Error-zona: Brewer Ditches Facts to Save Face
At 680 words, Arizona's SB 1062 didn't take a yeoman's effort to read. But it was an effort, unfortunately, that few people bothered to make. If they had, the debate over the state's religious liberty measure would have been met by more yawns than pitchforks. Instead, Arizona's innocent attempt to tweak a law once embraced by the likes of Ted Kennedy turned into a blowup of national proportions. In a matter of days, liberal activists from across the country descended on Arizona and whipped up a frenzy of opposition based on what even liberal law professors called "egregious misrepresentations."
The media's coverage stunned supporters of SB 1062, who wondered how the press could be talking about the same bill the legislature had just passed. To hear reporters tell it, the measure was a license for widespread discrimination -- when in reality, the only thing being discriminated against was the truth! All SB 1062 did was ensure the government couldn't force business owners to violate their religious beliefs. If that's controversial, then so is the First Amendment. Even so, the bill became a political football -- literally -- when the Super Bowl threatened to move the event out of Glendale in retaliation. That, combined with the pressure from outside companies and spineless Republicans, was enough for Governor Jan Brewer (R). The once-gutsy leader buckled in the cloud of distortions and vetoed the bill.
In explaining her decision, Brewer said she believed "that Senate Bill 1062... could divide Arizona in ways we cannot even imagine and nobody could ever want... Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value," she insisted. "So is nondiscrimination."
What the Governor doesn't seem to understand is that the religious freedom and nondiscrimination are not -- and have never been -- mutually exclusive. As Americans, we have a proud tradition of respecting each other's differences -- a tradition that was never threatened by this bill. On the contrary, it would have extended to Christians, who have suffered the loss of jobs, security, and money at the hands of the liberal agenda, the same courtesy of tolerance. As Rich Lowry wrote in a great piece for Politico, "The question isn't whether businesses run by people opposed to gay marriage should provide their services for gay weddings; it is whether they should be compelled to by government. The critics of the much-maligned Arizona bill pride themselves on their live-and-let-live open-mindedness, but they are highly moralistic in their support of gay marriage, judgmental of those who oppose it and tolerant of only one point of view -- their own."
Of course, these issues are only now being raised by the mainstream press. The lead headline on Google News this morning, "Was the Vetoed Arizona Bill Misrepresented?" arrived after the fact. As I said last night on Fox News's "Kelly File," when the dust settles and the Left's hired guns leave the state, Arizonans will realized they were hoodwinked. But unfortunately for them, it will be too late; the damage will have already been done.
And while Governor Brewer insists the state needs to focus on more "pressing issues," I defy anyone to find a more pressing issue than the destruction of people's livelihoods and security. One pro-SB 1062 business owner in Gilbert, Arizona is living in fear after a liberal activist's death threats to her family. "I hope your children die too!" the message said -- one of several hate emails she's received since publicly expressing her support. "If you're wondering where the supporters are, they're home protecting their children from death threats," said Alliance Defending Freedom's Doug Napier.
Where is the tolerance in threatening to kill those you oppose? Once again, the same activists demanding civility are the ones endangering people's lives. So remind me again why Arizona Christians don't need protection?
Camp Grounds Push to Silence Conservatives
When the story broke that the IRS had been targeting conservative groups, President Obama called it "intolerable and inexcusable" -- but apparently, not intolerable or inexcusable enough to do anything about it. Yesterday, while the House tackled the latest threat to political groups, the White House announced its "strong opposition" to a bill that would end the same harassment the President supposedly condemned.
As part of the Republican Conference's Stop Government Abuse Week (I know what you're thinking -- they'll need a lot more than a week!), the House considered the Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act. Under the measure brought by House Ways and Means Chair David Camp (R-Mich.), the tax agency would have to postpone its crackdown on 501(c)(4) lobbying groups like FRC Action. With the help of 14 Democrats and every Republican, the bill passed Wednesday evening by a vote of 243-176. If the IRS moves forward with its rules, it would have a chilling effect on free speech from the very organizations holding Congress accountable.
By narrowing who qualifies as a 501(c)(4), Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) explains in an important column for the Washington Examiner, "the new rules would not only require 501(c)(4) groups to pay taxes (which most cannot afford to do), but it would also limit their political speech and voter education efforts. "Conservative groups would be forced to choose: change their classification to a 527 nonprofit and open up their donors to abuse at the hands of Washington bureaucrats or shut down all-together because they can't afford the taxes levied against them if they remain a 501(c)(4) organization."
Not surprisingly, the Obama administration plans to let labor unions off the hook from these changes, keeping their political machinery intact before the all-too crucial elections. For now, we tip our hats to conservatives like Rep. Camp who won't quit until they stop the IRS's abuse in its tracks. Our thanks to the thousands of you who submitted public comments and refused to be silenced!
Tex-Mess: Judge Mows Down State Marriage Law
It may be the second largest state in America, but even Texas isn't immune from the small-mindedness of judicial activists. Yesterday, the Lone Star State joined the ranks of outraged voters in Utah, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Virginia, California, Nevada, and New Mexico, who've all seen their right to self-governance vaporized by the courts' stampede toward same-sex "marriage." U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia made Texans the latest victims of judicial tyranny, toppling a marriage amendment that more than 75% of the state approved.
Although the dominos continue to fall in the debate over same-sex "marriage," the Left has been forced into courtrooms to demand the change that voters in other states won't give them. After exhausting their democratic options, liberals are shifting their attention to the federal bench -- raising the eyebrows and ire of the very Americans they hoped to persuade. With one stroke of his pen, Judge Garcia attempted to undo the will of 1,723,782 Texans -- and then, in a baffling display, insisted it wasn't his intent to silence them. "Today's opinion is not made in defiance of the great people of Texas or the Texas Legislature," Garcia wrote, "but in compliance with the U.S. Constitution..." That's interesting since there is no fundamental right to marry in the Constitution.
Fortunately, there was no shortage of outrage from the state's most powerful leaders. Governor Rick Perry (R) blasted the judge's lawlessness moments after the ruling came down. "Texans spoke loud and clear by overwhelmingly voting to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman in our Constitution, and it is not the role of the federal government to overturn the will of our citizens. This is yet another attempt to achieve via the courts what couldn't be achieved at the ballot box. We will continue to fight for the rights of Texans to self-determine the laws of our state."
His indignation was echoed by state Attorney General Greg Abbott (who has already announced his intent to fight the decision) and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who said, "Our Constitution leaves it to the states to define marriage, and unelected judges should not be substituting their own policy views for the reasoned judgments of the citizens of Texas... The court's decision undermined the institution of marriage, and I applaud Attorney General Abbott's decision to appeal this ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals."
** Last night, I was on Fox News's "Kelly File" to give FRC's reaction to Governor Brewer's religious liberty veto. If you missed the exchange, click on the video below. Also, FRC's Peter Sprigg appeared on CNN's "OutFront" (watch it here) to debunk the misconceptions about Arizona's bill after Brewer's decision.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.