On Religious Liberty Laws and Transparency

by Matthew Stollak on Thursday, February 27, 2014

So, Arizona Senate Bill 1062 was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer last night, under pressure from businesses, strong voices on the Left, and even members of her own party.

The purpose of SB1062, and others that all seemingly came up at the same time around the nation (I see you ALEC), is to "guarantee that all Arizonans would be free to live and work according to their faith."  Further, the bill would have expanded the definition of the free exercise of religion, allowing a faithful person to adhere to his or her beliefs in practice. It would have also expanded the definition of "person" to include any business, association and corporation.

Part of me is disappointed it was vetoed.

Not because I think the bill was a good piece of legislation, but because it provided one practical piece of information to me as a consumer - transparency.

We live in a world of crowdsourcing.    When I hand back an exam in class, students compare scores to see how they did.   We turn to Yelp or Urbanspoon to see if a restaurant is worthwhile.  We click on TripAdvisor.com to check the ratings on a particular hotel.  We join Angie's List to find a handyman.  We read the reviews on Amazon.com to see if a product is worth buying.  Glassdoor has made its name on employee reviews of the company at which they work.  We check consumerreports.org before buying a new car.  We turn to our friends for their opinion on a movie we'd like to see.  We want as much information as possible so we can minimize the likelihood of buyer's remorse.

What might occur if SB1062 (or bills like it) had passed?

Imagine the first instance where a wedding photographer denies service to a same-sex couple,a mattress company refuses to sell a bed to a same-sex couple, or a hotel clerk denies a room, all under the protection of religious freedom.

Will this likely be swept under the rug?  More likely, the following would occur:
*The couple would post the interaction on "The Knot"

*There would be Facebook posts, both on the couple's individual page, as well as that of the photographer or mattress company.
*Comments might be left on the company website.
*Someone's Twitter feed might light up.
*The complaint might appear at Consumerist.com

Forget about lessons learned from Jim Crow laws, or lunch counter sit-ins, look to the Susan G. Komen controversy regarding Planned Parenthood.  Or, look at the strong response this week to Kelly Blazek, head of the Cleveland Jobs Bank and her unfortunate scathing e-mail to a potential job seeker.  

Would not a similar firestorm erupt when that baker claims religious liberty when he or she refuses to put a same-sex topper on the wedding cake?

In the end, legislation such as SB1062 gives me yet another piece of information about the merchant and whether I have the desire and freedom, religious or not, to spend my money with him or her.

So what difference does it make?
so what difference does it make?
it makes none, but now you have gone
and your prejudice won't keep you warm tonight

One comment

Back in the 1950s, southern businesses were on record with discrimination. From Woolworth to Waffle House, we knew which companies were refusing to serve black people. The free market didn't correct for this bigotry. Government fixed it.

SB1062 wouldn't have helped to clarify a business's stance on working with gay people. It wouldn't have helped the average citizen understand how/where to spend money.

It would have aided bigotry.

by Unknown on February 27, 2014 at 9:01 PM. #

Leave your comment