State Department Priorities Debated

John Semmens: Semi-News — A Satirical Look at Recent News

Folder2 104Prior to 2012’s attack on Libyan Ambassador Chris Stevens there were numerous rejected requests from the Ambassador for more security. Then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton blamed the repeated rejection of these requests on budget constraints. At the same time, the State Department was laying out funds for some dubious undertakings—including funding the sending of comedians to India.

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ken) questioned whether funding comedians might have been a frivolous use of money that might have been better used to provide more security in Libya.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, current Secretary of State John Kerry advised that “we not jump to hasty conclusions. I recognize that there is a huge emotional reaction to our Ambassador being murdered by Muslim extremists, but it is not at all clear to me that diverting the money spent on comedians would’ve been better used to fund more security in Libya.”

Think about it,” Kerry urged, “Given the size of the mob that attacked the Consulate it seems to me that a larger security force would’ve merely bumped up the casualty count from four to whatever. And adding more ‘Rambos’ would not have jibed with the President’s decision against resisting the attack.”

Let me also point out that there were no casualties suffered in India,” Kerry continued. “Does this not imply that the comedians we financed had a salutary effect? It is said that a smile turneth away wrath. Comedians induce people to smile. The extent to which the calm that has prevailed in India may have been due to this timely intervention can never be adequately measured or appreciated.”

Well, what about the $700,000 spent on shrubs for our embassy in Brussels or the $5 million for new crystal ware for the State Department?” Paul asked. “Couldn’t those funds have been better used for security in Libya?”

We shouldn’t be second guessing decisions that can’t be unmade at this late date,” Kerry replied. “I’m sure that my predecessor had sound reasons for the budget choices she made. To her credit, Brussels has remained one of the calmer spots in the world. Perhaps the new shrubbery played a role in that. And entertaining foreign dignitaries is a fundamental responsibility of the State Department. If we give them drinks in shabby glasses it would reflect poorly on our nation.”

An Inspector General’s report found that nearly $6 billion was misplaced by the State Department during Clinton’s tenure there. Whether any of this money could have made a difference in Libya is unknown.

Health Secretary Resigns

This week it was announced that Kathleen Sebelius will be leaving her post as Secretary of Health and Human Services. President Obama thanked her for “her courageous and tireless efforts to ensure that every American has health insurance.” Afterward, those in attendance gave her a standing ovation.

Secretary Sebelius has had to face hostility every step of the way toward this monumental achievement,” the President declared. “Critics in Congress said the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t be affordable. Consumers complained that the policies offered under the ACA cover less than their old plans and cost more. Others were too inept to navigate the simple steps to get covered. But the Secretary withstood this barrage of misfortunes and emerged triumphant. She has made her mark on American history.”

Meanwhile, many of those successful in acquiring policies under the ACA are finding it hard to locate a doctor willing to treat them. One searcher received 96 consecutive rejections.

Dr. Howard Koh, Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services, sympathized with the plight of individuals having trouble getting doctors to treat them, but urged patience. “Getting everyone insured is enough of a task for phase one of this dramatic reconstruction of our health care system,” Koh said. “Even though we’re quite proud of the 7 million we’ve signed up so far, realistically, it will take us a few years to get everyone enrolled. Once that’s accomplished we can begin to wrestle with the issue of whether there are doctors available.”

Let me also remind everyone that not being able to see a doctor is not as dire as some might think,” Koh pointed out. “The vast majority of these people will self-heal without any medical intervention. So, not being able to see a doctor could be a blessing. After all, medical treatment itself is one of the nation’s leading causes of death. To the extent that lack of doctors helps people avoid this fate it’s a definite plus for the ACA.”

Republican Incensed by DOJ Stonewalling

Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Tex) described himself as “frustrated and mystified” by his inability to obtain copies of Department of Justice communications that have been provided to the attorneys defending men facing charges for terrorist acts in Illinois. “Why can’t the Attorney General have the common courtesy to give a member of Congress equal access?” Gohmert wondered.

