Announcing SC Arizona's Fall Internship Program!

Secular Coalition for Arizona is pleased to offer a paid part-time internship position for fall 2012. SC Arizona is seeking a highly motivated undergraduate student with a demonstrated interest in being active in the nontheistic movement. The student must live and attend school within the state of Arizona and have reliable transportation for travel throughout the state for grassroots organizing and events.

Join Our Inaugural Monthly Conference Call!

Monday, June 4th at Noon Arizona Time (3:00pm ET) will be a historic conversation you don’t want to miss! 
 
The Secular Coalition for America and Secular Coalition for Arizona are hosting the inaugural Secular Coalition for Arizona Conference Call! This call invites all individuals and organizations interested in defending the secular character of our government to learn more about dangerous legislation and regulation in the state of Arizona, actions Secular Coalition for Arizona is taking to combat religious privileging and fight legislation that makes the rights of all Arizonans dependent on the religious beliefs of people in power, and find out how to get more involved! 
 
These calls seek to educate and inform as many Arizona citizens as possible about bills that undermine secular government and assault the rights of politically vulnerable people in the name of religious freedom, and to coordinate efforts to combat them before they can become law! Click here to download the agenda. The call will be mostly informational. No one is required to speak up, but there will be opportunities to do so. This is an excellent opportunity to “meet” your lobbyist at the State Capitol, Seráh Blain, and also get connected with the Secular Coalition for America.
 
Please join the call and encourage others to do the same by getting the word out that this call is happening!

The conference call number is 530-881-1400. Enter the code 978895 to join. We hope you all can make the call Monday, June 4th at Noon Arizona Time (3:00pm EST).

Kelly Damerow
Research and Advocacy Manager, Secular Coalition for America
 
Seráh Blain
Executive Director, Secular Coalition for Arizona

Secular Coalition for Arizona to be joined by New State Chapters Nationwide

Phoenix, AZ (May 30, 2012)—The Secular Coalition for America (SCA) this month announced the implementation schedule for 50 state chapters planned to launch nationwide this year. 

Secular Coalition for America—a lobbying organization representing nontheistic Americans and advocating for a strong separation of religion and government—will launch chapters in 48 states, as well as Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico by the end of 2012. Two state affiliates, the Secular Coalition for Arizona and Secular Coalition for Alabama, are already operational.
 
Secular Coalition for Arizona (SC Arizona) is SCA’s first state affiliate and launched in October 2010. SC Arizona is independently funded by the Arizona nontheistic community and lobbies full-time at the State Capitol to defend secular principles, safeguard the wall of protection between church and state, and ensure that religion is not used as a weapon to discriminate against politically vulnerable people.
 
“Politics in our state is largely dominated by the evangelical Christian lobby group, Center for Arizona Policy, and frankly, Arizona’s legislators have just not fully considered how damaging it is to the freedoms of all Arizonans to legislate the views of a religious minority. It’s really oppressive,” says Seráh Blain, Executive Director of SC Arizona. “Secular Coalition for Arizona is committed to making sure lawmakers understand that secular civil government guarantees freedom and fairness for all Arizonans—regardless of religious belief or non-belief.”
 
SCA will host an informational call on SC Arizona’s efforts and future plans on June 4, 12 p.m. Arizona Time, led by Seráh Blain of SC Arizona and Kelly Damerow, SCA’s Research and Advocacy Manager. The call-in number is 530-881-1400, conference code 978895.  

“Too much erosion to the wall of protection between religion and government happens at the local level, and can best be addressed by grassroots, secular organizing,” says Blain. “This is where SC Arizona excels. In addition to lobbying at the State Capitol, we’re working on growing local nontheistic communities; implementing a school board task-force to protect our secular public schools; and engaging the broader community in conversations about the importance of secular government. We’re looking forward to getting more people involved in secular activism.”

While SC Arizona and SC Alabama will continue to operate as independently run affiliates, SCA has adopted a chapter model for the subsequent 48 state groups as well as Puerto Rico and Washington DC. State chapters will receive websites, as well as training, promotional and educational materials. Chapters will be trained, organized and supported by the Secular Coalition for America. 

Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of Secular Coalition for America, said lobbying at the state and local level is important on several fronts and from a long term strategic perspective. 

“In our current U.S. Congress, 38 percent of Representatives held local office first,” said Rogers. “When we get to law makers at the local level, not only are we going to help curb some of the most egregious legislation we’re seeing, but we are also building relationships and working to educate legislators on our issues, before they even get to Washington.” 

