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Columns

March 1, 2014

Religion should be a comfort, not a weapon

Discuss politics or religion in any establishment that specializes in dispensing alcohol, and — proprietors warn — the discussion is highly likely to result in you waking up on the tavern floor and spitting out teeth, probably your own.

So, it stands to reason that a discourse — even a written one — that involves both politics and religion is fraught with peril.

But it is irresistible given the way some folks in state legislatures and other institutions have been using religion as a cudgel to institutionalize prejudice, ignore scientific facts and promote ignorance.

For instance:

Lawmakers in Arizona, which — rumor has it — is part of the United States of America, passed legislation recently that would allow any business person in the state to deny — for religious reasons — service to anyone who might not be a heterosexual.

Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, first said she would have to really give the matter some serious thought before she decided to veto the bill that was passed with overwhelming GOP support.

Apparently, the governor’s thought process was influenced not so much by the blatant discrimination in the bill as by recollections of the boycotts following the state’s insipid 2010 immigration law that cost Arizona an estimated $140 million in tourist and business revenue.

This week, major state business organizations and both of Arizona’s Republican senators urged her to veto the despicable bill, and the National Football League issued a not-so-subtle threat to move next year’s Super Bowl out of the state.

The legislation had little to do with religious freedom, and everything to do with using the power of a government to cater to a loud, bigoted, right-wing minority.

And it’s not just Arizona. A whole mess of states have been flirting with using religious rights to institutionalize hate, fear and prejudice.

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