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.

ACTION ALERT: Oppose Christian Bias in Public Schools!

House Bill 2563, “schools; elective; biblical influence,” (being heard in committee tomorrow, January 30) 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.
 
What you can do:

Dawkins, Faircloth, Cornwell, "A Secular Society Worth Saving: The Role of Religion & Secularism in Public Policy"

Presented by Secular Coalition for Arizona, Dr. R. Elisabeth Cornwell, Sean Faircloth and world-renowned author, bioethicist and secularist Richard Dawkins will explore how religion impacts government and how the secular community can grow its influence on legislative decisions.

When: Monday, February 6, 2012 7:00 - 8:45 p.m.

Where: Mesa Arts Center One East Main Street Mesa, AZ 85201

Admission includes: Presentations by Cornwell, Faircloth, and Dawkins, Q and A, & Book Signing

Tickets on sale NOW: All seats $10 Purchase online or by phone: www.mesaartscenter.com, 480.644.6500 (ticketing fees may apply) or at the box office: One East Main Street, Mesa, AZ 85201

Richard Dawkins, DPhil, is a world-renowned scientific intellectual, lecturer, author, and founder of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. His books, which include The God Delusion and The Blind Watchmaker, draw on his experience as a leading evolutionary biologist, and have been translated into many languages. Dawkins will be available to sign his books, including the recently released: The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True.

Sean Faircloth is an author, speaker, former legislator and current Director of Strategy and Policy for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Sean served five terms in the Maine legislature and has put that experience to work by spearheading initiatives designed to increase the secular voice within society and government. Faircloth will be available to sign his book, Attack of the Theocrats: How the Religious Right Harms Us All and What to Do About It.

R. Elisabeth Cornwell, PhD, is Executive Director of the U.S. branch of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Her contributions include originating and expanding the OUT Campaign, which provides a public forum for freethinkers to proclaim their atheism and to let others know they are not alone.

Sponsored by:
Secular Coalition for Arizona: www.secularaz.org
Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science:www.RichardDawkins.net 
With additional funding from The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix: www.hsgp.org

 

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Private Reception with RICHARD DAWKINS, SEAN FAIRCLOTH, and DR. R. ELISABETH CORNWELL

Prior to the public event join us for a very special private reception to meet and mingle with Richard Dawkins, Sean Faircloth, and Dr. Elisabeth Cornwell. Your attendance will co-benefit the Secular Coalition for Arizona and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science.

When: Monday, February 6, 2012 5:15pm - 6:45pm (immediately preceding the public event)

Where: Mesa Arts Center

Admission: $500 per person, $750 per couple Enjoy a light buffet and refreshments as well as complimentary VIP seating to the public event.

REGISTER NOW

I am unable to attend, but would like to donate to Secular Coalition for Arizona

If you would like to be recognized as a "Friend of the Arizona Nontheistic Community" sponsoring donor please contact Matt Schoenley for details, matt@secularaz.org or 480.717.6288      

1/3 of your entrance fee will benefit Secular Coalition for Arizona (SC Arizona) and 2/3 will benefit Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDF). Donations to SC Arizona, a 501(c)(4) organization, are not tax deductible. Donations to the RDF, a 501(c)(3) organization, are tax deductible.

2012 Legislative Session Opens!

January 10, 2012 - Yesterday marked the opening of the 2012 Arizona State Legislative session—and Secular Coalition for Arizona was there in front of the Capitol alongside our liaised nontheistic-friendly organization, Americans United for Separation of Church and State  - Greater Phoenix. It was a great opportunity for nontheistic Arizonans to be present and visible to our legislators, letting them know that we are an active, sizeable constituency! SC Arizona’s Executive Director, Seráh Blain, was able to connect with members, fellow lobbyists and constituents who were present--and will continue SC Arizona’s presence at the legislature this week as she introduces our organization and addresses legislation that erodes church-state separation. Stay tuned for updates from Seráh as the session gets underway--and make sure to "like" our Facebook page for all the latest!

Remember, SC Arizona’s presence at the Capitol and our advocacy on behalf of nontheistic Arizonans is only possible through the generous support of the nontheistic community; please consider a donation TODAY so that we can continue to be your voice to the state legislature! 

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