SCA will be hosting state chapter organizing calls throughout the summer. Official dates and times will be announced at Secular.org/about/states.
 
Secular Coalition for Arizona is a 501(c)4 political advocacy organization working to defend secular principles and safeguard the wall of protection between church and state.  SC Arizona stands against privileging a single narrow, ideological religious viewpoint over the views of other religions and nonreligion, and fights for equality, security, justice, and basic fairness for all Arizonans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. The coalition consists of 15 nontheistic and secularist organizations throughout Arizona and is a state-affiliated organization of the Secular Coalition for America in Washington D.C. For more information, please visit www.secularAZ.org.

Secular Coalition for Americais a 501(c)(4) organization that serves as the national lobby for atheists, agnostics, humanists, freethinkers, and other nontheistic Americans. Composed of 11 diverse member organizations, SCA works to protect and strengthen the secular character of our government as the best guarantee of freedom for all. For more information, please visit www.secular.org.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Atheist Organization Calls on IRS to Investigate Tax Status of Center for Arizona Policy

(May 21, 2012) Phoenix, Ariz.—Secular Coalition for Arizona (SC Arizona) filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service this week asking for an investigation into Center for Arizona Policy’s 501(c)3 public charity tax-exempt status. SC Arizona has been looking into Center for Arizona Policy’s tax status as part of the secularist organization’s commitment to ensure that religious organizations do not receive special privilege under the law, including tax law.

Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) is a religious lobby organization that seeks to develop and influence public policy and inject fundamentalist, evangelical Christian values into legislation in the state of Arizona. Part of CAP’s original Articles of Incorporation explicitly states: “The character of business which the corporation initially intends to conduct will be to facilitate the exchange of ideas pertinent to the strengthening of families in the state of Arizona through the development of public policy.” An organization which intends to spend a substantial portion of its resources on a public policy agenda is not eligible to be designated as a 501(c)3 and should instead register, like SC Arizona, as a 501(c)4 organization, which can engage in unlimited lobbying. In contrast to a 501(c)3, donations to a 501(c)4 organization are not tax-exempt.

It is SC Arizona’s belief that CAP is abusing its public charity status and illegally using tax-exempt donations to engage in substantial lobbying activities to advance a religious agenda over and above what is allowable for a 501(c)3 organization.

“It concerns us that this religious lobby institution is able to receive tax-exempt donations, which it seems to be using almost exclusively to work on lobbying activities,” says Seráh Blain, Executive Director of Secular Coalition for Arizona. “We just want the IRS to take a look at the Center for Arizona Policy to make sure this isn’t a case of religious preference and that CAP isn’t improperly soliciting and spending tax-exempt donations in a way that violates tax law.”

Several other individuals and organizations, including No Longer Silent, a 501(c)3 organization made up of clergy speaking out on social justice issues, have also filed complaints as concern grows among Arizonans about Center for Arizona Policy’s operations as a lobby organization despite its 501(c)3 status. A new website, www.StopCAP.org, has been set up in a collaborative effort to detail CAP’s violations.

“Taxpayers are not supposed to be forced to subsidize political lobbying,” says Blain. “I’m not a tax lawyer, but it appears to us that Center for Arizona Policy is operating as a taxpayer subsidized lobbying organization—so they’re using money that should belong to all Arizonans in order to inject their narrow religious ideology into public policy. This is simply wrong, and we’re asking the IRS to check into it.”

About the Secular Coalition for Arizona
The Secular Coalition for Arizona (www.secularAZ.org) is a 501(c)4 lobby organization that represents the Arizona nontheistic community—a vibrant and growing community of Arizonans who self-identify as atheists, agnostics, Humanists and freethinkers. The Secular Coalition for Arizona mediates the relationship between the nontheistic community and elected officials, and works to ensure that the law is never biased to the detriment and interests of Arizona's nontheists. The coalition consists of 13 nontheistic and nontheistic-friendly organizations from across Arizona and is a state-affiliated organization of the Secular Coalition for America in Washington D.C. For more information, contact Executive Director Seráh Blain: serah@secularAZ.org; 602-363-8018.

Legislature Adjourns Sine Die

Thursday, May 3, the State Legislature adjourned sine die and has finally stopped generating policy that attacks the separation of church and state--at least until next year...but Secular Coalition for Arizona isn't resting! In the off-season, we'll be keeping you informed about the upcoming elections and compiling candidate questionnaires about secular values. We'll be improving our visibility by attending events around the state, like Flagstaff Pride. We'll be working on developing our School Board Task Force to help monitor secular education. We'll be visiting your community to find out what issues are important to you in a series of Town Halls with Executive Director Seráh Blain. And we'll be preparing for the next legislative season and growing secular influence in our State Capitol! So stay tuned for updates, announcements, and action alerts as we continue to advance the secular movement!

