COLUMN: Defending religion? It's about defending our conscience

By Steve Smith
Posted 3/11/14

The b ill which was recently vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, SB1062, consisted of only about 480 words. In comparison, this column is 713 words. And, nowhere in the entire 480 words is …

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COLUMN: Defending religion? It's about defending our conscience


The bill which was recently vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, SB1062, consisted of only about 480 words. In comparison, this column is 713 words. And, nowhere in the entire 480 words is “homosexual” or “lesbian” or any similar term used. 

Yet, from these 480 words, some of our fellow Americans determined that the bill was “anti-gay.” Why? How? Let’s just look at a few phrases. 

The overview of the bill states that it “revises the definition of exercise of religion and person and extends the prohibition on substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion to applications of the law by nongovernmental persons.” I see nothing there that is “anti-gay.”

There are nine provisions to this law — and again, no reference to race, religion, ethnicity or sexual preference.

So what does this “anti-gay” bill talk about? It is liberals and others so anxious to destroy American businesses who want to see it stopped.

It defines exercise of religion to include the observance of religion. It defines person to include businesses.

It prevents the government from burdening a person’s exercise of religion. It maintains that a person whose religious exercise is burdened can claim that the violation of his religion as a defense.

     It stipulates a burden of proof to the person who is claiming his religious believes are violated. It defines what a “state action is, and then says it makes changes.

     As with all legislation, there are parts written in legalese, and I cannot understand them without an attorney to help.

What would this bill really have done to the people and business of Arizona? It would have protected the one very important thing that all people need to have protected. Regardless of any person’s religion or lack thereof — the thing that divides us from the rest of the animal kingdom is that we humans have a conscience.

As the owner of two dogs, I asked my Rabbi once, “Why do we believe animals don’t have souls?” His answer was simple, “They don’t know right from wrong.” 

We humans do. Whether you believe it comes from God, or any other source, we know when we do something wrong. We know what is the right choice, whether we make it or not.

The federal bill to ban same-sex marriages has been called the “Defense of Marriage Act” (I disagreed with that rather odd name). Today, states need bills like the one vetoed in Arizona to protect all religious people and business owners from violating their religious beliefs. Such legislation should be called “The Defense of Conscience Act.”

This is an issue that better hit home with all of us, because it is happening in Colorado. Two gay men went to Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood back in July 2012 to order a wedding cake for their wedding.

However, the owner of the store, Jack Phillips, told them he would happily bake them a birthday cake, and even a shower cake. But, he told them that he could not bake a wedding cake for a same-sex wedding.

Most people would have muttered something nasty, and left. I would have. The two men went to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission who took Phillips to court, and Judge Robert Spencer, with no regard for the conscience of Phillips, ordered him to “cease and desist from discriminating against Complainants…” The judge’s ruling can put Jack Phillips in jail for a year for following his conscience. 

One of the things that Gov. Jan Brewer said when vetoing the bill was that in Arizona there have been no such rulings, and hence she did not see a need for the passage of SB1062.

Well, there has been such an issue, here in Colorado. And, if you are a person of conscience, you should be telling your state legislator about it right now.

It is a fact we must all face. All Americans who wish to be able to practice our religions in peace must have freedom of conscience. Otherwise, we can never have freedom of religion.


Al Jacobson is a Commerce City homeowner. He writes children’s stories.


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