As Arizona's controversial SB 1062 lands on the desk of Republican Gov. Jan Brewer, the exclamation mark this outgoing politician will leave with her pen underscores whether she believes the bill is a distraction from core issues or a necessary step to protect religious freedom.

The Arizona bill would allow people who object to same-sex marriage to use their religious beliefs as a defense in a discrimination lawsuit. (CT recently explored evangelicals' favorite same-sex marriage laws, noting the current range of religious exemptions).

Similar legislation has been introduced in nine other states. A bill in Kansas sparked conflict among Christians after Kirsten Powers, whose testimony was CT's No. 1 most-read story of 2013, published a column for USA Today saying that "Christians backing this bill are essentially arguing for homosexual Jim Crow laws." Powers ends the column by asking, "What would Jesus Do?" insisting that Jesus would bake the cake for a same-sex wedding.

Powers quoted evangelical pastor Andy Stanley as saying it's "offensive that Christians would leverage faith to support the Kansas law."

While the Kansas bill explicitly allows businesses and individuals to deny services to gays and lesbians, Arizona's law is worded more broadly to apply to anything that could violate a person's religious conscience. Joe LaRue, an attorney at the Alliance Defending Freedom, helped draft Arizona's SB 1062.

"In America, people should be free to live and work according to their faith, and the government shouldn't be able to tell us we can't do that," LaRue told The New York Times.

Proponents of Arizona's law cite a case last fall when the New Mexico Supreme ...

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