AG Eric Holder insisted that the distinctly different treatment was warranted. “These men are on trial and need this information to defend themselves,” Holder argued. “They face serious consequences if they don’t have the best possible defense.”

In contrast, I have determined that Congress has no legitimate need for this information,” Holder asserted. “The only conceivable purpose would be to try to use the information to assail or embarrass the Administration and my Department. Obviously, the men on trial in Illinois pose no threat to us. The same cannot be said for Mr. Gohmert and his cohorts. I see no reason why I should cooperate with them in their racist campaign against us.”

Mr. Holder’s perception that Congress is a greater danger than terrorists is disturbing,” Gohmert said. “That a person with this sort of mindset is in charge of enforcing the nation’s laws is frightening.”

Perhaps equally frightening, Holder dismissed GOP complaints that his office has been inadequately diligent in enforcing the law. “The law is a living thing,” Holder contended. “The words on paper mean nothing until a human being gives them life. As the nation’s top legal officer I will decide which laws deserve life and which do not. It’s called a prosecutor’s discretion. As long as I hold this office I will use my discretion as I see fit.”

Is this ‘contempt of Congress?’” Holder mused. “Let me ask this, is there any decent person who isn’t contemptuous of Congress? The House has already passed one resolution holding me in contempt. So what? It’s an empty gesture. I am not deterred one iota from my mission. Their inability to impose any meaningful sanction on me demonstrates their incompetence. Who wouldn’t be contemptuous of such a body?”

In related news, Holder downplayed an Office of Special Counsel finding that IRS employees engaged in illegal partisan campaigning during the 2012 election—urging taxpayers calling for help with IRS forms to vote for Obama. “These technical violations of the Hatch Act have to be weighed against the substantive issue at hand,” Holder said. “Technically, federal employees are not supposed to make partisan statements. Substantively, all of the alleged statements supported the Government against a GOP effort to topple it. From that perspective these employees’ actions were exemplary. Under these circumstances a harsh penalty would be unwarranted.”

Congressional Candidate Says Pro-Lifers “Mentally Disabled”

Mike Dickinson, the Democratic challenger for the Virginia Congressional seat currently held by Republican Eric Cantor went on a rant against opponents of abortion this week.

The people who say that abortion is against God’s plan are mentally disabled,” Dickinson maintained. “Look, they say they pray that abortions be stopped, but abortions continue. Since, in their view, God is all-powerful, the failure of their prayers must either mean that there is no God or that God is okay with abortions.”

Not content with belittling pro-lifers, Dickinson also took a swat at the Tea Party, calling them “the true terrorists. The Muslim jihadis may blow up a few buildings, but these Tea Party types want to totally dismantle everything that President Obama has done for this country. We should applaud what the IRS and NSA have been doing to try to suppress these enemies of the State.”

Former Presidents Comment on Obama Administration’s Achievements

Former President Bill Clinton told an admiring audience that “if I were forced to evaluate the Obama Administration I’d have to give it some bad marks, especially when it comes to the economy. It’s been particularly hard on the middle class. Incomes are lower now than when Obama took office. And that’s before accounting for inflation. The people we Democrats profess to want to help have been hammered by the policies the President and Congress have implemented. The ‘stimulus’ and the ‘green jobs’ initiatives had good intentions, but we’ve spent a whole lot of money with no appreciable positive impact on employment.”

Former President Jimmy Carter assailed the Administration’s foreign policy, singling out “the unimpressive record of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Despite all the hoopla over a purported ‘reset button,’ there is little sign that she made any serious effort on behalf of world peace. US troops are still in harm’s way. An Ambassador was killed on her watch and all she can say is ‘what difference does it make?’ The question I have is what difference did she make in the four years she trotted around the globe?”

Hillary Clinton characterized Carter’s remarks as “evidence that the double standard is alive and well. Women are always judged more harshly. At least there were no embassy hostages taken during my term.”

A Satirical Look at Recent News

John Semmens is a retired economist who has written a weekly political satire column for The Arizona Conservative since 2005. He says working on his satires is one of the ways he tries to honor the liberties that our nation’s Founding Fathers tried to protect.

