Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer's veto of a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to deny services to gays and lesbians because of religious beliefs was a blow to freedom, says Kerri Kupec, legal communications director at Alliance Defending Freedom.
"As far as what this means for the people of Arizona, and really the people of our country, this is a sad day for freedom. That's what this bill was about.
"It was about making sure the government could not come in and force an individual to violate their beliefs or their conscience by participating in an event, and that's what this bill was about. We're sad for freedom in terms of this veto," she told Newsmax TV's J.D. Hayworth on "America's Forum."
ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund, is a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based conservative Christian legal organization founded in 1994 by Bill Bright, Larry Burkett, James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, Marlin Maddoux, and Donald Wildmon.
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Kupec warned that the Republican governor's veto of Senate Bill 1062 is a step in the wrong direction concerning free exercise of religion.
"It's a dangerous step in that direction because in America we really cherish our First Amendment freedom. Freedom of religion has been one of those things that fundamentally has been really a pillar of this nation, and we want legislation and governors and legislators that protect and defend that, not chip away at it or really undermine it," she said.
Kupec, who previously worked at the Virginia Court of Appeals and the Family Research Council, argued that the bill was unfairly maligned by opponents.
"The miscalculation and honestly, just the complete untruth as to what this bill was about was incredible. And then on top of that, anybody who actually stepped out and supported the bill was immediately vilified, was called names.
"We have people who stepped out who were sent hate mail — I mean, legit hate mail, even death threats, left menacing messages on their personal voicemails. It was incredible. I've never seen anything like it," she said.
"It completely stopped any kind of discussion or honest conversation that we should have been having about this bill, and that is something that we all as Americans enjoy. This is a country where we share our opinions and need to be able to honestly discuss things, and it was completely shut down by the other side. It was a real shame because this is a good amendment to an already existing law."
Asked whether she felt vitriol led to the veto, Kupec replied, "Absolutely, and you know the pressure against Gov. Brewer. And again, it was incredible to me what I was seeing go down. I've never seen anything like it and I really believe that the bullying that took place just really intimidated people who support it and just kind of shut the whole thing down."
As for what happens next in terms of such legislation, Kupec said, "This is becoming a bigger issue even if that's possible and that's because now we're seeing the government coming in and telling private citizens 'you have to send our message whether you like it or not. You have to violate your freedom of conscience and religion to support an event or a ceremony regardless of what it does to you as an individual.' That's a real concern and that's something that every American should be concerned about."
"I hope that this entire experience has really just fired people up in terms of we all have religious rights. The scale should never be balanced from zero to 100," she added.
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