Ashes From Phoenix

by Anton Wills-Eve

How appropriate that the governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, should have chosen  to do the right thing for the wrong reason by choosing to veto the state bill which would have allowed any provider or owner of any type of service to withhold that service , on religious grounds,   from people who are  homosexual .  No wonder the bill caused such a storm throughout the States. But the most important thing about it was that what it wanted to do would have been perfectly okay if  only the ludicrous tag ‘on religious grounds’ had not been stuck on the end of it.

Here in Britain we have an example of the type of  legislation that would not have raised an eyebrow. If the landlord of a public house wants to refuse to serve a customer in England and wants them to leave the  bar then he only has to say so and they must leave. He does not have to tell them why. This is one of the most important aspects of possession of anything; it is yours to make available to whoever you wish or to withhold it from them. But why do I take such a strong aversion to the introduction of the ‘religion’ tag in the case of the Arizona  bill?

Well, for a start, homosexuality is no more a religious issue than heterosexuality. As a practising Roman Catholic I consider what people do to be right or wrong,  sins or not sins, according to the teachings of God as revealed to us in the ten commandments in the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament. Now in both these cases right and wrong, doing good deeds or committing sins must involve an act of free will on the part of  a human being who is performing an action. How on earth can that make a person’s natural preferences of feeling either right or wrong just by themselves? Not liking the idea of sexual intercourse with someone of the opposite sex cannot of itself be a sin if it has not involved any act on the part of the homosexual. Where  sin comes in is when God’s laws, rules, teachings call them what you will, come into play. And that can only be when a person decides how to respond to their emotions regarding anything at all. You cannot be a thief just by wanting something that is not yours. You have to steal the object first! Just so with married couples. Should one of them like the look of another person and commit adultery that is a very serious sin.  But the phrase ‘living in sin’ has gone out of fashion for this very reason. Too many people do it, but if people kept on telling them they were doing wrong they would soon rebel and try to defend themselves. That is the worst thing you can make a sinner do. So too with homosexuals; if you keep telling them they are disgusting or use similar insulting epithets to their face they will eventually not merely tell you where to get off but try to defend their actions when they give in to their preferences and  have sexual relations with someone of their own sex. By all means tell people what they should and should not do as you believe, but for Heaven’s sake don’t single out any sinners because you are  prejudiced against them. Think what that makes you! At the very least an extremely unpleasant and extremely unChristian neighbour. I was taught from a very young age to condemn the sin but forgive the sinner. That means every sinner regardless of the gravity or type of their misdeed. And above all it does NOT mean condemning someone who is merely attracted by the idea of a sin. I would have been lost years ago if that were the case.

But to return to the bill which Jan Brewer threw out.There is a case to be made for allowing service providers to decide whether or not they make their services available to all. A bill drawn up on such lines would probably have succeeded and nobody would have minded much. The police would have had their work doubled as disgruntled customers started turning violent,  but then the service providers would soon have changed their minds. Money would have forced them to. But the ashes which we saw strewn over the legislature of Arizona last week did at least allow  Phoenix to rise from them and do what was sensible and, in my opinion, right.  One hears that illegal immigration from the south is likely to be the next really big issue in the state. If it is I do hope that Arizona remembers where its name came from, and why.