Please do us a favor. If you use material created by The Arizona Conservative, give us credit, and DO NOT change the context. Thank you

 

Point/Counterpoint: Is Man Causing the Earth to Warm?

The best points for manmade “global warming”:

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*

 

 

 

 

The best points against manmade “global warming”:

“Professor Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt, a social democrat and green activist, decided to author a climate science skeptical book. … Vahrenholt’s skepticism started when he was asked to review an IPCC report on renewable energy. He found hundreds of errors. When he pointed them out, IPCC officials simply brushed them aside. Stunned, he asked himself, ‘Is this the way they approached the climate assessment reports?’ ” (The Telegraph, Feb. 7, 2012)

• Contributors to Vahrenholt’s climate science skeptical book include: Nir Shaviv, astrophysicist, professor at the Racah Institute of Physics of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Werner Weber, emeritus professor of physics at the Technical University of Dortmund; and Henrik Svensmark, professor in the Division of Solar System Physics at the Danish National Space Institute in Copenhagen.

• “The United Nations issued a dramatic warning [in 2005] that the world would have to cope with 50 million climate refugees by 2010. But now that those migration flows have failed to materialize, the U.N. has distanced itself from the forecasts. On the contrary, populations are growing in the regions that had been identified as environmental danger zones.” (Der Spiegel, April 18, 2011)

• “In 2007, the IPCC predicted that rising global temperatures would kill off many species. … The IPCC [now] admits that there is no evidence climate change has led has led to even a single species becoming extinct thus far.” (Der Spiegel, March 26, 2014)

• “A chilly Arctic summer [in 2013] has left 533,000 more square miles of ocean covered with ice than at the same time last year — an increase of 29 percent. The rebound from 2012’s record low comes six years after the BBC reported that global warming would leave the Arctic ice free in summer by 2013.” (Daily Mail, Sept. 28, 2013)

• It is now more than 15 years since global average temperature rose significantly. Indeed, “the U.N.’s climate change chief, Rajendra Pachauri, has acknowledged a 17-year pause in global temperature rises.” (The Australian, Feb. 22, 2013)

• “A recent study in Nature Climate Change by Francis Zwiers and colleagues of the University of Victoria, British Columbia, found that models have overestimated warming by 100% over the past 20 years.” (Wall Street Journal, Sept. 17, 2013)

• “President Obama has explicitly linked a warming climate to ‘more extreme droughts, floods, wildfires and hurricanes.’ The White House warned this summer of ‘increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events that come with climate change.’ Yet this is not supported by science. ‘General statements about extremes are almost nowhere to be found in the literature but seem to abound in the popular media,’ climate scientist Gavin Schmidt of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies said last month.” (Bjorn Lomborg, Washington Post, Sept. 13, 2013)

• “Judith Curry, a climatologist who heads the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, was involved in the third IPCC assessment, which was published in 2001. But now she accuses the organization of intellectual arrogance and bias.” (Monte Morin, science writer, Los Angeles Times, Sept. 22, 2013)

• “IPCC vice chair Francis Zwiers, director of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria in Canada, co-wrote a paper published in this month’s Nature Climate Change that said climate models had ‘significantly’ overestimated global warming over the last 20 years.” (Monte Morin article.)

• “A new look at NASA satellite data revealed that Earth set a new record for coldest temperature recorded. It happened in August 2010 when it hit -135.8 degrees. Then on July 31 of this year, it came close again: -135.3 degrees.” (Associated Press, Dec. 9, 2013)

• “Some experts say their trust in climate science has declined because of the many uncertainties. ‘My own confidence in the data has gone down in the past five years,’ said Richard Tol, an expert in climate change and professor of economics at the University of Sussex in England.” (Reuters, April 16, 2013)

• “ ‘I think that the latest IPCC report has truly sunk to level of hilarious incoherence,’ Dr. Richard Lindzen told Climate Depot — a site known for questioning the theory of global warming” (Daily Mail, Sept. 29, 2013). Note: From 1983 until last year, Lindzen was a professor of meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and widely considered the dean of American climatologists.

