It has been an incredibly exciting week at the Arizona State Capitol! With the glamorous ceremony of last week’s Opening Day at the legislature fading into the background, Secular Coalition for Arizona is getting to the nitty gritty work of sifting through all of the new bills as they are introduced, meeting with legislators on both sides of the aisle, collaborating with other policy groups, and advocating reason and compassion in our political process. Several of the bills that have been introduced already have piqued our concern—and we have been contacting bill sponsors and working on solutions accordingly. One such piece of legislation has already drawn quite a bit of media attention, and secularists from around the country have been reaching out to SC Arizona to make sure we know about it—and indeed, we do!
Representative Bob Thorpe’s HB2467 as introduced would require that, in addition to fulfilling coursework and assessments mandated by the state for graduation, students would need to swear an oath to the Constitution in order to receive a diploma from a public school in Arizona. The oath ends with the words, “so help me God.” Obviously, this bill concerns not only nontheists, but the interfaith community as well. SC Arizona has been working with interfaith organizations to build a relationship with Representative Thorpe, whose district includes the Flagstaff Freethinkers, the Sedona Verde Valley Secular Freethinkers, and the Northern Arizona Interfaith Alliance in which the Flagstaff Freethinkers participate.
By the time the bill was picked up by the media, Representative Thorpe had already agreed to amend it so that it would not be mandatory for a diploma. We are now working with Representative Thorpe’s office and secular and interfaith constituents in his district to add an option to affirm rather than swear the oath. This would allow interested students to participate without violating nonreligious or religious convictions that require that they not swear to God. Military oaths as well as public oaths of office include such an option.
In the event that this bill moves to committee in a form that violates church state separation we look forward to the support of the wonderfully engaged nontheistic community and will be sure to notify you with action alerts and contact information as needed.