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

Stop Attacks on Science-Based Medicine!

Religious Right Attempts to Sneak Anti-Science, Anti-Woman Bill Through Legislature with Parliamentary Tricks
 
Last week, the chair of the House Health and Human Services Committee, Cecil Ash (a pro-life Mormon), chose to hold anti-abortion bill HB2838 because of concerns that there was not sufficient evidence to support the particular "disclosures" and medical procedures required by the legislation, and that the liability issues for physicians would threaten doctors' ability to practice responsible medicine in our state.
 
HB2838 required that doctors provide women with biased, ideologically motivated information rather than comprehensive, science-based facts that would empower women to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. Further, it threatened doctors with civil and criminal liability for doing their jobs. This was a bad bill that endangered the health of women and the ability of doctors in our state to give evidence based care. And now, the sponsor of HB2838 is manipulating the legislative system to circumvent Representative Ash with a strike-everything amendment in order to revive the dead legislation.
 
On Monday, February 27, HB2036 "private attorney retention; contingency fees" is being heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee with a strike-everything amendment that replaces all the language of HB2036 with the language of the anti-woman, anti-science bill HB2838. The maneuver is specifically being used to circumvent Chairman Ash and sneak the bill through the legislature without allowing time for sufficient scrutiny of the "evidence" being offered in support of this policy.
 
WE MUST STOP HB2036. Please take a few minutes to do two things:
 
- Contact Senate President Steve Pierce at 602-926-5584 or atspierce@azleg.gov and tell him that this bill is dangerously anti-science and will hurt women, families and doctors; this bill needs to stay dead.
 
- Contact the members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell them to vote "NO" on HB 2036:
 
Ron Gould ( Chair): 602-926-4138; rgould@azleg.gov
Andy Biggs: 602-926-4371; abiggs@azleg.gov
Judy Burges: 602-926-5861; jburges@azleg.gov
Adam Driggs: 602-926-3016; adriggs@azleg.gov
Steve Gallardo: 602-926-5830; sgallardo@azleg.gov
David Lujan: 602-926-5058; dlujan@azleg.gov
Rick Murphy: 602-926-4444; rmurphy@azleg.gov
Steve Yarbrough: 602-926-5863; syarbrough@azleg.gov
 
Talking Points

  •  HB2036 lacks evidence to support legislating medical procedures and interferes with doctors' ability to practice science-based medicine
  • HB2036 creates too many liability issues for physicians, will drive up malpractice insurance, and will drive doctors from our state
  • Women deserve comprehensive, fact-based information about their pregnancies as determined by medical science and their own physicians rather than the ideology of the state legislature 

"Free Exercise" Bill Allows Professionals to Use Religious Belief as an Excuse to Discriminate

The right to religious liberty and free exercise is very precious to believers and nonbelievers alike, and Secular Coalition for Arizona strongly supports efforts that ensure church-state protection. However, when the State creates barriers to its citizens receiving essential services (including medical care and legal representation) with policies that enable professionals and organizations to use religious belief as an excuse to discriminate, the State fails to facilitate liberty.

SB 1365
empowers doctors, hospitals, lawyers, pharmacists, other professionals, and some organizations to deny essential services to vulnerable groups of people (including LGBT people, religious minorities, and nonbelievers). This bill would make it possible, for example, for doctors to withhold medical information, services, and comprehensive referrals; enabling medical professionals to fail to provide comprehensive care endangers the lives and well-being of Arizonans and should never be encouraged by the State. And because the bill does not require professionals to disclose to patients or clients that they are invoking their right of religious exercise under the bill, patients or clients may never know that they did not receive full information from trusted professionals and will be disempowered from making informed decisions about their own well-being.

Further, because of the broad nature of the terms “religious belief” and “sincerely held,” the State will be put in an impossible position of determining when the right of religious liberty under this bill is being invoked legitimately and whether other rights (including patients’ or victims’ rights) should be subjugated to religious freedom when it causes clear harm. For example, will a doctor be allowed to kill a patient and be exempt from licensure revocation for unprofessional conduct or a malpractise suit if s/he declines to order a blood transfusion due to “sincerely held religious beliefs?”

SB 1365 also dangerously privileges religious conviction over other valid kinds of conviction; this means that individuals and organizations may behave unethically or unprofessionally simply by invoking religion. Nonreligious people who have sincerely held objections to performing services that violate the dictates of their consciences based on ethical reasoning rather than faith are not given equal right of refusal.

Religious liberty must be safeguarded in our state, but we must not abuse this liberty by making it a means to discriminate against, and violate the rights of, vulnerable Arizonans.

SB 1365 will be heard Thursday, February 23, 2012 in the Senate Committee of the Whole. Click here to find out how to contact your senator: How Do I Find or Contact My Legislators?

Bill Creating Christian Bias in Public Schools to be Heard on House Floor!

Contact your Representative TODAY!

House Bill 2563
, "schools; elective; biblical influence," (being heard on the House floor Tuesday, February 21) will unconstitutionally preference the teaching of the Christian bible in public schools! Currently, Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS) requires school boards to exclude all books, publications, papers and audiovisual materials of a sectarian, partisan or denominational character from public schools and public school libraries. HB2563 creates an exception to the ARS specifically for teaching the Christian bible in public schools. Other religious texts continue to be excluded from schools by the ARS.

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to include the history and literature of the Christian bible in History or English Arts standards and sets up guidelines for a school district or charter school to offer an elective course on "The Bible and Its Influence on Western Culture."