• Other world-renowned scientists who are skeptics or “deniers” include:

• Freeman Dyson, one the world’s most admired physicists, a Fellow of the Royal Society, recipient of the Enrico Fermi Award, and the speaker who delivered the Jerusalem-Harvard Lectures at Hebrew University; Roger Pielke Sr., former chairman and member of the American Meteorological Society Committee on Weather Forecasting and Analysis, chief editor of Monthly Weather Review and a fellow of the American Meteorological Society; Denis G. Rancourt, former professor of physics at the University of Ottawa (and, for the record, a left-wing activist); Claude Allegre, member of the French Academy of Sciences, a foreign member of the National Academy of Sciences, and former French minister of education (Socialist Party).

• “Over 100 Prominent Scientists Warn UN Against ‘Futile’ Climate Control Efforts” on the Web site of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Climate change: this is the worst scientific scandal of our generation

 

 *Global warming alarmists have forfeited the debate. Skeptics win by default

Homosexual Fascists at ASU Spray Marriage Supporters with Pesticide

Watch the video here: http://barbwire.com/2014/04/09/shocking-video-attacked-gay-stapo/

The message is clear: if you oppose same-sex “marriage,” you must be shut down, you must be punished … by fascists who are unwilling to allow you to have a different opinion, to allow you the freedom to disagree with them.

These people are engaging in appalling criminal activities across the nation with no response from law enforcement authorities.

EPA Justifies Experiments

John Semmens: Semi-News — A Satirical Look at Recent News

Folder2 104Revelations that the US Environmental Protection Agency has been conducting deadly experiments on unwitting volunteers have surfaced. According to the Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the EPA’s experiments exposed individuals to pollutants in quantities up to 50 times greater than the levels the agency deems safe.

The OIG findings were dismissed as “exaggerated scaremongering” by EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “The number of individuals exposed to these toxins are but a tiny fraction of the population. Those criticizing the Agency are overlooking the potentially larger gains to the vast majority of the country that may be achieved by the sacrifice of the few.”

Solicitations for experimental subjects invited individuals suffering from shortness of breath or asthma to earn $12 an hour by participating in a study aimed at improving air quality. None were told they would be exposed to pollutants in quantities far in excess of safe levels.

McCarthy defended misleading the volunteers as “a necessary ploy. If we had been forced to clearly inform the study participants of the dangers we wouldn’t have been able to conduct the experiments. No one would’ve volunteered..” McCarthy asserted that “these methods are no worse than previous experiments carried out using prison inmates as the guinea pigs for testing exposure to harmful substances. Anyone willing to accept $12 an hour to let us use them in an experiment can’t have much value to society. So, prisoners or volunteers, either way, persons of low social value have an opportunity to make a useful contribution to the larger community.”

Pay Boost for Congress Given High Priority

Calling the current $174,000 annual salary (not counting perks) an “injustice,” Representative James Moran (D-Virginia) vowed to “right this wrong.”

Congress is like the board of directors of the largest economic entity in the world,” Moran contended. “With a GDP of over $16 trillion we preside over the distribution of more wealth than any other board of directors. We deserve a bigger piece of this pie.”

The Congressman suggested that “a salary of $2 million per year might be a good starting point. In total, that would only amount to around a billion per year share of our $16 trillion economy. That’s only a miniscule fraction of the whole.”

Moran also argued that “a fringe benefit of my proposed pay hike is that the pressure for us to sell our votes to lobbyists would be greatly reduced. We would finally be able to afford to pay for our own lunches, dinners, and vacations. Many would be able to self-finance their reelection campaigns. It’s a win-win for both us and the American people.”

Schumer Denounces Supreme Court Election Spending Ruling

Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) denounced this week’s Supreme Court ruling allowing individuals to donate to as many political causes and candidates as they please.

The worst thing about this decision is that it will hamper the Government’s ability to regulate speech,” Schumer complained. “Critics may end up almost as well financed as spokespersons for the government. That is a formula for dissent and disunity.”

