James Madison, Tossing and Turning

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From the moment of this writing and as minutes tick by, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer has vetoed the Arizona State legislature’s bill, known as SB 1062. For those who haven’t been following on Facebook and Daily Kos, SB 1062 is a Jim Crow law that would in effect allow businesses to discriminate based on the owners’ religious beliefs.

The key provisions of 1062 were that it: 1. Expands the definition of exercise of religion to specifically include both the practice and observance of religion. 2. Expands the definition of person to include any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity. 3. Changes the terminology within the prohibition of burdening a person’s exercise of religion to apply to state action instead of government. 4. Defines state action as any action by the government or the implementation or application of any law, including state and local laws, ordinances, rules, regulations and policies, whether statutory or otherwise, and whether the implementation or action is made or attempted to be made by the government or nongovernmental persons. 5. Specifies that a free exercise of religion claim or defense may be asserted in a judicial proceeding regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding.

The spirit of the law was originally to protect vendors in the wedding industry (bakers, caterers) from lawsuits for refusing service to same-sex couples. But the law’s generalized language, written in part as an attempt not to LOOK directly discriminatory and anti-LGBT, had unanticipated problems. As written, the bill appeared to legalize discrimination in all its forms, allowing anyone to discriminate against everyone else based on their religious beliefs.

If the bill was signed into law: A Hindu Brahmin doctor can refuse to provide medical service to patients who eat meat, as this is against his beliefs. A Muslim lawyer can refuse to take your case if you drink alcohol or eat pork. A Sikh teacher might refuse to teach your kids, if they violate some tenet of the Sikh faith.

A Jewish cop might refuse to help you should you be a victim of a crime, should you be violating the Sabbath. A Jain plumber and contractor might refuse to come out and fix your water main breakage should you not be a vegan complying with his strict Jain principles. An extreme Taliban-like individual (I won’t call them a Muslim, as it’s absolutely a violation of the Koran) can discriminate against women and children for just being alone in a public place. A white supremacist might interpret the Bible to say black people are less than a human. Yes, why shouldn’t he be allowed to return to “No n*** allowed”?  (list courtesy of Daily Kos).

This law, along with similar laws vetoed and soundly rejected in appeals court as unconstitutional, are just one of many “religious freedom” laws proliferating around the country, and will more than likely be shot down by the federal court or the SCOTUS, if they even get that far. As of yesterday, Ohio has pulled back similar legislation, in light of Arizona’s veto.

The swift backlash against the bill, passed last week by the state’s legislature, started with the LGBT community, and the state chamber of commerce, and branched upward all the way to the U.S. Senate. Arizona’s Senators Jeff Flake and John McCain both strongly urged the governor’s veto, fearing that the fierce reaction against the bill and the firestorm following would have an adverse affect on the Republican Party come mid-term elections in November 2014. LGBT advocate George Takei wrote, calling for a national boycott of Arizona should the bill be signed into law. And of course all of this was covered by Rachel Maddow on MSNBC.

But you have to laugh at the irony: the biggest shiv to SB 1067 came from, of all places, the National Football League, which reconsidered its scheduling of the 2015 Super Bowl in Arizona in light of this bill.

The Super Bowl is an economic bonanza for the tourist and service industries anywhere it goes, and would be an economic coup for the state. Given Missouri defensive player Michael Sam’s coming out a few weeks ago as his eligibility for the NFL draft came up, the legislation — a new weapon in the culture wars between Christianists and gays — became a landmine potentially chaining the feet of Arizona’s economy and muddying the waters for the NFL, which after Sam’s coming out, is struggling to carefully accept and embrace gay players in the NFL mainstream. Signing the bill would not just make the LGBT community rise up in arms nationally, but it would disrupt the current and delicate political dance by the holiest of holies of American machismo — professional football.

