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Reverend: SB 1062 flies in the face of my religion

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

The passage of Arizona Senate Bill 1062 has created a firestorm of controversy.

The bill, if signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, would prevent lawsuits against businesses and individuals who refuse service based on their deeply-held religious beliefs.

So, how do people of different faiths feel about this so-called "religious freedom" bill?

CBS 5 News made more than a dozen calls Friday, reaching out to Christian churches, along with Jewish and Islamic leaders, and we are still waiting to hear back from many of them.

But, we did speak with a local pastor who says SB 1062 flies in the face of his religion.

"We believe in our tradition of Christianity that no one is shut out of the love of God; that there are no outcasts," explained The Very Reverend Troy Mendez, Dean of Trinity Cathedral, part of The Episcopal Diocese of Arizona which opposes the bill. "A law is telling us that there are some people that are more equal in this context. That's not helping us practice our religion; that's shutting someone out."

Mendez said the bill allows discrimination not only against the LGBT community, but others too.

"What if I am someone who doesn't like anyone who does not overtly profess a sense of Christianity?" he asked. "This may give me the prerogative to say, ‘I don't want to do business with you.'"

Representatives for the Jewish community, the Catholic Diocese and the Mormon Church declined to give on-camera interviews, but they did send written statements.

A spokesperson for Temple Chai writes:

"We are writing to add our voices to those of the many Jewish leaders who have called on Governor Brewer to veto SB 1062/HB 2153. This problematic bill stands in conflict with the one of the most fundamental teachings of the Torah, that every human being is made b'tzelem Elohim (in the image of God). We have inherited a rich tradition of advocacy for civil rights from the rabbis of the Talmud and, more recently, Jewish civil rights leaders of the 1960s."

"Throughout history, laws that permit discrimination have been used to marginalize and oppress minority populations, including people of differing religious beliefs, people of differing races and people with differing customs. Laws that allow for discrimination under any guise have historically been dangerous to the Jewish people."

"However, our concern extends beyond our own self-interest as this bill would provide a legal defense for those who would practice discrimination of any kind under the guise of "religious freedom." We are concerned on behalf of adherents of other faith traditions, women and members of the LGBT community."

"The Anti-Defamation League of Arizona has expressed its deep disappointment in the bill, explaining: 'Arizona already provides it citizens, houses of worship and other religious institutions with some of the nation's strongest religious freedom protections from government institutions and burdens...[this legislation would allow] a for-profit corporation or business [to] trample on the rights of others by claiming that a legal requirement is religiously offensive.'"

The Mormon Church writes:

"The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has not taken an official position on AZ SB 1062. However, members are encouraged to be responsible citizens and become informed on the issue, then decide for themselves what their own, personal stance may be."

The Arizona Catholic Conference writes:

"The Arizona Catholic Conference supports SB 1062 because it is an important bill pertaining to religious liberty.  Despite the rhetoric surrounding the bill, it merely clarifies Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) statute which has been law since 1999. SB 1062 mirrors both the federal RFRA and those of almost 20 other states."

"We do not believe in unjust discrimination and, in fact, there have been no problems with RFRA laws enacted across the country. There are real concerns, however, with what we are seeing across the country where businesses are being forced to close because of their faith, and that is why SB 1062 is a necessary clarification to current Arizona law."

"In a nutshell, the actual language of SB 1062 makes modest changes in order to prevent discrimination and that is why it has our support."

Mendez doesn't see it that way.

"How do we not know that such a law like this would actually stunt the growth of religion or would cause it to decline?" he wondered. "I don't think we need to play around with something that's already working very well. We live in a free society and our freedom of religion is exercised in great ways because of the First Amendment. We don't need other laws."

Copyright 2014 CBS 5 (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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