After weeks of debate and protest, the show-down in the Copper State is finally over. Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed State Bill 1062, the so-called anti-gay bill. With high stakes and increased pressure from corporations, Brewer had little choice but to object. On Feb. 26 she said:
I have not heard of one example in Arizona where business owners’ religious liberty has been violated … The bill is broadly worded, and could result in unintended and negative consequences.
It is official. This July Kentucky’s brand new Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) will go into effect. The state’s legislature put its final stamp of approval on the bill when it overturned, by a wide margin, Governor Steve Beshear’s veto on March 26th. Originally called House Bill 279 (HB279), Kentucky’s RFRA states:
Government shall not substantially burden a person’s freedom of religion. The right to act or refuse to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief may not be substantially burdened unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest.
The answer to will SCOTUS save the San Francisco Peaks (from having treated waste-water snow sprayed on what several Native American tribes consider holy ground) is apparently “no”. “The U.S. Supreme Court today denied certiorari in Navajo Nation v. Forest Service, (Docket No. 08-846). (Order List.) The 9th Circuit in the case held in an 8-3 en banc decision, that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not bar the Forest Service from approving the use of recycled waste water to make artificial snow at Arizona’s Snowbowl ski resort, which operates on federal land.” The Save the Peaks coalition have released a statement on the decision.
The Supreme Court is holding a private conference this Thursday to decide if they will review a recent decision in the ongoing legal battle between a coalition of 13 Native American Tribal Nations (and various environmental groups) and the National Forest Service (and a ski resort) over the use of treated (but non-potable) wastewater snow on the San Francisco Peaks. A mountain range that the tribes consider sacred land, and that using waste-water on it would be “like putting death on the mountain”. The Obama administration is opposing review of the case, while the petitioners want to remind the government that they have a sacred responsibility towards the land they took from the tribes. “It is worth remembering that our government took the Peaks from petitioner tribes. It placed the tribes on reservations and pledged to respect their cultures and traditions.
A story I have been covering for some time, the saga of a ski resort wanting to spray (treated) wastewater snow on the San Francisco Peaks, may be entering its final act. The snow-makers are being fought by a coalition of 13 Native American Tribal Nations who feel the act of spraying treated waste-snow is a blashpemy on par with “pouring dirty water on the Vatican”. Since 2005 the coalition have endured ignorant insults from lawyers, courtroom wins, and courtroom losses. Now the case is being appealed before the Suprem Court for a final say. American Indian tribes are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a lower court’s decision that allows for snow-making on an Arizona peak the tribes consider sacred.