Such were the thoughts probably going through Jan Brewer’s head as she busily met in emergency session with legislators and business leaders from her state yesterday, discussing the ramifications to the state and its economy should SB 1067 be signed. Using religious beliefs as justification for letting prejudice become law has unintended consequences. Brewer could use a little study of James Madison, 4th President of the United States, who knew something about this two centuries ago when he said, “The purpose of separation of church and state is to keep forever from these shores the ceaseless strife that has soaked the soil of Europe with blood for centuries.”

I’m sure Madison would not have guessed the reaction to this latest iteration to legalize intolerance would be so widespread across cultural and political landscape of the the U.S. Nor as theatrical, or as idiotic. But did he, in his vision of the United States, ever envision Arizona or, for that matter, Texas?

James Madison must be tossing and turning, even in the afterlife. What kind of country are we now when a principle tenet of our democracy is saved at the last minute by worries about the bottom line and a football game?

Fe Bongolan

About Fe Bongolan

Planet Waves writer Fe Bongolan lives in Oakland, California. Her column "Fe-911," has been featured on Planet Waves since 2008. As an actor and dramaturge, Fe is a core member of Cultural Odyssey's "The Medea Project -- Theater for Incarcerated Women," producing work that empowers the voices of all women in trouble, from ex-offenders, women with HIV-AIDS, to young girls and women at risk. A Planet Waves fan from almost the beginning of Eric's astrology career, Fe is a public sector employee who describes herself as a "mystical public servant." When it comes to art, culture and politics, she loves reading between the lines.
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17 Responses to James Madison, Tossing and Turning

  1. Brendan Brendan says:

    There ya go, Fe, thinking faster than me yet again. I’d agree that ALEC and/or it’s minions are doing the pushing. The CAP group here supposedly gets funding from the national Xtian “family” groups (the usual suspects) versus anything from ALEC, but then who knows where that big duffel bag of cash came from, right?

    Speaking of the 2014 midterms… One of the big sponsors of SB 1062, the bill that was just vetoed, was state Sen. Al Melvin. His campaign for governor just blew up when he was interviewed about the bill and he utterly tanked in some real soft-serve interviews. He gave the impression of being a dim-witted Sergeant Schultz impersonator, as he basically knew nothing, saw nothing, said nothing (intelligent, that is). No slight to John Banner intended – he actually had an interesting history. Melvin was the leading R candidate too, but he’s worse than Jan, and far less astute to boot. The state Repug party is in disarray right now, as they no longer have a viable candidate and no replacement. A concerted effort here, with a recognizable Dem for Guv, and an effective policy message could result in a major shift here. The color purple is looking awful good right now.

    A major problem though is the very distinct religious-right domination of both houses here. Frankly, many of the dangerous R’s are Mormon or strong Fundie, and stripping their base from them will be next to impossible. We have to work to get the rest of the population, which from my understanding would have enough Dems, prog’s, and moderates to win a number of seats back. Some seats are so red, they bleed and will not change for a long time to come, but we could change the party ratio in spite of them.

  2. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:

    Brendan:

    This is ALEC in overdrive, trying to stir up their base using every last fork in their drawer.

    Two words:

    2014. Midterms.

  3. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:

    This is what Planned Parenthood AZ says on their website:


    Policymakers are now targeting Planned Parenthood Arizona and other abortion providers in the state with a bill (HB2284) that would allow unannounced inspections of health centers by the Department of Health Services.

    Abortion providers are already subject to a number of laws and regulations, including some that specifically pertain to inspections of health care facilities. This bill only further opens the door to harassment of abortion providers and goes too far, by allowing inspections without the safeguard of a warrant requirement.

    For decades, Arizona was a state that protected a woman’s right to make personal decisions about her own health care. But for the last three years, we have been a state where politicians institute laws at the insistence of extreme ideological lobbying groups who do not provide medical services, and the result has been disastrous for women’s health and rights.

