Tomorrow, May 9, 2013, the State House of Representatives will take a final vote on SB 1178, relating to the free exercise of religion. While the bill purports to provide protection for religious exercise and observance, these protections already exist under Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. What the bill actually does is broadly increase opportunities for individuals and businesses to cite religious belief as an excuse to disregard statute and threaten public safety--even if causing the threat to public safety is not necessary for actual religious exercise.
The examples of public harm are innumerable. Doctors will be empowered to refrain from prescribing medically necessary medications because his/her religion forbids the use of certain drugs. Therapists will be empowered to tell troubled patients to try religious worship instead of the treatment called for by the relevant standard of care. Businesses, particularly small businesses, may face endless streams of lawsuits because the bill allows people to raise extremely broad defenses in litigation between private parties.
Because this bill was pushed as a strike-everything that did not go through a full vetting process and allowed little time for public scrutiny, there may be even broader repercussions to the legislation that cannot be foreseen at this time. Please CLICK HERE to email your Representative and tell them not to rush through a bill with implications this serious. Let's find ways to ensure religious liberty AND protect public safety!