Brewer Rejects Reason, Atheists in Arizona Respond

(Apr. 19, 2012) Phoenix, Ariz.— In opposition to the recent flood of religiously-motivated legislation penned by policymakers in Arizona, Secular Coalition for Arizona, on behalf of its 12 nontheistic liaised organizations throughout the state, called on Governor Brewer to declare May 3, 2012 a Day of Reason. The Governor rejected Secular Coalition for Arizona’s request for a proclamation, but the group will nonetheless be collaborating with local nontheistic communities to organize events as part of a larger countrywide movement advocating a National Day of Reason.

“The purpose of the Day of Reason is simply to celebrate reason—a concept all Arizonans can support,” says Seráh Blain, Executive Director of Secular Coalition for Arizona. “We also hope the day will raise awareness about the ways religion is affecting legislation in our state. Everything from property tax exemptions for all religious associations even if they provide no charitable services, to reproductive healthcare laws based on religious assumptions about human development, to State resolutions about Israel’s sovereignty based on verses from Leviticus...these things really underscore the prevalence and perilousness of religion in government.”

The legislature in Arizona has been focused heavily this season on what religionists on the Right are calling “religious liberty.” Examples include refusal clauses that allow professionals or employers to withhold certain kinds of care or coverage because of religious conviction, as well as a whole host of abortion-related measures driven by religious morality; in all of these cases, policymakers in Arizona are attempting to invoke the right of “free exercise” in order to drive an agenda that threatens individual freedom of conscience.

“Many of our legislators, and certainly the Center for Arizona Policy, are conflating religious liberty with religious privilege,” says Blain. “Religious liberty absolutely does not mean that the religious ideology of those in power can dictate morality and public policy for everyone. Our Founders called that idea tyranny.”

The National Day of Reason is a project of the American Humanist Association (AHA) and originated in 2003 as an alternative to the National Day of Prayer. The AHA maintains that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional, advocating instead that secular Americans take the day to affirm a commitment to the Constitutional separation of religion and government and to celebrate Reason as the guiding principle of secular democracy.

“Religiously motivated policy can be divisive and oppressive because particular faiths are not universal. But human reason is,” Blain stresses. “When we insist that law is based on reason, we ensure religious minorities and nonbelievers are not marginalized; the National Day of Reason is both a celebration of human reason and a sober recommitment to that insistence.”

National Day of Reason Events in Arizona include the following:

Atheists in Phoenix will be participating in the National Day of Reason by spending the afternoon with friends and family at the Civic Science Park in downtown Phoenix, 424 N Central Avenue, from 3:30-6 PM. Individuals from nontheistic groups in the Valley including the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix and the Phoenix Atheists Meetup will be gathering to call for reason in government and society, and will write to elected officials about the need for reason-based policy. Details can be found here: Phoenix Celebrates Reason at Civic Science Park!

Secular Student Alliance at Northern Arizona University
joins the Flagstaff Freethinkers in National Day of Reason celebrations beginning with an Ask-An-Atheist event in the afternoon at the Northern Arizona University Union from 2-4 PM, followed by a walk to the Flagstaff City Hall where the groups will show their support of reason and will encourage voter registration until 6 p.m. Details can be found here: Flagstaff Celebrates National Day of Reason!

The Prescott Freethinkers along with the Secular Student Alliance at Embry-Riddle and the Secular Student Alliance at Prescott College will precede their regularly scheduled Thursday night dinner out with a public walk around the Prescott Town Square (Gurley and Montezouma), drawing attention to the need for reason in our government and the value of reason in our society. The groups will then get together over dinner to write to elected officials about the importance of reason-based government. Details can be found here: Prescott Celebrates National Day of Reason!

The Sedona/Verde Valley Secular Freethinkers will be spending the afternoon with friends and family at Garrison Park (100 Brian Mickelson Parkway) in Cottonwood, Arizona from 3-6 PM. The group will be demonstrating for reason in government and society and will be writing to elected officials. Details can be found here: Verde Valley Celebrates the National Day of Reason!

Atheists in Tucson will be participating in a virtual, web-based event. Individuals from Freethought Arizona and the Tucson Atheists will collaborate through a Facebook Event page to write to elected officials on the need for reason-based policy. Details can be found here: Tucson National Day of Reason Virtual Event

For more information about the Day of Reason in Arizona, contact Brian Wallace, Community Outreach and Development Director of Secular Coalition for Arizona: brian@secularAZ.org; 928-699-2877.

