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
 

SC Arizona Announces Summer 2013 Internship!

Secular Coalition for Arizona is pleased to offer a paid part-time internship position for summer 2013. SC Arizona is seeking a highly motivated undergraduate student with a demonstrated interest in being active in the nontheistic movement. The student must live within the state of Arizona during the duration of the internship and have reliable transportation.

SC Arizona’s internship will provide activities and opportunities to learn about and assist with nontheistic community organizing, fundraising, event coordination, media relations, and social media networking.

The summer 2013 internship will be a part-time 10-week program and will run from June 3, 2013 through August 12, 2013. The internship will pay $7.80/hour, before taxes, with a minimum of 10 hours required per week and a maximum of 20 hours paid per week.

Once a student is chosen for the SC Arizona internship, if she or he wishes to receive academic credit for the internship, the student must make arrangements with his or her academic institution to qualify the SC Arizona internship for such credit. SC Arizona will cooperate fully in this process but will not fundamentally change its internship program to accommodate an academic requirement.

To apply for the SC Arizona Summer 2013 Internship Program, please fill out the attached application and send all materials to serah@secularAZ.org.

Complete applications must be emailed by 11:59 p.m., May 27, 2013. Phone and Skype interviews may be conducted that week, and a selection will be made June 1, 2013. Only the selected candidate will be notified.

If you have questions, email them to serah@secularAZ.org. Do NOT send applications by regular mail. Incomplete applications will not be considered.

SC Arizona Summer 2013 Internship Application

Don't Let Religious Oppression Destroy Arizona's Small Business Community!

It seems like every day our legal team is uncovering additional ways in which SB1178, purportedly a religious "liberty" bill, will cause real harm to real Arizonans--and we need to make sure our legislators have this information as well. The bill's supporters claim it protects religious "liberty" by allowing individuals to disregard public law if the law conflicts with their religious beliefs--but many of the protections proponents claim it will provide already exist under Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The reality is that rather than expanding liberty, this bill endangers public safety and Arizona's small businesses. Under SB1178, an individual could sue a business that is complying with the law just because the law offends a particular individual's personal sensibilities! Businesses should never be at risk of penalties for complying with the law. This would be particularly detrimental to small businesses, which tend to have fewer resources to fight frivolous lawsuits.

There is also a very real threat to public safety, because SB1178 does not provide exceptions for criminal conduct and other kinds of misconduct.

SB1178 is on the agenda once again for a final vote in the State House of Representatives on May 15th at 1:30 p.m. Please consider joining us in one last effort to help our legislators understand how this bill is bad for liberty, bad for businesses, and bad for public safety. Please email your Representative and ask them to VOTE NO ON SB1178!

Tell the House: Don't Sacrifice Public Safety for Religious Liberty! Let's Have Both!

Tomorrow, May 9, 2013, the State House of Representatives will take a final vote on SB 1178, relating to the free exercise of religion. While the bill purports to provide protection for religious exercise and observance, these protections already exist under Arizona's Religious Freedom Restoration Act. What the bill actually does is broadly increase opportunities for individuals and businesses to cite religious belief as an excuse to disregard statute and threaten public safety--even if causing the threat to public safety is not necessary for actual religious exercise.

The examples of public harm are innumerable. Doctors will be empowered to refrain from prescribing medically necessary medications because his/her religion forbids the use of certain drugs. Therapists will be empowered to tell troubled patients to try religious worship instead of the treatment called for by the relevant standard of care. Businesses, particularly small businesses, may face endless streams of lawsuits because the bill allows people to raise extremely broad defenses in litigation between private parties.

Because this bill was pushed as a strike-everything that did not go through a full vetting process and allowed little time for public scrutiny, there may be even broader repercussions to the legislation that cannot be foreseen at this time. Please CLICK HERE to email your Representative and tell them not to rush through a bill with implications this serious. Let's find ways to ensure religious liberty AND protect public safety!

Tell the Senate: Religious and Nonreligious Communities Should be Treated Equally Under the Law!

The State Senate will be voting today, May 7, 2013, on HB2446, which expands property tax exemptions for property used to further a religious mission. The bill removes the necessity for religious groups to have an IRS nonprofit determination letter in order to receive this exemption.

Determining the best way for our state to manage tax policy is a complicated process that requires consideration of many different social and economic factors—but whatever the considerations are, the resulting policies should not establish governmental systems of support that preference or endorse religion or nonreligion.

Click HERE to write to your Senator before the floor session convenes today at 1 p.m., and ask that religious and nonreligious communities be treated equally under tax law!

TAKE EMERGENCY ACTION: Don't Let Free Religious Exercise become Dangerous Religious Oppression!

