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.

SC Arizona Names Director of Development and Marketing

Linda Brown has joined the Secular Coalition for Arizona (SC Arizona) as Director of Development and Marketing. She brings with her a depth of experience in non-profit management and advocacy havingserved most recently as Executive Director for the Arizona Advocacy Network and Foundation where she led a legal effort to overturn voting barriers, spearheaded statewide election protection programs and produced their acclaimed bi-annual guide to Arizona’s ballot measures. She currently serves as Vice President of the Arizona Hispanic Community Forum.

Prior to coming to Arizona Linda created award-winning marketing and media literacy campaigns as Director of Educational Marketing and Programming for Discovery Networks in Bethesda, Maryland.

“We are thrilled to have Linda join us,” said Seráh Blain, Executive Director for SC Arizona. “Attracting someone of her caliber and expertise is another signal that Arizona’s nontheist communities are on the rise in both numbers and clout.”

Brown said she was drawn to the organization because of the need for Arizona’s elected officials to hear the perspective of nontheists. “SC Arizona represents some of the most thoughtful, compassionate and pragmatic Arizonans you’ll meet,” Brown said. “With at least one in five Arizonans identifying themselves as atheists, agnostics or religiously unaffiliated, we’re your neighbors, colleagues and familymembers. We have long needed a professional, effective voice at the Capitol and Seráh Blain has been very impressive in that role. I couldn’t be more pleased to be joining her!”

ACTION ALERT: Help stop taxpayer funding of religious schools!

The Center for Arizona Policy is once again pushing legislation that threatens secular education and uses your tax dollars to promote religion! SB 1363 expands Arizona’s Empowerment Accounts, a program which currently allows students to use state funds for private school education or homeschooling—including private religious schools and religious homeschool curriculum.

The bill will be heard by the Senate Education Committee on Thursday, February 14. CLICK HERE to send an email to members of the committee asking them to stop using public money to fund religious education!

SC Arizona Hires an Atheist Combat Vet as Spring Legislative Intern

Secular Coalition for Arizona is pleased to announce the newest addition to our team: 2013 Legislative Intern Josiah Nosek. Josiah is an Environmental Science and Research Meteorology student at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Prescott. He is an engaged community member, committed to educating the public and advocating for responsible governmental decision-making processes--particularly those concerning the environment and social justice issues. Among other projects, Josiah is an active participant in the Prescott Empty Bowls project, a grassroots movement to end hunger, and the Citizens Water Advocacy Group, a movement to protect the upper Verde River Basin and to promote responsible water management. He is also a co-founder of the Prescott Freethinkers.

Josiah's work on secularism in Arizona was first inspired by a school community service project working with Qsquared Youth, an organization supporting LGBT teenagers, and the Prescott Pride Center. During this project he become an advocate for women’s and LGBT rights, and developed an understanding of the influence religious pressure has on policy decisions for the state of Arizona.

Serving six years in the United States Navy, Josiah is an atheist combat veteran with an intimate concern for the religious discrimination occurring within the armed forces; he is devoted to fighting for nontheistic rights for veterans and the members of our military.

With future ambitions in the field of genetic medicine, he is passionate about promoting more rational bioethics and challenging the role religious dogma plays in preventing life-saving medical treatment and end-of-life care.

Josiah enjoys being involved in government affairs and is looking forward to helping Secular Coalition for Arizona protect the church-state separation outlined in the Constitution. 

SC Arizona Engages Legislators on New Bills, Constitutional Oath

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!

Arizona's Fifty First Legislature is Now in Session!

After a wonderful legislative off-season in which Secular Coalition for Arizona was able to tour the state, connect with many of our communities, talk to our constituents, and engage the public both through media and our Secular Voters town hall meetings, the legislature is back in session—and SC Arizona is there, representing nontheistic Arizonans at the State Capitol fulltime for our second year.

The Fifty First Legislature – First Regular Session opened last Monday, January 14 with the swearing in of 30 Senate members and 60 members of the House of Representatives, along with Governor Brewer’s State of the State speech. Capitol events included a rally of hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations focused around ending the theocratic encroachment into women’s reproductive rights—and our Executive Director, Seráh Blain, was among the speakers, calling for legislators to stop the dangerous descularization of our state government.

The first week back at the legislature, and Opening Day in particular, made evident how far we have come as an organization and as a movement. Last year, everything was new. We had no relationships with legislators, few connections with allied organizations, and SC Arizona was simply unrecognized beyond our own community. This year, we were invited to speak at a very visible, important, and well-attended rally; we were asked by legislators and other organizations to participate in policy discussions; dozens of people came up to our Executive Director to thank us for our work and to ask how to participate. Phone calls come in daily with new supporters, both from the State Capitol and beyond. Nontheists have a real place at the table in legislative discussions this year.

Secular Coalition for Arizona Calls on Governor Brewer to End Government Support for Misnamed Religious “Liberty” Day

(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.”

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