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Pride of Arizona

Many states, including Kansas, have considered passing legislation that would protect religious liberties of business owners at the expense of the rights of their gay customers. Only one state, however, has seen such a bill move through the legislature and on to the governor for a signature.

To her credit, last week Arizona Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed that state's proposed law. The governor cited threatened backlash from national companies, the potential for blatant discrimination, and the fact no Arizona business man or woman were claiming their religious liberties were under attack.

"The bill is broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences," Brewer said.

Instead, another setback is being experienced by those fighting the so-called gay agenda. Opponents of same-sex marriage who not that long ago were celebrating one successful constitutional amendment after another, now are seeing those state laws being struck down. Already, same-sex marriage bans have been declared unconstitutional in Oklahoma, Utah and Texas -- with more on the way.

The tide is turning in America, and staunch social conservatives increasingly are holding the short straw. Or so they imagine.

"This is going to continue to be a major problem, and it's going to spread across the country," said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. "Who's going to protect the rights of Christians and religious people? That's the question that has to be answered."

The answer is easy, although it comes in two parts. And we would preface it by saying there is no movement underway to infringe anybody's sincerely held religious beliefs. Even if there was, the glorious First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution quickly would squelch any such attempt.

It is the same First Amendment that will protect the rights of Christians and religious people. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ..." explicitly allows any religion -- not merely Christians -- to practice as they see fit. Well, mostly. Religious leaders cannot, for example, sacrifice human lives on their altars even if the entire congregation has consented to such a practice. And we've seen numerous courts troubled by parents who withhold medical care for children that results in unnecessary deaths.

Most reasonable people would agree with the relatively few limitations placed on religious groups by laws articulated by mere mortals.

The second part of the answer involves the specificity Perkins requested about Christians. Despite all the rhetoric and Internet-fueled theories regarding the religious nature of the nation's Founding Fathers, Christians have no more or less status in this country than other faiths. Feel free to ignore the Declaration of Independence, the preamble to the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the diaries and letters of everybody involved in the creation of these United States of America.

The Constitution is the law of the land, and the establishment clause of the First Amendment is clear. Goverment at any level simply cannot write a law favoring Christians. To do so would violate the rights of Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, etc.

And when it comes to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered individuals, one cannot write a law that even fits all Christians. There are many mainstream faiths that do not believe in the eternal damnation of any individual based on their sexual orientation.

For the religions that do, they are free to believe so inside their places of worship. They even can believe what they want in their own minds. But if taken into the public square in a manner that discriminates, there are limits.

Gov. Brewer made the correct call in her rejection of Arizona's attempt to legalize discriminatory practices against gay people, even if the reason was economic-based instead of simple human rights.

Unfortunately, this fight is not over. Not in Arizona, not in Kansas, not in most red states across the nation. We would caution the Christians fighting for their "religious freedom" that the end result will not be of their liking. The Constitution will win the day, once again. And there will be another codified limit put in place, this time to protect the rights of all Americans -- particularly the rather substantial population so despised by the fundamentalists.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net