There is no question that religion has had tremendous impact on Western culture; however, allowing public schools to teach from the Christian bible and no other religious text clearly privileges the Christian religion and suppresses the voices of religious minorities and nonbelievers whose traditions have also contributed to Western culture. HB2563 violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by supporting and preferencing a particular religious perspective to the exclusion of all others. Further, HB2563 may violate Article II Section 12 of the Arizona State Constitution by applying public money to religious instruction.

Who should I contact?

Your State Representative. Find your Rep.

You can also contact the bill's sponsor, Terri Proud, and encourage her to consider a floor amendment that would remove the ARS sections that excludes all other perspectives rather than amending (as her bill does) to allow only the Bible class; if the ARS was amended in this way, her bill would no longer represent preferencing of one religious perspective:tproud@azleg.gov

Call Secular Coalition for Arizona's Executive Director Seráh Blain if you have questions, or if you would like to attend the House Committee of the Whole to observe as this bill is heard: 602-363-8018;serah@secularAZ.org

When is this bill being voted on?

This bill is scheduled to be voted on in the House of Representatives Committee of the Whole on Tuesday, February 21 at 1:30 p.m.

Talking Points
  • HB 2563 allows the teaching of the Christian bible in schools, but excludes all sectarian and denominational materials that present other belief or nonbelief perspectives (including the Book of Mormon; Jewish texts like the Tanakh, Talmud and Midrash; the Koran, etc). This is unconstitutional.
  • Expensive constitutional lawsuits, costing taxpayer money, are sure to follow.

Ensure Equality in Education TODAY!

Equal, accesible education for all Arizona's students is essential for the future of our state--and for the future of reason. But two bills being heard in committee TODAY (February 6) will jeopardize access to quality education for many children in Arizona. Please take action immediately to let our legislators know that the nontheistic community will not tolerate discrimination in education!

Bill Descriptions

SB 1047, "Tax Credit; School Tuition Organizations," expands Arizona's current tax credit program for private schools. Tax payers are able to make donations to Student Tuition Organizations (which offer scholarships to students who attend private schools) and take a tax credit equal to the amount donated. SB 1047 doubles the credit.

Many of the Student Tuition Organizations eligible for this program are exclusively religious (such as those run by the Phoenix and Tucson dioceses as well as the Arizona Christian Tuition Organization); such STOs give scholarship money exclusively to families who wish to attend specific religious schools. Further, there are no protections under SB 1047 that ensure schools receiving money diverted from the public trust to private STOs do not discriminate against students on the basis ofreligion, sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity. What this means is that less money is available for public education--and money available for private education is inaccessible to many of Arizona's children including religious minorities, nonbelievers, and LGBT youth.

HB 2626, "Empowerment Scholarship expands Arizona's Empowerment Accounts program. This program currently allows students with disabilities to receive 90% of the state funds that would otherwise be allocated for that student's education to be applied to private school education or homeschooling. As with SB 1047, there are no provisions in this bill to ensure that the schools receiving money under this program refrain from discriminating against religious minorities, nonbelievers, LGBT students and other marginalized youth. 

Additionally, 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).

Who should I contact?

All members of the House Committee on Ways and Means, whether they are your Representative or not. See below for contact information.

If you are registered in the ALIS system, please log in and show your opposition. If you are interested in registering on ALIS (which allows you to submit comments on public record to House and Senate committees, please call or email Secular Coalition for Arizona's Executive Director Seráh Blain: 602-363-8018; serah@secularAZ.org. You are also encouraged to call or email with any questions or concerns.

When do I need to contact my legislators by?

Immediately.

When is this bill being voted on?

This bill is scheduled to be voted on in the House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means Monday, February 6, 2012 @ 2:00 pm.

House Committee on Ways and 

Chairman: Rep. Jack Harper, jharper@azleg.gov, 602-926-4178

Vice-Chairman: Rep. Ted Vogt, tvogt@azleg.gov, 602-3235

Rep. Tom Chabin, tchabin@azleg.gov, 602-926-5160

Rep. Steve Farley, sfarley@azleg.gov, 602-926-3022

Rep. Ruben Gallego, rgallego@azleg.gov, 602-926-3042

Rep. Rick Gray, rgray@azleg.gov, 602-926-5993

Rep. Debbie Lesko, dlesko@azleg.gov, 602-926-5413

Rep. JD Mesnard, jmesnard@azleg.gov, 602-926-4481

Rep. Justin Olson, jolson@azleg.gov, 602-926-5288

Talking Points

  • SB 1047 and HB 2626 permit the state to divert public tax dollars from the public trust and empowers private institutions receiving those funds to discriminate against religious minorities, nonbelievers, and other marginalized youth thereby limiting these students' access to quality education. 
  • A prosperous, productive, free future for our state requires that all of Arizona's students receive equal, comprehensive education regardless of religious belief, nonbelief, sexual orientation, or membership in any other minority demographic.
  • SB 1047 redirects public money from public schools to religious institutions, which may be a violation of both the state and federal Constitutions. Challenges to this tax credit program have lost in court due to standing, but not merit--so the constitutionality of the program has never been settled and is likely to be challenged again.
  • HB 2626 uses public money directly to fund religious education, which is clearly unconstitutional in regard to both the state and federal constitutions. Expensive lawsuits, costing taxpayer money, are sure to follow. 

Executive Director Seráh Blain Speaks Out Against Privileging the Christian Bible in Public Schools

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This hearing is very informative as to how our elected officials feel about church-state separation. We have a lot of work to do! Ms. Blain's testimony begins at 1:22:56.

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