The limits struck down by the Court cut the legal ground out from the Administration’s program of using the IRS to scrutinize and restrain groups that contribute to dissension and disunity,” the Senator added. “Fortunately, the folks at the IRS answer to the president and not the Court or the law, per se. If he instructs the IRS to ignore this ruling there’s nothing his right-wing critics can do about it. Sure, they could file more lawsuits against this alleged suppression of their rights to free speech, but these cases would take years to resolve. Even then, President Hillary Clinton would be in a position to order her IRS to ignore those later court decisions.”

Audit Suggests Voter Fraud Widespread

An audit of voter registration rolls in North Carolina uncovered tens of thousands of duplicate voter registrations in which the first and last names as well as last four digits of Social Security numbers matched for voters registered in both North Carolina and elsewhere. The odds of randomly producing a single match using these three variables is infinitesimal. Nevertheless, the audit found more than 150,000 matches. In 35,000 cases, votes were cast both in North Carolina and in other states for the November 2012 election.

US Attorney General Eric Holder rejected calls for a more comprehensive investigation, calling the findings “interesting, but clearly a matter for state rather than federal authorities. The Constitution gives states the responsibility for policing their own elections.”

Whether states ought to follow up was dubbed “probably unnecessary,” by Holder. “As I understand the statistics, out of the 150,000 duplicate registrations only 35,000 resulted in duplicate votes. That’s less than 25%. Based on this data, 75% of those with duplicate registrations could not be shown to have cast more than one ballot. The overwhelming majority are obeying the law. I can’t see getting worked up over the minority that might not be.”

Of course, North Carolina is only one state. If its findings are representative the number of duplicate registrations could be over 4.5 million and the number of duplicate votes cast could be more than a million. “Nothing to worry about,” says Holder. “As I recall, President Obama won by a lot more than a million votes.”

In Response to Ft. Hood Massacre, DOD May Ban Smoking

This past week’s second mass shooting at the Ft. Hood Army base may finally stir the Department of Defense into action. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is reportedly ready to ban smoking by military personnel.

While some are using this tragedy to urge that military personnel be allowed to carry weapons for self defense, I am not going to be stampeded into a move that runs counter to the President’s philosophy on guns,” Hagel declared. “These shootings are tragic, but the toll from smoking is far larger.”

Even if we were to come up with a successful counter to these mass murders we are talking of saving only a handful of lives,” Hagel pointed out. “In contrast, thousands of those who serve in the military will die prematurely from smoking. Reducing this source of casualties seems to me to be a much more rewarding course of action.”

In a jointly issued letter, Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn), Dick Durbin (D-Ill), Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) praised Hagel’s “outside the box thinking. For too long we have allowed US military personnel to degrade their health by indulging in unsavory habits. This negatively impacts their fitness to serve. It is tantamount to destroying government property and threatens the security of this nation. By nipping this veritable treason in the bud, Secretary Hagel has demonstrated true courage.”

President Orders End to Health Care Debate

In a press conference heralding the attainment of 7 million enrollments in his signature Affordable Care Act insurance plan this past Monday, President Obama declared “the debate over the merits of this law has been settled. The success of the program has been conclusively proven by the events of this past week. There is no longer any need for further discussion. I am instructing the FCC to monitor all media outlets that are licensed through this agency for compliance with my directive. Any unwarranted excursions into disputation or reporting that is intended to reflect negatively on the program or to undermine its acceptance among the population will be dealt with expeditiously and penalized if necessary.”

A report from the RAND Corporation cast doubt on the magnitude of Obamacare’s triumph. By RAND’s estimate, fewer than a million of the President’s touted 7 million newly insured came from the ranks of the previously uninsured. With an estimated total pool of uninsured of around 45 million less than 3% are now enrolled under the Administration’s program.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius challenged the RAND report, saying that “essentially all of the 7 million cited by the President came from the ranks of the uninsured. RAND is only looking at the long term uninsured. They have completely overlooked the 6 million newly uninsured that were obliged to sign up because their previous insurance was canceled for noncompliance with the ACA’s requirements.”

