March 2014, From the Rabbi

From Rabbi Erica Burech

This month, I share with you the letter that each member of Arizona’s Board of Rabbis sent to Governor Janet Brewer imploring her to veto SB 1062.

Thankfully she did veto this bill which was an act of bravery on her part since it meant alienating many of her supporters.

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February 13, 2014

Dear Governor Brewer,

As religious leaders from abundant and diverse religious communities in Arizona, we prayerfully ask you to carefully consider a veto of Senate Bill 1062, exercise of religion; state action. Like you, we are guided by our faith and our moral obligation to do what is best for our communities.

As people of faith, we are ardent supporters of religious freedom for all Americans. We know that it is the religious freedom to worship as we chose that makes our country and our state great. Religious organizations have a long established First Amendment ability to operate according to their own beliefs and we as faith leaders hold that right as sacred and will do all in our power to preserve it.
However, we also know that there is a difference between sacred space and commercial space. When providing a service to the public, businesses cannot pick and choose whom to serve and whom to deny. This is basic discrimination and it has nothing to do with religious freedom.

Senate Bill 1062 claims to strengthen already robust religious freedoms in Arizona yet the reality is the opposite. As the Danbury Baptist Association understood when in 1801 they asked President Thomas Jefferson to ensure that their right to worship as a minority religion would not be curtailed by the majority, we understand that religious freedom protects our freedom to worship. Yet freedom of religion does not give businesses the right to discriminate based on the beliefs of individuals.

This legislation will have immense and negative consequences on all communities, including religious communities. First, it sends the message that one’s particular religious interpretation can become the law of the land. As diverse religious leaders, this suggests a movement toward state-sanctified religion that makes the free exercise of religion for all of us more difficult. Second, as religious leaders we know that families are harmed when legislation unfairly opens up members of our communities to discrimination. As a state, we know we can do better than that.

Let us celebrate our diverse faith traditions and our courageous acts in the name of all that is Holy, and continue to serve as messengers of peace and goodness as you have encouraged us to do as Governor of Arizona. We ask that you do this with us, and respectfully request that you veto Senate Bill 1062.

Yours In Prayer,

Rabbi Erica Burech

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