Here’s a case for tolerance of religious liberty from a gay writer in the Economist.
Excerpt: (links removed)
Doing that seems to me to have been point of laws like Arizona’s strangely controversial SB 1062, which was vetoed last week by Jan Brewer, Arizona’s governor. Douglas Laycock, a professor of law at the University of Virginia, recently noted that the thrust of the bill was simply to refine existing state and federal religious-freedom protections. ”These laws”, Mr Laycock writes, “enact a uniform standard—substantial burden and compelling interest—to be interpreted and applied to individual cases by courts. They rest on the sound premise that we should not punish people for practicing their religion unless we have a very good reason”. The point of SB 1062 in particular was to clarify “that people are covered when state or local government requires them to violate their religion in the conduct of their business, and that people are covered when sued by a private citizen invoking state or local law to demand that they violate their religion.” Mr Laycock goes on to emphasise, and this is very important:
But nothing in the amendment would have said who wins in either of these cases. SB1062 did not say that businesses can discriminate for religious reasons. It said that business people could assert a claim or defense under RFRA, … that they would have to prove a substantial burden on a sincere religious practice, that the government or the person suing them would then have the burden of proof on compelling government interest, and that the state courts in Arizona would make the final decision.
It is incorrect to claim, as my colleague did last week, that SB 1062 was “in effect, an exemption from anti-discrimination laws for the pious”. It was not. It was an attempt to calibrate the law so that worthy new legal rights don’t infringe on worthy old ones. If forcing conservative Christian photographers to shoot gay weddings can be shown to promote a “compelling interest” of the state, and if the photographer fails to show that doing so would place a “substantial burden” on her sincere religious beliefs, then refusing to work a gay weddings would remain a violation of existing anti-discrimination law. That seems reasonable to me. As Mr Laycock says, “we should not punish people for practicing their religion unless we have a very good reason”. When we do have a very good reason, we can go right ahead.
It’s important to understand that many gay people are either 1) not in favor of gay marriage or 2) not in favor of forcing Christians to affirm gay marriage. The Economist is a socially liberal, fiscally moderate publication. So I am especially glad to see an article defending religious liberty and tolerance of Christians here. Of all places. I think a lot of people are going to read that and realize that it’s worse to take away the religious liberty of Christians to not participate in activities they oppose, than for gay couples to simple go next door and get the product or service they want.
I also think that this article goes to show you how reasonable SB 1062 was as legislation.