SB 1062, recently passed by the Legislature in Arizona, if it had been signed into law instead of being vetoed by the governor, would have led to discrimination. SB 1062 would have given people, such as restaurant owners, the right not to serve people, such as gay people, whose way of loving may conflict with a proprietor's religious beliefs.
The focus in the media was on the LGBT community, but the implications of SB 1062 run even deeper. Could a Christian decide not to serve Jews or Muslims in his or her restaurant? A Jewish restaurant owner might decide not to serve Christians or people who eat pork.
The absurdity of the law soon became evident, and reminded people of the Jim Crow South.
The law was vetoed more on the basis of money than principle, however.
One issue that was not discussed was how a restaurant owner would have been able to identify a member of the LGBT community. I had a solution, which thank heavens is now not needed. I thought that the state could help religious restaurant owners by requiring gay people to wear rainbow arm bands, just like the yellow arm bands and yellow stars Jews had to wear in Nazi Germany.
Then perhaps non-gay people might have demonstrated their displeasure as Christians did in Denmark when Hitler conquered that country. Christians wore yellow stars of David. Seeing Christians united by wearing rainbow arm bands would have given much needed unity and compassion to Christianity, which desperately needs those things.
The veto of SB 1062 makes such identifying badges unnecessary. But the underlying issue remains, that religion divides us more than it binds us together, and "religious" people seem to emphasize our divisions more than what unifies us.
Jesus prayed for unity among his disciples and followers, but divisions emerged even before he was crucified when Judas betrayed him.
The history of Christianity is a history of wars and divisions. It is not alone. Islam is divided into warring factions. Judaism is fractured, too. So are Hinduism and Buddhism.
How do we account for the failure of religion to unify people, even people within the same religion? I blame human nature, illuminated by the doctrine of sin and the numerous insights of psychology and psychiatry.
Religion does not exist apart from human souls. Religion is not a building or a text or a liturgy — without human beings who worship together and read those texts and enter those buildings.
Sadly, human beings are filled with desires for power and money, filled with insecurities and temptations to use violence. The Bible contains numerous examples, as do our newspapers today. Or just look at history, such as with the Crusades when religion stirred up deep hatred in order to conquer and murder. The Nazis were experts in this regard and even put crosses on German airplanes.
Religion has tremendous power to inspire the human heart to love and demonstrate great self-sacrifice. Religion provides us with a GPS device to steer us along and correct our wrong turns.
SB 1062 would have fueled the fires of resentment and discrimination, and would have further divided us, not bound us together. SB 1062 would have led us down the wrong road.
My only hope for the future of religion is enlightenment based on our powers of reason and the practice of education. Only a fool would declare that any one religion or any one faction of that religion is right and everybody else is wrong. Anybody who makes such declarations is putting him or herself in place of God and making judgments no human being has the right or perspective to make.
— By the Rev. Henry Idema, Tribune community columnist