You can govern on principle, or on expediency.
Last night, Jan Brewer chose expediency.
You can do what’s right, or you can do what’s convenient. You can take the heat, or you can go along.
Arizona has decided to go along.
In vetoing legislation that protected the religious liberty of business owners, Gov. Jan Brewer spared her state the vengeance of the gay-rights movement. But she had to abandon principle to do it, basing her decision on intimidation instead of reason.
She was politically correct, but morally wrong.
And inconsistent with a variety of analogous practices across our society.
At issue was a bill passed by the Arizona legislature. It said that business owners could decline certain types of business and certain types of customers in order to follow their religious convictions.
The immediate illustration was a florist asked to provide the flowers for a gay wedding, but whose religion considered gay marriage wrong. Under the proposed Arizona law, that florist could refuse to sell flowers for the wedding and not be sued or fined.
In that scenario, the easy conclusion is that the gay person is being discriminated against – denied accommodation by a business.
That conclusion was ballyhooed across the country, and Arizona was vilified and accused of being bigoted and discriminatory. Immediately, talk of boycotts began, and everyone from CEOs to reporters to politicians weighed in to condemn the proposed law.
There was a lot of heat, and Jan Brewer got out of the kitchen. Maybe you can’t blame her. Persuasion in America has been reduced to extortion and intimidation, and Arizona stood to lose untold millions of dollars if it didn’t toe the progressive line.
So she capitulated.
And violated principle to do so.
Because principle says that there is liberty on both sides of the counter, and that the business owner is no less a free American than is the customer. The First Amendment’s guarantee that we are entitled to “the free exercise” of our religion would seem to apply even in the commercial arena.
Even if you are a florist.
Even if you are a Christian.
Where a commercial exchange can’t respect the values of both retailer and consumer, that commercial change should not be happening. Where mutual accommodation cannot be achieved, there is no sale, and the buyer and the seller go back into the marketplace to make a deal elsewhere.
That’s what the law was intended to protect.
That’s what is done across the country every day.
The notion of a business owner making a customer-affecting decision on the basis of religion is neither new nor rare.
For example, don’t go to the halal store and ask for pork chops, or the kosher butcher and ask for ham.
In both of those situations, the religious beliefs of the store owners impact the consumer. They limit the stores' services available to that customer.
And inasmuch as a non-Muslim or a non-Jew are most likely to be wanting pork products, the religion of the customer is a factor in the store’s failure to satisfy them.
Nobody has yet sued a halal store wanting to compel it to sell bacon to a Christian.
Neither has anyone gone to court to force stores owned by the Mormon church to sell articles of religious clothing to the non-Mormons they now refuse to serve.
Neither has anyone told Muslim taxi drivers that their refusal to carry dogs and alcohol in their cabs is discriminatory. Those teachings of their religion – that dogs and booze are morally unclean – regularly end up in passengers being denied service.
In the performing of abortions and the dispensing of birth control medications, doctors and pharmacists are allowed to demur if their religious views would be offended.
And Chick-Fil-A denies countless customers chicken sandwiches on Sunday because of the religious beliefs of the owner.
Clearly, all across the country, our practice is to respect the religious views of the business owner, even if that means certain types of customers are denied service.
We’ve always seen that as common sense and common courtesy, not discrimination.
And beyond the imperative of religion, we as a society believe that in most situations people can be denied service for any reason whatsoever. It’s the owner’s business, and the owner makes the rules.
If a guy went to a black-owned barbecue place and tried to hire it to cater his Ku Klux Klan meeting, everybody would recognize the barbecue owner’s right to tell the guy to go pound salt.
We recognize the rights of business owners to follow their consciences, all across America.
Unless it’s Arizona and anybody says anything about gays.
Because homosexuals are the civil rights trump card of this generation. So bitter is the vilification of those who disagree with the gay movement that to do so is social suicide.
As Jan Brewer learned.
The right thing to do was to recognize the rights of both parties in a potential business transaction. Principle says that there are rights on both sides of the cash register.
But expediency capitulates.
In Arizona, gay people have rights. But religious people do not. They practice domination, not accommodation.
And principle stands for nothing.