On Tuesday, the city of Glendale, Arizona postponed passing a controversial ordinance that could have serious ramifications on religious freedom within the city according to an attorney with Alliance Defending Freedom. The attorney, who represented pastors opposed to a similar ordinance in Houston, Texas is a Glendale resident and, in a letter to the council, encouraged the city not to repeat Houston’s error.
That error led to legal action and a media firestorm in October.
The proposed Glendale ordinance, much like Houston’s so-called “non-discrimination” law, could be fraught with First Amendment problems, according to Alliance Defending Freedom. Activist groups ONE Community and Human Rights Campaign, however, have been pushing the council to pass the ordinance in advance of the Super Bowl for the groups’ own political purposes. The council held a closed-session workshop Tuesday to discuss the proposed law and recommended hiring a facilitator to research the issue before proceeding further.
“Citizens should always have a say on laws that could greatly affect them. The Glendale City Council was right not to pass this ordinance without taking into account the concerns of its citizens and the serious ramifications for religious freedom,” said ADF Senior Legal Counsel Erik Stanley. “Other cities in the nation have found such ordinances unnecessary, and we hope Glendale will reach the same conclusion after further research.”
A number of other communities from Anchorage, Alaska to Fayetteville, Arkansas and Jacksonville, Florida have turned away similar ordinances. Fountain Hills, Arizona recently withdrew its consideration of a law similar to the one proposed in Glendale.
As the ADF letter to the council stated, “Passing an ordinance like this will have a serious negative impact on the religious freedom of business owners, religious ministries, and churches in Glendale. In addition, the ordinance is unnecessary and will impose additional difficulties on law enforcement personnel.”
“The city has historically made decisions quickly that we’ve regretted,” John Kelley, executive pastor of Calvary Community Church and a resident of the Cholla District, recently said in a media interview prior to the council’s decision to delay consideration of the proposed ordinance. “I plead with the council to not hurry but to listen. It will have a tremendous impact on people of faith as well as the rest of the citizens. Please, listen to us and seek our voice in this decision.”
“Any new law must respect every American’s freedom of speech and freedom of religion,” explained ADF Litigation Counsel Christiana Holcomb. “Glendale officials are right to take the time to examine the proposed ordinance for the possibility of these problems and whether the ordinance is even necessary. They should be applauded for responding to concerns from the community ahead of the interests of the activist groups who are pushing this proposal.”