Sebelius granted that “7 million may be a small portion of the number who will eventually enroll, but let’s not forget that this target was met with only the ‘carrot’ of persuasion. The ‘stick’ of penalties has yet to be deployed. Now that the President has put further debate out-of-bounds we will be able to focus on using this enforcement tool to coral the laggards without having to fear public criticism.”

Ryan Budget Gets Mixed Reviews

This week Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wis) presented a 10-year federal budget that would slowly reduce the rate of growth in government spending. His proposal was blasted from both sides of the political spectrum.

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin lambasted its timidity, arguing that “adding more spending now and postponing any slow down in the spending rate to the future ensures a continued accumulation of debt. The hope that some future Congress will have the courage to rein-in runaway spending is not a satisfactory trade-off for refusing to tackle the current spending binge.”

President Obama called the Ryan budget “a stinkburger prepared by a poopyhead.”

MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, self-proclaimed arbiter of political etiquette, characterized these contrasting views as “a measure of the deplorable state into which our public discourse has fallen. That a disgraced former vice-presidential candidate is even allowed to comment is an affront to the nation’s dignity. It is an intolerable distraction from the brevity and eloquence of the president’s more subtly nuanced views. Views, I might add, that merit a deeper form of respect than they are currently receiving from my peers.”

A Satirical Look at Recent News

John Semmens is a retired economist who has written a weekly political satire column for The Arizona Conservative since 2005. He says working on his satires is one of the ways he tries to honor the liberties that our nation’s Founding Fathers tried to protect.

Please do us a favor. If you use material created by The Arizona Conservative, give us credit, and DO NOT change the context. Thank you

 

When Planned Parenthood Loses, Women Win

By Cathi Herrod, President, Center for Arizona Policy

When Planned Parenthood loses, women win. [The] decision by a federal court to deny a request by Arizona’s largest abortion provider to temporarily block a common sense health and safety standard is a victory for anyone who cares for the well-being of women.

Passed in 2012, the purpose of this law is to ensure the abortion industry distributes the dangerous and deadly abortion pill in line with FDA protocol. While the FDA protocol requires the pill to be distributed within the first 49 days of a pregnancy, Planned Parenthood has dispensed the pill through 63 days of a pregnancy.

With all the evidence that shows the abortion pill presents serious risks to the lives of women, it should be distributed with the utmost care. It is irresponsible for Planned Parenthood to persist in ignoring this protocol for a pill that is responsible for at least 14 deaths in the United States.

Based on the fact that now the Fifth and Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals have rejected similar challenges to this law, and the Arizona Federal District Court has ruled that Planned Parenthood is not likely to succeed in this latest legal charade, I call on the abortion giant to drop their challenge. It would be shameful for Planned Parenthood to continue to waste state resources by pressing on with this frivolous lawsuit.

Read the Court’s decision.

State Religious Freedom Laws: Understanding the Purpose and Impact

By Joseph LaRue

Suppose members of the white-supremacist Aryan Nation Church decide to hold a rally where they will preach that “God only loves white people.” They tell a local African-American photographer this and say they want to hire her to photograph the rally because they need photos for a promotional brochure.

Assume that the photographer has the religious belief that God loves everybody. Should she have to take the photos for Aryan Nation? Most of us would respond, “Of course not.”

But the legal answer might be different. Most states prohibit discrimination against a customer because of the customer’s religious beliefs. And in those states, if the members of Aryan Nation sued the photographer for discriminating against them pursuant to the state nondiscrimination law, the photographer might lose and face substantial fines as a result.

At first glance, nondiscrimination ordinances seem to make sense. Most of us would not want businesses to be able to deny someone service because of things like the color of their skin, the religion they follow, or whether they are attracted to people of the same or opposite sex.

But while most of us would generally agree with nondiscrimination ordinances as policy statements, these days they are of questionable value as law. Most businesses would never deny someone service based on the types of characteristics nondiscrimination ordinances protect. Business owners know that it is bad for business to be known as a place of bigotry or intolerance.

But what happens in those rare cases where a business owner is asked to participate in an event that violates her deepest religious beliefs or to give voice to a message that violates her conscience?

