ASU students speak out against religious freedom bill
Video by Edward James Hernandez | Multimedia Reporter Students have been making their voices heard in regard to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act Senate Bill 1062 that was passed by the Arizona Senate on Friday and is awaiting signature or veto by Gov. Jan Brewer.
The bill, among other things, will allow business owners to refuse service to people if they feel it goes against their religious beliefs.
LGBTQA Coalition President Isabelle Murray led a protest on ASU’s Tempe campus Monday and Tuesday opposing the bill and asked students to sign a petition on Change.org to urge Brewer to veto this bill.
“We’re not OK with discrimination,” she said. “We’re the future of Arizona, and we’re not OK with the way things are going. “
Murray said the bill, if signed into law, will be bad for business and the local economy.
“According to the values of the New American University, it’s about inclusivity not exclusivity, so we have to stand by that,” she said. “Discrimination isn’t OK, and it shouldn’t be legalized. “
If the bill is signed by Brewer, it will affect everyone, not just LGBTQ people, Murray said.
“Some people think if it doesn’t directly affect them, then they won’t be concerned, but if this bill becomes law, it will affect everyone,” she said. “It’s not an LGBT thing. It’s not a religious thing. It’s human rights, and it’s for everyone.”
Murray said she is hopeful the students' voice will be heard.
“We hope the students take notice and that they start to do something about this, that they make their voice heard and let (Brewer's) office know that we are not OK with discrimination and that Arizona State isn’t about this,” she said.
Showing his support for the students and his opposition towards SB 1062 was Reformed Catholic Church Father Andrew Barreras, who has been following this legislation since its very beginning.
“I have been fighting this legislation since it began down at the state capital,” he said. “I don’t believe anyone has the right to discriminate based on religion.”
Barreras said he wants the younger generation to understand this is how legislation begins, and if people don’t oppose bills such as this, it can lead to much darker things.
“Similar ideas started in the 1920s (and) 1930s, and before you knew it, you had a full holocaust against a certain people, a certain minority,” he said. “If you don’t stop it now, it can progress to get worse and worse. People just tend to think there is no harm in these little laws, but if you read into it, the bill will discriminate (against) a broad spectrum of the public.”
The purpose of the Tempe protest was to get students to sigh the petition, and the protest was well attended, event organizer Colleen Bruffy said.
“We are hoping that this will sort of give Jan Brewer the message that this isn’t a law that the people and students of Arizona want,” she said.
Student governments from the four campuses have started to get involved, with Graduate and Professional Student Association President Megan Fisk saying they were the first to pass a bill opposing SB 1062.
“GPSA took a stance, because we think it is just wrong and oppose it, and right now we are recruiting all of the new graduate students for next year,” she said. “We have people from all over the world who want to come to ASU and are top recruits, and we need their knowledge and potential to help all of our programs achieve the economy that Gov. Brewer wants and ABOR is in favor of.”
Fisk said she wants future students to know that Arizona doesn't stand for SB 1062.
“We think that it is really important that our graduate students and our future students know that this isn’t what ASU represents and it’s not the values that we have,” she said. “The bill has passed in GPSA, and it is our official stance that we are opposed to SB 1062.”
Undergraduate Student Government senators have began writing their own legislation opposing the state bill.
Jordan Hibbs, senator at Tempe USG said Senate Bill 59, which passed Tuesday night, will urge the governor to veto SB 1062.
“The bill is opposing SB 1062, and there is also a clause that says if the governor doesn’t veto it, then ASU student governments will not associate with any business that will use the bill to discriminate against people,” she said.
Hibbs said she wants her constituents to know that USG is doing this for the students.
“We’re just letting our constituents know we don’t support SB 1062, and we are just working on behalf of the students,” she said.
Opposing USG's SB 59 was Sen. Nathan Duell, who said he didn't believe it was ASU's job to pick and choose which businesses it wants to work with based on politics.
"I believe it should be what businesses offer the best solutions for ASU, and as long as ASU is following the law, then the University should be able to pick and chose which businesses to associate with," he said.
Tempe USG President Jordan Davis said the student government is opposed to any legislation that discriminates.
“USG does not support any legislation that has the potential to discriminate against any portion of society or cause harm to the economy of Arizona,” he said.
Davis called SB 1062 dangerous not only for the people who could potentially be discriminated against but for the economy.
"Small business owners, large business owners, Apple, Mitt Romney all came out against SB 1062," he said. "We can all debate semantics, and we can debate small little things in this bill, but the overall message of this bill is to voice the USG's opposition to SB 1062."
Outside of the local community, SB 1062 has been gaining attention in the national arena on CNN and in newspapers such as The New York Times and the Washington Post.
Tempe City Councilman Kolby Granville said Arizona doesn't need this kind of recognition.
“If this bill is signed into law, we will continue to make national news for all of the reasons we don’t want to,” he said.
Similar bills to SB 1062 have come close to passing in other states, with the Kansas legislature being the latest to vote against a bill which promoted discrimination.
Kansas state representative Patricia Sloop wrote in the House Journal, “I strongly support religious freedom, but this bill is not about religious freedom. In my opinion, this is about legalized discrimination, and I cannot vote in support of this.”
Arizona legislators have similar thoughts about SB 1062. Three Republican representatives who originally voted for the bill, Sen. Bob Worsley, R-Mesa, Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott and Senate Majority Whip Adam Driggs, wrote a letter to Brewer asking her to veto it.
“While our sincere intent in voting for this bill was to create a shield for all citizens’ religious liberties, the bill has instead been mischaracterized by its opponents as a sword for religious intolerance,” the letter said. “These allegations are causing our state immeasurable harm.”
Business leaders at the Arizona Chamber of Commerce have also expressed their opposition to the bill by writing a letter to Brewer.
“After analyzing the bill, we are very concerned about the effect it could have on Arizona’s economy," the letter said. "As leaders in the business community, we cannot support measures that could expose our businesses to litigation, nor do we want to send a message that our state is anything but an open and attractive place for visitors and the top talent that will be the cornerstone of our continued economic growth."
Celebrities and other well-known figures throughout the country have been taking a stand against the bill by tweeting and writing letters to large news organizations.
George Takei, of "Star Trek" fame and a gay rights activist, wrote a scathing letter to the state of Arizona saying the bill places discrimination into law.
“This ‘turn away the gay’ bill enshrines discrimination into law,” the letter said.
Takei went on to write about a similar situation that occurred in Arizona in 1989.
“And maybe you just never learn," the letter said. "In 1989, you voted down recognition of the Martin Luther King holiday, and as a result, conventions and tourists boycotted the state, and the NFL moved the Super Bowl to Pasadena. That was a $500 million mistake."
The issue of the Super Bowl has business leaders fearing the worst as NFL spokesman Greg Aiello gave a statement saying the NFL was following the situation closely.
"Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard," he said. "We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so, should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time."
The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is also opposed to the bill being signed into law and said as much in a statement.
"On that matter, we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential. We do not support this legislation," the committee said.
Brewer now has until Friday to make a decision whether to veto SB 1062 or sign the bill into law, and there is no sign of opposition slowing down, as even former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney spoke out against the bill via Twitter saying the veto of SB 1062 is right.
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