Last night, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062, a controversial bill that would allow businesses to assert their religious beliefs and deny service to gay and lesbian customers. Many businesses and politicians, including the NFL and Sen. John McCain, urged Brewer to veto the bill, calling it discriminatory against gays. Now that Brewer has done so (carefully avoiding discussion of gay rights or religious freedom), the conservative Christian crowd is predicting end times for religious freedom in America.
Fox News host Todd Starnes puts it plainly:
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer announces that homosexual rights trump religious rights.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) February 27, 2014
It's not a war on religious liberty. It's a war on Christians.— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) February 27, 2014
The persecution of Christians is very, very real to Starnes and the religious right. American Enterprise Institute scholar Charles Murray asks, "So precisely what does 'freedom of religion' mean if you are not free to observe the dictates of your religion?" Doug Napier, the senior counsel to Alliance Defending Freedom and a lead drafter of SB 1062, has similar concerns. He tells Breitbart,
Freedom loses when fear overwhelms facts and a good bill is vetoed. Today's veto enables the foes of faith to more easily suppress the freedom of the people of Arizona.
A bill that would expressly allow businesses to deny services to gays is not discriminatory, these pundits reason. Vetoing the bill is an assault on religious liberty, of which there is little left in America. Christians should be able to practice their faith (deny service to people they don't like) without fear.
Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review, blames the lamestream media for making citizens believe that SB 1062 is discriminatory. Because again, it's not about gay rights, it's about religious liberty.
Brewer veto shows that poorly informed hysteria works— Rich Lowry (@RichLowry) February 27, 2014
Unhinged leftwing columnists are referring to Christians as racists, bigots, puppy-haters...— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) February 27, 2014
Mollie Hemingway, a senior editor at The Federalist, released a long stream of tweets last night arguing that no one even knows what religious liberty is anymore.
BTW, media so dismissive of religious "liberty"(as they like to scare quote it), Guess what else is in 1st Amendment right after that. CRAP.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) February 27, 2014
@delrayser Oh, you hate religious liberty, too? Cool. What did THAT ever do for us, amiright? Oh, everything? Shit.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) February 27, 2014
Oh, you know, I cared about religious liberty before. But now that you've called me a bigot 3,495 times in 15 seconds, I'll reconsider.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) February 27, 2014
Ha. According to some folks in my Twitter stream, religious liberty is neither a civil right nor a human right. Interesting. Tell me more.— Mollie (@MZHemingway) February 27, 2014
Hey guys, if religious liberty were important, don't you think the Founders would have put it in the Bill of Rights?— Mollie (@MZHemingway) February 27, 2014
Hemingway, Lowry, Napier, and Starnes are understandably upset. As gay rights become more accepted — the NFL, MLB, and plenty of U.S. senators called for the bill to be vetoed — Americans become more likely to view some conservative Christian views as discriminatory. According to the most recent Gallup polls, 59 percent of Americans view gay relationships as morally acceptable, and 54 percent believe gay marriage should be legal. If one more state's gay marriage ban falls, about half of all American gays will be able to legally marry. It's not that Americans have forgotten about liberty, it's just that more and more of them think it should be extended to all people.
So now, the religious right fears that no one in the government will fight for them. Daniel Horowitz of the pro-life PAC The Madison Project tells Breitbart, "Brewer owes it to the residents of her state to come forward with an alternative plan to defend religious liberty. Moreover, in light of the ubiquitous assault on religious liberty around the country, conservatives must push the House to pass legislation protecting states and individuals from the anti-liberty fiats of unelected judges." Starnes sighs, "Protect the Super Bowl or religious liberty? Brewer chose the pigskin." (The Super Bowl will be held in Arizona next year.) Truth Revolt's Ben Shapiro questions his party:
Not sure what the GOP stands for when it stands against religious freedom out of pure fear of political correctness.— Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro) February 27, 2014
But ultimately, the fear is that no one will listen to Christians at all. Conservatives predict that in our imminent, dystopian future, everyone will be silenced:
The left has as much of an aversion to liberty, particularly religious liberty, as it does to free speech. They want to silence everyone.— Mikéy Ramoné (@ThePantau) February 27, 2014
As gays win more of the civil rights that most Americans enjoy, Christian conservative pundits will have to figure out how to practice their religion within the bounds of laws that extend freedom to all.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.