Russ Ford's Blog

There is no Charter in Arizona



I recently spent  a week in Arizona.  I knew nothing about this part of the world.  What I found was an incomparable climate and a very beautiful natural habitat.  It would have been the perfect vacation had I not turned on the television set.

What I learned from television is the not very beautiful side of the state.  The state legislature had just passed what came to be known as the "religious freedoms bill."

There is no freedom under the religious freedom bill.  On the contrary it is state supported bigotry.

The bill would allow anyone to discriminate against gays and lesbians. A restaurant owner could decide not to serve someone if they thought they were gay or lesbian if homosexuality was contrary to the owner's religion.  Translation,  so called "Christian values" trump civil rights.

Now I am not a theologian but I do have knowledge of the a Christian faith. The Jesus I know was one who spent time with lepers when no one would, spoke to women in public when that was deemed unacceptable and believed in the very controversial notion that anyone could join the Jewish faith if they became baptized.  In short, the Jesus I know was a proponent of inclusion.  In Arizona his name is being used to promote the exclusion.  

What would Jesus do?  Likely get himself arrested opposing the religious freedom bill.

The bill did not pass as the governor refused to sign it.  Many of the state senators who had previously voted for it, changed their minds and were urging the governor not to sign.

I would like to think these  senators had some sort of moral transformation.  If only. No most of them decided discriminating against gays and lesbians is still a reasonable thing to do, but they were concerned that if the bill became law, it would hurt tourism.

So Arizona politicos seem more than willing to misrepresent scripture when it serves their social agenda but back away from their bigotry if it hits them in the pocket book.

So while I left Arizona feeling rather dismayed, I was buoyed by my return when I heard about a new lakeshore group called Social Action For Equality or SAFE.  

SAFE  has gender rights at its core  but there is a recognition that there should be no hierarchy of discrimination.  No one person's discrimination is more important than another's. Gender rights is about human rights just as is any other form of discrimination.

No we are not Arizona and it seems safe to assume no such law would ever get passed here.  We have a law that is considered paramount and that is the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
But charter rights have a history of getting bent if not broken by the political whims of the day.  It was not all that long ago that Toronto was under martial law during the G20 Summit. Our provincial government even passed a secret law which put clear restrictions on the freedom of assembly, a guaranteed Charter right.
So let's not get smug and let's not shirk our collective responsibility to stand for the rights of all people.  We are best served by organizations like SAFE which provide support to those who are victimized by bigotry and keeps our collective eye on the often perilous nature of our civil rights.

Drop me an email if you want to connect with SAFE.

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