  4. Brendan Brendan says:

    Oh, and another thing… ;)

    I’ve read that theory that this is a last gasp of the Christian right but I’m not all that convinced. Someone, somewhere, does feel that now is certainly the time to try and get these laws enacted all across the country at the same time (collusion? there’s no collusion here, move along…), in the same sneaky way with a complete disregard for public input.

    It might be a stab at continuing their self-inflated sense of relevance – that’s certainly been taking it on the chin lately. They’ve spent a lot of money for a long series of defeats in the last couple of years, maybe this is an attempt to show sponsors that they still have what it takes to win?

    It ain’t over till the fat lady sings – Yogi Berra

  5. Brendan Brendan says:

    Fe – It’s House Bill 2284, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko (R) of Peoria. Passed in the state house today on a voice vote. There was a previous attempt at eerily similar legislation that was struck down in 2004 (no idea what that law was).

    Dems in house and senate already promising rough ride, but then they don’t control either house.

    I hate the internet filter we have here at school (it’s a teachers’ work day). I also hate our ISP, who can’t explain why our total speed and bandwidth is about 1/3 of what it used to be. Grrr.

  6. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:

    Brendan:

    Get me the name of the clinic inspection legislation in AZ. What bill number is it?

    Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has been theorizing these nullification laws are the last gasp of the Christianist legislatures put into place 2010-2012, and we are in mid-term year meaning getting the Xtianist base motivated. I would like to elevate this here and at Kos if possible.

    Might as well make some first-class trouble while we’re at it!!

  7. Brendan Brendan says:

    Ack! Forgot something.

    Fe – you may be on to something with your suggestion of an AZ spring. The attention given to the new bill over clinic inspections has garnered a good, close examination of it’s origins. A pushback has already started, with many questioning the need to enact a law that actually does not rectify anything at all. The legislature is finding out they have no pants, and as I said last night, the business people here are slowly coming to realize that the AZ Republicans are far gone down the path to irrelevance.

    I would like to think this scrutiny will continue, but we’re going to need everyone and everything we can find to win. It won’t be easy.

  8. Brendan Brendan says:

    Good morning Fe (and everyone else),

    All told this entire mess has been interesting to watch. It was very hastily submitted to the House and Senate, passed quickly in both, and sent to the governor ASAP. This was not a bill that was mooted for months, subjected to public comment, or anything like what a normal democracy would do as part of the legislative process. Yet another under-the- radar attempt to change the laws for some.

    The Center for Arizona Policy and the Alliance Defending Freedom were the writers. Ostensibly they ‘worked’ with legislators to write it, but we know better. The CAP has now submitted a bill to authorize surprise snap inspections of the nine abortion clinics in the state, so that they can be checked to ensure they are in compliance with all applicable state regulations and standards, you know, for the ‘safety and protection’ of the patients. Normally this has actually required a warranted allowance from a judge, but it has been little used, and no violations have occurred. This new bill was submitted on Wednesday, in an attempt to have it slip under the radar of the SB 1062 flap. Just another form of harassment for women.

    SB 1062 was so poorly written, it could have hit everyone over anything as Hilary speculated below. No, I don’t think they thought it out, they never do here, that would be actual critical thinking. It was a blatant Xtian/Mormon power grab, and it would have cost the state billions in lost tourism dollars, the Super Bowl, the Pro Bowl, conventions galore, and large lawyer’s fees trying to defend what can’t be defended.

    I’m being cynical, but after observing AZ politics, I think that a thinking person will default to that view pretty much all the time here. The right thing was done, but for the wrong reasons.

    A fine day so far here. Some clouds, and rain is in the forecast for later in the day. If it does rain, that would be the first significant weather since December. It has been an all- too warm winter with no rain here, and everything is bone dry.

  9. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:

    Brendan!

    Been waiting for and thank you for the local coverage! The awakening citizenry is becoming more broadly defined, and more power to the people.

    This kind of makes me hope that with all these nullification laws meant to squelch the rising tide of same sex marriage, legalized pot, in the name of “religious freedom”, the American Spring PW is talking about may be a-coming in response! Let’s plant the seeds!