Note that the service and not the customer is at issue, contrary to how many have attempted to frame the debate. It’s not that the African-American photographer, for example, is refusing to serve someone who happens to be a member of Aryan Nation. She is willing to take his portrait or photograph his dog, for example. The problem arises when the member of Aryan Nation is asking the photographer to promote the message of Aryan Nation with her creative talents.

Sadly, the nondiscrimination ordinances usually still apply. In many states, if Aryan Nation filed a discrimination lawsuit, they might win, leaving the photographer to pay crippling fines. In other states, however, a religious liberty defense is available to the photographer if providing requested services would violate her sincerely held religious beliefs.

Generally known as Religious Freedom Restoration Acts, or RFRAs, these state laws are modeled after the federal RFRA that Congress overwhelmingly passed in 1993. Signed by President Bill Clinton, the federal RFRA received a unanimous vote in the House and a 97 to 3 vote in the Senate. It legislatively overturned the US Supreme Court’s Employment Division of Oregon v. Smith decision. That case weakened First Amendment free exercise protection when it ruled that laws that are neutral (that is, don’t target religion) and generally applicable (that is, apply to everyone) are constitutional, even if they cause a person to violate her religious beliefs.

Prior to Smith, the court applied what is known as strict scrutiny review to laws that burden religious belief or practice. See, e.g., Sherbert v. Verner; Wisconsin v. Yoder; Thomas v. Review Bd. of Ind. Emp’t Sec. Div.. Under that test, the law had to further a compelling interest, which was understood to be only an interest of the highest order, and had to be the least restrictive means of accomplishing the interest. So even if the government had a compelling interest for its law, the law could not be applied constitutionally to someone if it could accomplish its purpose without forcing the person to violate her faith.

Smith said that the strict scrutiny test no longer applied to neutral, generally applicable laws that burdened religious faith and practice. So while government could not enact a law that banned, let’s say, the religious rite of circumcision while allowing medical doctors to perform circumcisions, it might be able to enact a law that banned all circumcisions, as as San Francisco recently contemplated doing.

The federal RFRA overruled the Smith decision by restoring the strict scrutiny test for all laws that burdened religious faith and practice, regardless of whether they were neutral and generally applicable. The Supreme Court subsequently ruled in City of Boerne v. Flores that, while Congress could require that federal laws burdening religion survive strict scrutiny, it could not impose that requirement on the states. So states began passing their own RFRAs, which required that any law burdening their state constitutional free exercise clause must further a compelling interest and be the least restrictive means of accomplishing that interest.

To date, eighteen states (including Arizona, where the recently vetoed SB 1062 was proposed) have passed a state RFRA, and the high courts of eight additional states have ruled that state laws burdening the free exercise of religion must survive strict scrutiny review. The District of Columbia also provides RFRA protection.

Over the past twenty years, hundreds of lawsuits have involved federal and state RFRAs, but not a single one has involved a business owner who wanted to deny basic services like food, clothing, necessary medical care, hotel rooms or taxi cab rides to people because of their skin color, sex or sexual preferences. In fact, none has concerned skin color or sex, and only one (Elane Photography v. Willock, discussed below), has even touched on “sexual orientation.” Rather, RFRA cases typically involve things like zoning restrictions that make it impossible for religious groups to use property, as in Irshad Learning Center v. City of Dupage, or prison regulations that make it difficult for prisoners to live consistently with their faith, as in Muhammad v. Crosby.

With RFRA, a litigant is at least allowed to assert a free-exercise-based claim or defense so that a court or administrative law body is required to apply the compelling interest test. RFRA does not guarantee that the litigant wins and the law cannot apply to her. Rather, RFRA means that when a law burdens free exercise of religion, it has to survive strict scrutiny in order to apply to the one whose exercise of religion is burdened. RFRA makes certain that government cannot willy-nilly enact laws that violate people’s faith and so discriminate against people of faith.

Since the enactment of the federal RFRA, it has always been understood that a person could assert a RFRA claim or defense any time a law or policy enacted by the government substantially burdened his or her free exercise of religion. That all changed last year with Elane, in which the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that RFRA was inapplicable if the government was not the one enforcing its law.