For information about Secular Coalition for Arizona, contact Executive Director Seráh Blain: serah@secularAZ.org; 602-363-8018.

Hijacked Arizona State Legislature Bends to Religionists

Narrow Religious Ideology Wins Big...
Everyone Else Loses

April 17, 2012 -- Last week was a disappointing one in Arizona politics, with secularism taking a major hit and real Arizonans facing damaging new laws as a result. As the legislative season comes to a close, we anticipate a continuous onslaught of anti-secular bills coming up for last-minute votes or for the Governor's signature. Secular Coalition for Arizona will be working hard to make sure you get up-to-date information and opportunities to voice your concerns to your legislators about specific bills. We appreciate how hard you have all been working to respond to the Religious Right's eleventh-hour sneak-attacks on our rights; please continue to help us get our secular message to elected officials through these last critical days.

The State of Secularism in Arizona

Bills Still Requiring Action

SB1359 - The Wrongful Birth bill allowing doctors to lie to pregnant patients was transmitted to the Governor on April 12; we must continue to pressure her for a veto: 602-542-4331

HB2563 - This Bible Curriculum bill was transmitted to the Governor on April 12; we must continue to pressure her for a veto: 602-542-4331

SB1365 - Free Exercise of Religion, a refusal and discrimination clause, has passed both houses, but in different versions. The two versions must be reconciled and before a final vote.

Another Religiously Motivated Attack on Reproductive Healthcare

Today, March 28, the State Senate will vote on yet another piece of religiously motivated legislation that attacks Arizonan’s access to reproductive healthcare. HB 2625 allows employers to refuse to provide coverage for medications used for contraception if the employer has a religious objection. Women who use contraceptive medications for other medical reasons (such as the treatment of cysts or endometriosis) may need to prove to their employer that they are not taking the pill for contraceptive purposes—a clear violation of privacy. Further, HB 2625 opens the door for employers to discriminate against employees who use contraceptives by striking from statute the language that restricts employers who fail to provide health coverage for contraception from discriminating against employees who choose to obtain such coverage elsewhere.

Please contact your senator IMMEDIATELY and tell them to VOTE NO on HB 2625! It is unequivocally wrong for the state to use religious liberty as an excuse to cause harm, promote inequality and invade personal privacy.

Find out how to contact your senator here: How to Contact Members

Talking points:

  • HB2625 endangers the religious liberty of individual Arizonans by preferencing the religious beliefs of an employer over those of an employee
  • HB2625 violates Arizonans’ constitutionally protected right to privacy

Religious Right Threatens Healthcare Access for Women

Religiously Motivated Attacks on Women's Reproductive Healthcare Must Stop!

 
Tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, March 1), the House Committee of the Whole will be voting on HB2800, a bill specifically designed to prevent Planned Parenthood from being reimbursed by the state for the important healthcare services the organization provides--simply because Planned Parenthood also performs legally protected abortion services. Public funding of abortion is already prohibited, and healthcare clinics that provide abortions do not use public funds for those procedures. This bill represents a religious bias against Planned Parenthood rather than responsible public policy. Please contact your representative IMMEDIATELY and ask them to VOTE NO on HB2800.
  
In Arizona, the legislature has been slowly outlawing abortion through policies that create barriers to funding and patient access--and while abortion itself is a complex, multi-faceted issue upon which nontheistic Arizonans have a wide range of opinions, the value of access to affordable, comprehensive reproductive healthcare and family planning is completely beyond dispute
  
By every conceivable measure, in jurisdictions in which reproductive health care and family planning is readily available poverty declines, overall health and well-being for men, women and children improves, and societal stability is enhanced.
  
The result of HB 2800 will be that fewer women will be able to receive quality healthcare and family planning services--and this threatens the quality of life for everyone in the state. Because the bill represents such a serious attack on the healthcare access of so many of Arizona's most vulnerable citizens and serves no secular purpose, Secular Coalition for Arizona asks you to take IMMEDIATE action to ensure HB2800 does not pass the House.
  
Talking Points

·  HB2800 will limit access to comprehensive healthcare and family planning for Arizonans who need it most

·  When women have improved access to reproductive healthcare and family planning, poverty declines and overall health improves. The state has a strong interest in ensuring access to these services because it improves the quality of life in Arizona
 
·  Public funding of abortion is already prohibited in Arizona; this bill serves no secular purpose

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