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Arizona Catholic Conference says bill protects religious freedom

Filed under: World News |

PHOENIX, Feb 26, 2014–Protecting religious liberty is the intent of a measure that would allow “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church or other business entity” to refuse service to anyone if doing so violates one’s religious beliefs, according to a statement issued by the Arizona Catholic Conference.

The conference, which is the public policy arm of the state’s Catholic bishops, issued an “action alert” asking Catholics to urge Republican Gov. Jan Brewer to sign the measure. She has until Feb. 28 to veto it or sign it. The bill will become law if she takes no action. The bishops and other supporters of the measure, labeled “exercise of religion” and passed as S.B. 1062 by the state Senate and as H.B. 2153, would amend Arizona’s version of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, providing that “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.”

Opponents of the bill say it is unconstitutional because it is aimed at denying service to same-sex couples and discriminates against gays and lesbians. If it becomes law, they say it also could be used to discriminate against people on the basis of race. The bill’s sponsors said it was necessary to avoid in Arizona what has happened in other states, like New Mexico, for example, where the state Supreme Court ruled a photographer discriminated against a same-sex couple for turning them away on religious grounds when they sought photo services for their civil commitment ceremony. (CNS)

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