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Help Us Finish the Legislative Session with One More Victory for Secularism!

The Arizona State Legislature adjourned Sine Die early this morning, Friday, June 14, 2013 at 12:59 a.m. By every measure, this session has been an extraordinary success for the Secular Coalition for Arizona, and the secular Arizonans we represent. We have lots to celebrate--but we also have to stop four last bills that made it to the Governor's desk.

But first the celebrations! One of our community's most substantial wins was Governor Brewer’s veto of Senate Bill 1178, which would have dramatically jeopardized the rights of the most vulnerable Arizonans, including nontheists, religious minorities, and the LGBT community—all in the name of religious “freedom.” We are very grateful for all the hard work our constituents put into making sure our legislators and Governor were clear that this was a dangerous bill attacking real religious liberty! Thanks for all your help!

Secular Coalition for Arizona was also able to share in the historic moment when Humanist legislator Juan Mendez opened the State House of Representatives with a nontheistic invocation rather than a prayer. The event made national news, and pushed issues around the separation of church and state as well as the growing number of secular Americans into the public discourse. You can view Representative Mendez’s invocation on our website, or read the full text on Hemant Mehta's blog.

Most importantly, this year the Center for Arizona Policy had a very modest agenda due to the incredible backlash that occurred around their legislative overreach last session, when they used our democratic government to make the whole state conform to their particular moral code--especially regarding reproductive healthcare. Arizonans drew a line in the sand regarding women’s rights in our state, and our legislators listened. Even CAP’s 11th hour strike-everything amendment, aimed at limiting women’s access to healthcare clinics (offered just days before the end of the session), failed to move.

With all the momentum we have acquired over the session and the strength of our numbers, we need to make sure that the last four religiously motivated bills that were sent to the Governor’s desk last night receive a veto.

Click here to contact Governor Brewer and ask her to veto the following bills:

HB2446
 expands property tax exemptions for religious organizations
Talking points:
• Religious and nonreligious communities should be treated equally under the law, and granting exemptions to religious organizations that are not available to nonreligious organizations is wrong 
• All public policies, including policies around tax law, should not establish governmental systems of support that preference or endorse religion or nonreligion

HB2617
 sends public money to religious schools and homeschools
Talking Points:
• Public tax dollars should not be used to support unregulated, erroneous or discriminatory curriculum that is often offered in private religious schools and homeschools. Some of the most egregious examples include the following quotes from religious textbooks:
·  - “God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ.” America: Land that I Love, A Beka Book
·  - Gay and Lesbian people “have no more claims to special rights than child molesters or rapists.” Teacher’s Resource Guide to Current Events for Christian Schools, Bob Jones University Press
• The Arizona State Constitution explicitly states: "No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or to the support of any religious establishment." (Article II Section 12)

HB2645
 exempts religious employers from paying unemployment and changes the definition of employee to not include people who work for religious organizations
Talking points:
• Religious and nonreligious communities should be treated equally under the law, and granting exemptions to religious organizations that are not available to nonreligious organizations is wrong 
• Removing the status of “employee” for workers at religious organizations could result in many people losing basic employment protections 

SB1363
 uses public money to fund religious education through Empowerment Accounts
Talking Points:
• Because the vast majority of private schools in Arizona are religious, this bill creates direct public funding of private religious schools. The Arizona State Constitution is very clear on this issue: “No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or to the support of any religious establishment.” (Article II Section 12)
• There are no provisions in this bill ensure that the schools receiving money under this program refrain from discriminating against religious minorities, nonbelievers, LGBT students and other marginalized youth 

Thanks again for all your support. And remember, SC Arizona is 100% funded by donations from the secular community. Please help us continue our important work by considering a gift to SC Arizona today
 

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