The Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee denounced on Monday Arizona's S.B. 1062, a bill that clarifies an existing state law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which protects the religious freedom of its citizens. Opponents of the bill claim it was passed by anti-gay bigots with the intent of denying public accommodations for gays.
"We share the NFL's core values which embrace tolerance, diversity, inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination. In addition, a key part of the mission for the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee is to promote the economic vitality of Arizona. On that matter we have heard loud and clear from our various stakeholders that adoption of this legislation would not only run contrary to that goal but deal a significant blow to the state's economic growth potential. We do not support this legislation. Instead, we look forward to continuing to promote the NFL's values while focusing on the economic momentum apparent in Arizona and capturing the positive worldwide attention associated with hosting Super Bowl XLIX," the Committee said in a statement.
S.B. 1062 makes some changes to RFRA that primarily does three things: it clarifies that Arizonan's religious freedom is still protected when they become part of a partnership, association, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, or business organization; it clarifies that the government does not have to be a party in the suit to bring an RFRA claim; and it requires that those who sue under RFRA show that it is based upon an actual religious belief, that they hold strongly to that religious faith, and that a state action burdened their religious belief.
Opponents of the bill have labeled it an "anti-gay" bill, and much of the media have followed their lead. The Huffington Post homepage labeled the legislation a "hate bill" Tuesday on its homepage. A Slate article called it an "abomination."
There is no mention, though, of gays or homosexuality in the bill. A Christian Post issue analysis points out that, while the bill clarifies the broad nature of religious freedom protections, S.B. 1062 would actually make it more difficult for someone to claim a religious freedom to deny service to gays in public accommodations.
The statement does not make clear whether or not the NFL would move the next Super Bowl out of Arizona if Gov. Jan Brewer (R) signs the bill.
In a statement to The Huffington Post, the National Football League declined to take a position on the bill.
"Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time," the NFL said.
The NFL's Arizona Cardinals made a statement saying the team is concerned about the "negative perception of Arizona" brought by the legislation.
"What so many love about football is its ability to bring people together. We do not support anything that has the potential to divide, exclude and discriminate. As a prominent and highly-visible member of this community, we strive to bring positive attention to the state. We are concerned with anything that creates a negative perception of Arizona and those of us who are fortunate to call it home," the team said, according to CBS 5 Arizona.
Arizona's two U.S. senators, Republicans John McCain and Jeff Flake, have also spoken out against the bill.