The weekly Daley: Arizona no friend of deeply held beliefs

By From page A4 | February 28, 2014

Finally, somebody almost got it right. If the Governor of Arizona hadn’t been such a spoilsport, a business owner in her state who didn’t like something about a customer wouldn’t have had to serve that customer and couldn’t be sued for discrimination as long as the owner sincerely believed that the customer’s “something” was an affront to the owner’s “deeply held religious beliefs.”

Had Gov. Brewer signed the bill into law, the following could have been a pretty typical example of how it would have worked: Muslim deli owner doesn’t like Christians, not just doesn’t like but has a “deeply held religious” aversion to them. Deli owner tells prospective customer he or she can’t come in the deli and be served because he or she is a Christian. Customer tries to sue on the basis of religious discrimination. No go in Arizona. Indeed the law as crafted would have protected the owner’s religious freedom, that is, the freedom not to go against his adherence to his religious principles.

Another likely scenario: A boutique incense shop won’t sell to customer X, because customer X eats meat which goes against the Buddhist owner’s “deeply held religious beliefs.” The owner, because of religious convictions, would have been protected by Arizona law from legal action by the meat eater.

This example was just waiting to happen: Woman walks into a cafe, alone, takes a seat and looks over the menu. Cafe owner approaches and quietly tells her she must leave because it is a profound insult to the cafe owner’s deeply held beliefs that a woman should not be out in public without at least one male relative escort. Simple as that. As we’ve seen, the would-be customer couldn’t later come back on the cafe owner with some bogus “discrimination” claim, because the cafe owner had been exercising her religious freedom.

Or this: Guy walks into a bar with several friends, orders drinks all around. Bartender-owner notices the guy is wearing a cap and vest with different pins and badges of the National Rifle Association. As a life-long pacifist, the bartender tells the friends they are welcome but the guy with the NRA patches is not, and he must leave immediately. It is the bartender’s deeply held religious belief that firearms are a plague and menace to the world, and anyone who promotes or supports their use is not going to be served in his bar.

Just imagine: A Taoist barber refuses to cut the hair of a fellow who drives earthmoving equipment — that is equipment that disturbs things like harmony, trees, bushes, maybe little creatures on occasion. Earthmoving-fellow has to go down the street to a different barber. There would have been no point in making an issue of it, in Arizona.

Anti-war college student goes into a soda fountain. She’s in a tie-dyed T-shirt festooned with peace signs, earrings with dolphins and butterfly eyebrow studs. Soda fountain owner says, “I’m a veteran, and it is my deeply held religious belief that you are a… a… a… I don’t know what, but you’re offending my deeply held religious beliefs. Therefore, I’m not going to serve you.” Would have been very cool in Arizona.

Okay, the Giants or some other team that goes to Arizona for spring training, signs an openly gay third-baseman. We’ll call him Jesus. The infield guys all go out for pizza after a tough workout. Jesus included. Pizza guy says, “Ahem, we don’t serve your kind in our pizza parlor, because my deeply held religious beliefs prevent me from, etc., etc. …”

Jesus says,”Which kind is that, Hispanic, gay or people who aren’t the son of God but happened to be named Jesus?” Pizza guy has to think for a minute. “Ummmm, people who are openly gay, and if you want to sue me, go ahead, and good luck. This is Arizona. Hahaha.”

Forgive me. That one was just too crazy. As if a pizza guy in Arizona would refuse service to an openly gay ballplayer or any other gay person. It’s just nuts. It would be like the old days when Jackie Robinson had to go around the corner and stay in the “colored” hotel while all the other Dodgers stayed in the city’s main hotel. Can’t see that happening in this day and age. Not that the pizza guy shouldn’t have the right to refuse service to anyone based on his deeply held religious beliefs.

That’s a lot different than somebody just being racist or ethnophobic or anti-women or anti-something else. It’s about deeply held religious beliefs that are protected by the very First Amendment to the Constitution that ensures religious freedom among lots of other freedoms.

Chris Daley is a staff writer and columnist for the Mountain Democrat. His column appears each Friday.

Chris Daley

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