Religious based bigotry: no bueno

Oh c'mon, everybody loves Jon Stewart: .

There was Chuck Todd interviewing Gov. Mike Pence, R-Indiana, who looked elegant and refined in a nice suit. Then I started listening to what he was saying. By the time he got to a snide little chortle—he was denying climate change by pointing to snowy weather in the East as evidence of the lack of global warming—I had to switch channels. How stupid does he think we are?

Over breakfast, I noticed an article about State Representative Rick Bartin, a Missouri Republican who introduced legislation to require that intelligent design and “destiny” be given the same textbook space in Missouri schools as the theory of evolution. He even had the chutzpa to declare, “I’m a huge science buff. This [bill] is about testable data in today’s world.”

In order to believe that, you’d have to accept his new definition of a scientific theory: “an inferred explanation … whose components are data, logic and faith-based philosophy.”

It’s tempting to just roll your eyes at these Sharron Angle-like notions, but these are elected officials who presumably represent their constituents and are empowered to make decisions on their behalf. And sometimes these bills do pass, such as Senate Bill 1062 in Arizona, allowing businesses to refuse service to gays under the guise of “religious freedom.”

Conservative groups pushed for the legislation saying it was necessary to protect their right to worship, a right that somehow would be infringed upon if they were forced to provide flowers or a cake for a gay wedding. The bill was approved by the state legislature but later vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer after a huge backlash threatening a boycott quickly got the attention of the Chamber of Commerce and the corporate sector. Freedom to discriminate doesn’t sell a lot of products and services.

My favorite grassroots response to S.B. 1062 was Tucson pizzeria owner, Rocco DiGrazia, who posted signs on his restaurant saying “We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service to Arizona Legislators.”

But let’s not forget Nevada had its own version of this bill during the 2013 legislative session, S.B. 192, sponsored by a bi-partisan group of legislators led by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. Despite opposition from the ACLU and women’s groups who realized it could be used to allow pharmacists to deny birth control to women because their religion opposes it, the “harmless” bill passed the Senate, 14 to 7. Thankfully, it died in the Assembly Judiciary Committee when the chairperson made clear Democratic members would never approve it.

As Arizona senators who voted for the Religious Freedom bill were renouncing their own votes and begging Gov. Brewer to veto the bill, Nevada was treated to a debate on Ralston Reports between two Republican candidates for lieutenant governor who still support the Nevada bill and urged its passage in 2015 despite no evidence of government-sponsored religious discrimination. Neither seemed a bit worried about a possible boycott of Nevada or the impact a backlash would have on our tourism industry. Most tellingly, neither expressed any concern about single women who might not be able to get birth control because it was against a pharmacist’s religion or a gay couple being denied services by a business owner who didn’t approve of their relationship.

The slippery slope of allowing professionals or businesses to discriminate when providing their services or goods under the umbrella of religious freedom goes against the “live and let live” philosophy of Nevada and has no place in a state with legalized prostitution, 24-hour gambling, and a proud independent heritage.

Let’s hope the Arizona experience prevents a new version of this bill from surfacing in Nevada’s legislature next year and that our elected officials stand together to oppose legalized discrimination.