Elane concerned Elaine Huguenin, a young photographer who wanted to run her business consistent with her religious faith. As a result, Huguenin would not accept certain jobs. For instance, she declined to take nude photos, even when some would argue that the photography would be “tasteful.” And she had a strict policy against photographing any depiction of violent behavior. In sum, Huguenin would not use her artistic talent to further messages at odds with her religious beliefs.

The trouble for Huguenin started when two women asked her to photograph their “commitment ceremony,” as they called it. Huguenin would gladly provide other photographic services for customers who identify as homosexual, including portraits, photographs capturing political rallies, etc. It was not the fact that the two women were a same-sex couple that prevented her from photographing their ceremony. Rather, it was the event itself: her religious beliefs would not allow her to photograph what amounted to a same-sex wedding.

Accepting the job would require her to attend the ceremony, which her faith teaches would amount to participating in something that is morally wrong. But more obviously, she would also have to pose the couple to get the right shots. This would require her to instruct the couple on how to kiss, where to caress, etc. A wedding photographer is entrusted with capturing the memories and creating the pictorial message that tells the story of the couple’s love and their wedding as something that is beautiful.

Because of her beliefs, Huguenin could not in good conscience tell that story. Nor could she do the other things required of a wedding photographer. To do so would force her to both act contrary to her faith and also use her artistic talent to create a message with which she disagreed. So, she very politely thanked the same-sex couple for their interest but declined, telling the couple that she did not photograph same-sex ceremonies.

In a sane world, Huguenin’s polite answer to the same-sex couple would have been the end of the story, but in this case, it wasn’t. The case against her went all the way to the New Mexico Supreme Court, which said, in contrast to all twenty years of RFRA history, that it only applies when the government is enforcing its law directly. If the government delegates that responsibility to a private party, such that a private party can sue to enforce state law, then RFRA does not apply.

This ruling was unprecedented. It is also probably an outlier. However, it means that, in New Mexico at least, an African-American photographer could be forced to shoot photos for Aryan Nation. Because New Mexico allows private parties to enforce its nondiscrimination law, the state RFRA would no more save this photographer than it saved Elane Photography.

Because of this decision and other similar cases around the nation, Arizona’s legislature passed SB 1062 to clarify that Arizona’s RFRA, which has been on the books since 1999, could be asserted whenever a law burdened a person’s free exercise of religion—regardless of whether the government was the one enforcing the law. It did not, as has been commonly and erroneously reported, create a license to discriminate. It would not have allowed businesses to begin kicking people out of their establishments because of skin color or sexual preference.

No business would have done that anyway for reasons mentioned above, and, if the state RFRA was fomenting such discrimination, then it would have been apparent already since the law has been in place for fifteen years. The fact that the opponents of SB 1062 could not point to actual examples of anyone being denied services, but rather had to raise the possibility as a shadowy boogey-man, is telling.

SB 1062 was not about allowing people to discriminate. Rather, just as numerous respected legal scholars have explained, the bill would have clarified that, under Arizona law, the government cannot discriminate against people of faith by enacting laws that burden faith but then don’t allow private parties to enforce them. In New Mexico, the government can do that and so avoid strict scrutiny review.

Religious freedom is still protected in Arizona even though Brewer vetoed SB 1062 because Arizona still has its RFRA. SB 1062 was not essential to the fight against discrimination against people of faith; it merely would have clarified what has always been understood to lessen the chances of a court getting it wrong. Still, it is troubling that some people opposed SB 1062 for imaginary reasons and seemed so ready to endorse discrimination against people because of their religious beliefs. Thankfully, this view is at odds with that of most Americans.

Spencer Lewis Jr., district director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) Philadelphia District Office, recently said that “[n]o employee should be forced to violate his religious beliefs in order to earn a living.” Lewis is right. And no business owner should be forced to, either.

Joseph La Rue, legal counsel for the Alliance Defending Freedom, testified in favor of SB 1062 before two Arizona legislative committees.