoma City that grew into a major private company – Hobby Lobby – with 595 stores across the nation. Ten stores are in the Phoenix area alone. Nine are in Pennsylvania: Lebanon, Hanover, Chambersburg, Altoona, Dickson City, Easton, Erie, Pittsburgh and Trexlertown.
As devout Christians, the Green family believes that “it is by God’s grace and provision that Hobby Lobby has endured.” Therefore, the Greens seek to honor God by “operating their company in a manner consistent with Biblical principles.”
The problem is that the new Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) requires businesses to carry insurance for their employees or pay hefty fines (now labeled taxes by the Supreme Court). Under that act, the Health and Human Services mandate requires family-owned businesses to provide insurance coverage for the “morning after pill” and “week after pill,” contrary to their religious convictions, or face crippling fines of up to $1.3 million per day enforced by the IRS.
The Greens believe that Hobby Lobby cannot fulfill its mission while paying for drugs that induce abortion and take the life of a living human child.
That is why on Sept. 12, 2012, Hobby Lobby filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma to defend its constitutional freedom to carry out its mission in a way consistent with its owners’ religious principles.
All they are asking is for the government to respect their business by not forcing them to violate their religious beliefs.
This is exactly what the new language in Arizona’s newly vetoed bill would have done. It would have given to the Greens’ business what the Greens already have as individuals.
In vetoing this bill, Brewer allowed the media frenzy to mis-characterize it and repeated the misrepresentations the protesters and the media were reporting.
In the end, this is not about religious freedom verses non-discrimination. Rather, it is about who wins when the secular atheist philosophy counters the Judeo-Christian philosophy.
In Arizona, the secularists won. It will be interesting to see who the Supreme Court supports, as the Hobby Lobby case may be settled in that court later this year.
Dr. James Hanak
Westtown, Chester County
(The writer is director of American Family Ministries, Westtown.)