(January 16, 2013) Phoenix, Ariz.—The Secular Coalition for Arizona (SC Arizona) this week sent a letter to Governor Brewer expressing consternation over the governor’s continued support for Religious Liberty Day, today, January 16. The letter requests that the Governor withdraw official government backing and promotion for this annual event, now in its third year.
“Calling this Religious Liberty Day is disingenuous,” says Seráh Blain, Executive Director of SC Arizona. “While the Governor’s intention may have been to emphasize the constitutional freedoms of all Arizonans, too many misinterpret the day as an opportunity to justify their own agendas and unsubstantiated claims that somehow Americans of faith are better citizens than nonbelievers. The Governor’s proclamation failed to highlight the importance of secular government in safeguarding religious liberty, or of the value of the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who are not religious.”
“Religious ideology is having a direct influence on legislation in this state, which runs contrary to the constitutional principle of separation of church and state,” says Blain. “From tax exemptions to reproductive health care to educational policy, our laws are being approved or denied according to specific religious doctrine from a small but vocal group of believers. That’s not liberty.”
SC Arizona notes that the Governor’s proclamation for Religious Liberty Day makes no mention of nontheistic members of the public, whereas President Obama’s proclamation on behalf of Religious Freedom Day declares that the First Amendment “has preserved religious freedom for both believers and non-believers for over 220 years.” Citing a recent study done by the Pew Research Forum, which shows that one in five Americans have no religious affiliation, SC Arizona maintains that a government-sponsored celebration of religious privilege unconstitutionally excludes nonbelievers and religious minorities.
The Governor has not responded to SC Arizona’s request. A copy of the letter follows:
Dear Governor Brewer,
On behalf of your nontheistic and secular constituents, Secular Coalition for Arizona respectfully requests that you withdraw government support for Religious Liberty Day, now coming up for its third year this January 16. Our country was founded on the concept of separation of church and state. The government is required by the Constitution not to interfere with the beliefs of its citizens. It should not be the business of government to support and promote religion, particularly when the religious beliefs of one branch of faith are considered to stand in for the beliefs of all.
Religious liberty does not mean that one group should be allowed to take precedence over another. As nontheistic citizens of Arizona, we are expressing our concern over your continued official backing for Religious Liberty Day. While it is perfectly acceptable for religious organizations and people of faith to celebrate the liberties they enjoy in this country, it is not appropriate for a governing body to enshrine such a celebration. We ask you to end your official countenance for this event. Thank you for considering this matter.
Secular Coalition for Arizona