Troubling legislation

Richard E Shafer, Grand Forks

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently vetoed a law that would have allowed businesses the right to invoke religion as a basis to refuse service to gays and lesbians. This is the kind of misguided law our North Dakota Legislature might attempt to enact, given its tendency to force the integration of church and state.

What is troubling about the defense of the Arizona law is that the zealots there contended that it would only be applied when the business person refusing to serve gays was able to prove a related deep religious conviction or belief. This would leave it to some government authority to determine the degree of religious belief held by the business person attempting to deny goods or services based on the customer’s sexual orientation. One person’s beliefs might be ruled to be stronger than another’s.

During the seven-year Vietnam War young men who did not want to fight and potentially kill as draftees could apply their local draft board for conscientious objector status. This board would decide if the reluctant draftee was sufficiently spiritual or religious to avoid being pressed into military service to shoot, bomb or otherwise kill Vietnamese.

If the potential draftee was Amish, Mennonite, Quaker or Church of the Brethren, their conscientious objector application was expedited. The beliefs of all other applicants were judged by draft board members.

It is strange that in 2014 vocal advocates for religious freedom in Arizona were willing to allow the government to determine the degree of a person’s religious conviction, at least when it would legalize discrimination against gays.

All enacted state legislation legalizing discrimination against gays is likely to be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, including North Dakota’s Defense of Marriage Act. The sooner the better.

The Feb. 22 New York Times reports that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that state attorneys general are no longer obligated to defend laws that are discriminatory against gays and lesbians in their states. Our own Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem should take heed and work to prevent North Dakota from becoming a last bastion of discrimination and repression against this valued class of our citizens.