Cathi Herrod is the president of the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative, Christian lobbying group that is one of the most high profile supporters of SB 1062, an Arizona bill that opponents argue would allow business owners to discriminate against gay customers. In an interview with Business Insider Tuesday, Herrod said she objects to these “false and irresponsible attacks.” With big businesses including Apple and Marriott asking Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) to veto SB 1062, Herrod also insisted many members of the business community support the legislation, though they choose to remain anonymous.
“Business owners have been reluctant to step out in front on this,” said Herron. “You take a look at the tweets against me and it’s hard for a business owner to step out and defend this when the attacks the vitriol has been at such a heightened level.”
Herron, a mother, attorney and self-described former “liberal feminist,” said the Center for Arizona Policy is “an evangelical Christian organisation” that is dedicated to supporting the “foundational principles of life, marriage, and family, and religious liberty.” The group’s website boasts that, “since 1995, 123 Center for Arizona Policy (CAP)-supported bills have become law.” One Democratic member of the state Legislature who opposes SB 1062 called it a piece of “damaging legislation that is pushed by Cathi Herrod and her powerful lobbying group.”
CAP is a non-profit organisation and is not required by Arizona law to disclose its donors. Herrod declined to discuss the group’s funding with Business Insider.
Herrod characterised SB 1062 as an attempt to protect religious freedom. She also argued it has “incredible safeguards included” that would prevent discrimination. Specifically, Herrod repeatedly pointed to a line of the bill that specifies the state will be allowed to “burden a person’s exercise of religion” if it was in “furtherance of a compelling governmental interest.”
According to Herrod, this specification would prevent people from using the bill to discriminate against gays in everyday life and would only allow them to refrain from being involved in promoting gay marriage if it was against their religious beliefs.
“The cake baker, the florist, the dress store owner, the photographer … in almost every one of those situations they would sell a dress to anyone, they would bake a cake for a graduation party or be the photographer for passport photos,” Herrod explained. “It’s when it crosses the line into a wedding where someone feels like that they are participating in the wedding, they are supporting the wedding, they are in a sense using their creative artistic talent to service the wedding. That’s where for many people of faith it crosses the line and they believe that their religious principles withhold that they should not be supporting a wedding.”
Herrod went on to cite other examples where she said the bill would protect peoples’ religious freedom. She pointed to a hypothetical “a Catholic pharmacy owner” who could to refuse to sell the morning after pill.
“It could even go to the example of, say, a Jewish caterer who is hired to service an event and they do not want to put pork on the menu,” said Herrod. “It would protect that Jewish caterer.”
Herrod demurred when we asked whether any caterer would be required to offer pork under current Arizona law.
“This is where it gets into the technical weeds about what 1062 would do,” she replied.
Herrod concluded by arguing it is supporters of SB 1062 who are actually facing persecution in Arizona.
“I’ve been active in public policy for many years and so I’m used to the attacks. I’m used to the name calling,” said Herrod. “My experience has been that the intolerance is shown by our opponents. It is not shown by the people who agree with us.”
SB 1062 will become law unless it is vetoed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R). Brewer has said she will make a decision about the bill by this Friday.
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