  10. Brendan Brendan says:

    Good evening, everyone.

    I am so glad that at least money prevailed on the side of good this time. Little else will ever persuade Headless Jan to go against her party. The reaction here was nothing short of amazing, as so many people came out against it before business ever pushed back. The NFL was probably the straw that broke the camels back though. Money talks here, above just about anything else. This bill caused a serious rift between business and the R’s, as the biz types finally realized the lege is certifiable.

  11. bkoehler says:

    Appreciate your posting about this event Fe. The dumbing down of America is finally showing up in the polls; thanks for that Len. Chief Niwots Son further clarifies the purpose of the event as a process of extinction; by putting into its most cartoonish infantile form (so even the least bright among us can see) that which is so blatantly absurd (thank you Diva) has now become possible to legitimize; fast-track even, into law. The gods have stooped as low as they can to get us to wise up, wake up and fight back. “Whatever it takes” they must be saying to each other and shaking their heads, why even Astraea (1 Pisces) when told by Pallas who opposes her (1 Virgo) to “get a grip” is starting to question her loyalty to mankind. Hillary is too kind when she asks “Do you think they thought about that”. . how the law could apply to others who want to discriminate and therefore backfire on the originators of the law.

    Fear not James Madison, as professional football goes, so goes America.
    be

  12. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:

    Here is a link to an older HuffPo piece, which is a quiz to determine if your religious liberty is being threatened:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-emily-c-heath/how-to-determine-if-your-religious-liberty-is-being-threatened-in-10-questions_b_1845413.html

  13. DivaCarla DivaCarla says:

    Thanks for thic article Fe. Ditto what Len said. I am unable to fathom how interfering with or denying the human rights and civil liberties of any other human being can be confused with religious expression or freedom. Between the absurdity that this law could pass a legislature in the U.S. and the return to pre-Copernican astronomy, can the Inquisition be far behind?

  14. Chief Niwots Son Chief Niwots Son says:

    Thank god for football!

    When a species is on the verge of extinction it will gnash it’s teeth and stomp around blindly. What we are seeing here with christian bigotry is it’s extinction event.

  15. Fe Bongolan Fe Bongolan says:

    Len-Hillary:

    As a response to both of you, I post the one fountain of reality we have available:

    http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-february-26-2014/gay-ban

    Hillary:

    If they thought about it, they didn’t think hard enough. I know. We’re both incredulous to think that people in elected office are not as smart as we’re hoping, and used to having. Seems as though they are the majority — at least as far as the AZ state legislature, and more than likely elsewhere where these laws are being proposed.

  16. Len Wallick Len Wallick says:

    Thank you for breaking the situation down so we can see how how a very bad legislation nearly became law. Thank you also for citing the learned and logical James Madison to give us perspective and reason.

    We come away with many lessons. Among the lessons is how the law can be twisted to undermine its intent just as logic can. Avoiding the sort of twisting which correlates with psychosis is the reason The Constitution of the United States (along with The Bill of Rights) was written in the first place.

    Another lesson is in how sheer ignorance has become commonplace in the United States. According to a recent poll (see link below) one in four Americans think the Sun orbits the Earth. Repeat – if a recent poll is to be believed, 25% of the people in the United States are convinced the Sun revolves around the Earth. Such breathtaking ignorance does not happen by accident, it is cultivated by the same people who crafted the legislation which was so transparently twisted that a flagrantly conservative reactionary Republican was forced to veto. Wow. We have a lot of work to do before James Madison can return to resting in peace (if he ever did).

    http://news.yahoo.com/quarter-americans-convinced-sun-revolves-around-earth-survey-062143342–abc-news-topstories.html

  17. Hillary Conary says:

    The most interesting part of all of this is the fact that this law would not just influence people of the Christian faith, but those of all religions.

    Do you think they thought about that when writing this bill?

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