URGENT action needed. We are up against the worst, most damaging piece of legislation we’ve seen yet this year—and we need all hands on deck to stop it! TOMORROW, Thursday, May 2nd, the House will be voting on SB1178, which dramatically expands the ability of individuals in our state to discriminate against people they don’t agree with in the name of religious belief--resulting in increased vulnerability for nonbelievers, the LGBT community, and others on the target list of religionists.

Evangelical lobby interests, including the Center for Arizona Policy, are explicit about the need for this bill: they say Christians should not be forced to treat LGBT people fairly. CAP cites a recent New Mexico case where the State Supreme Court held that businesses cannot violate public accommodation law by refusing to provide services based on sexual orientation--and this is precisely what CAP fears for Arizona.

With the mood of the country in full swing toward Marriage Equality and full equal rights for LGBT people, religious "liberty” arguments are being made nationwide in an effort to make sure religionists do not have to follow anti-discrimination law as new freedoms are won. History is on our side: these regressive, disingenuous tactics were used in attempts to halt Women’s Suffrage, Civil Rights, and Feminism—but these movements prevailed because of reason, compassion, and the efforts of those dedicated to equality.

We will NOT allow the uniquely American right to religious liberty to be distorted by unpatriotic efforts to privilege religion over basic human freedom. 

CLICK HERE to write to our State House of Representatives and tell them to VOTE NO on SB1178. Religious exercise cannot be used as an excuse to deny basic human liberties to vulnerable Arizonans. A floor amendment is likely to be offered to make the bill seem more palatable, but we're not fooled, and we need to make sure our State Representatives aren't fooled either.

Want to do more? Call or email SC Arizona’s Community Outreach Director to find out how you can host a phone party to make sure every Representative hears from our community and knows the truth about SB1178: brian@secularaz.org; 928-699-2877.

SB 1178 grossly expanding "Toilet Papers Please" bill sneaked through committee in subversion of democratic process.

A grossly expanded version of Rep. John Kavanagh's "Toilet Papers Please" bill sailed through House Judiciary early Thursday morning. Fueled by fear of Phoenix's newly passed Anti-Discrimination Ordinance, the bigots are on a tear and they didn't want to deal with the hundreds of opponents who showed up to oppose Rep. Kavanagh's bill on Wednesday. 

This measure, a Strike All Amendment to SB 1178, says that no gov't entity can burden "religious freedom." Then it defines "burden" to include any sort of action that gets in the way of a person's prejudices as mandated by their religion. 

Stop the Religious Right’s Dangerous Attacks against Transgender Arizonans!

Tuesday, February 26, the Phoenix City Council will discuss whether to add “disability,” “sexual orientation,” and “gender identity” to the City Code as additional categories protected from discrimination in employment, public accommodations, housing, and certain contracts with the City—and the Religious Right is using this opportunity to spread dangerous lies about transgender Arizonans.

The Evangelical Christian lobby organization, the Center for Arizona Policy, continues to miseducate its constituency about the LGBT community in an effort to further marginalize an already politically vulnerable group of people in the name of “religious freedom.” Center for Arizona Policy is calling the ordinance a “Bathroom Bill,” and suggesting it empowers predatory men to follow little girls into public restrooms. Center for Arizona Policy is also falsely stating that churches will face civil and criminal prosecution for failing to welcome members of the LGBT community.  

Here are the facts:

  • This ordinance has nothing to do with bathrooms. It is an attempt to end discrimination against people on the basis of disability, sexual orientation, and gender identity in employment, public accommodations, housing, and city contracts.
  • LGBT people, as well as straight people, use public restrooms in Phoenix daily without incident. Predators who attempt to harass or assault anyone anywhere in the City will continue to face the same criminal charges and prosecution they would under current law.

Abe Lincoln Could Not Get Elected Today

As a young man Abraham Lincoln rejected religion and questioned the existence of god. He said “The Bible is not my book nor Christianity my profession.” Such a statement by a modern day politician would surely draw well-funded attack ads and probably bar him from election. Imagine the loss to our country if the radical religious minority of today were as powerful during Lincoln's times!

Yet agnostics, atheists and those who choose not to affiliate with a religious organization now comprise one fifth of the population. In fact we outnumber evangelicals.

Thanks to your support for the Secular Coalition for Arizona, we are the first state to have a fulltime, professional lobbyist representing the views and values of nontheists at the state legislature. And we are having an impact.

On this Presidents Day, can we count on you to support this important work and ensure that the views of one in five Arizonans--1,310,600 of us--are heard at the State Capitol?  

Click here to honor President Lincoln today by chipping in one, five, or even ten Lincolns:

Thank you for your support!

The Secular Coalition for Arizona is a 501(c)(4) organization. Because donations are used for lobbying purposes they are not tax-deductible.

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