Personal interaction with our liaised organizations and supporters is a priority. Each year when the Arizona legislative session closes, we hit the road to update them regarding the highlights of the most recent session. We discuss how we work within the legislature and engage the public to fight challenges and seize opportunities to protect and strengthen secular public policy in Arizona.
We’re updating our wider audience of website visitors with a recap of each meeting. Your comments or questions are always welcomed.
During August, we visited the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix (HSGP) at their Community Center in Mesa. HSGP is a strong ally, and a growing humanist presence within the greater Phoenix area.
Our afternoon with the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix:
2015 Arizona Legislative Session Highlights; Humanist Concerns over Public Education Funding
On Sunday August 9, our chairman, Zenaido Quintana, Director of Government Affairs Tory Anderson and Director of Development Amanda Morton attended a regular meeting of HSGP. After updating our allies on the growth and direction of our organization, Tory Anderson shared her first-hand experience lobbying legislators during the 2015 session – a tough challenge based on newly elected Governor Doug Ducey, and the increased number of legislators with strong ties to the right-wing religious lobby, the Center for Arizona Policy. (For a detailed wrap-up of SC Arizona’s activities during the 2015 Arizona legislative session, click here.)
2015 saw bills passed into law that further erode separation of church and state in Arizona. However, Tory discussed how we were able to positively influence these bad bills in ways that make them less harmful. For example, SB 1318 prevents women in Arizona from obtaining insurance coverage for an abortion through the Affordable Care Act’s federal health exchange. As introduced, SB 1318 would have included even those abortions sought due to rape or incest. Through grassroots advocacy from our supporters and liaised organizations, we influenced a Senate amendment that excluded rape or incest from the bill.
Tory also provided an update on the legal challenge to one particularly disturbing aspect of SB 1318, which was signed into law by Governor Ducey. Any doctor who prescribes a medically-induced abortions to a patient is required by law to advise patients orally and in writing that the effects of the pill may be reversed – a contention based on junk science and a procedure opposed by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Reproductive rights advocates filed a lawsuit challenging the medical efficacy and ethics of this stipulation, and the case is due to be heard in late October of this year.
Taxpayer funding of private education – including private religious schools – was another legislative challenge during 2015. Tory discussed the increased emphasis on legislation that takes money from public school funding in favor of vouchers for private school education – including private religious schools. Fortunately, our lobbying efforts and public advocacy from supporters had effect. Of five school voucher bills introduced during the recent legislative session, only one made it to the Governor’s desk for signing.
Public education funding proved to be a hot button for HSGP audience members concerned about unfair tax law in Arizona.
Humanists Oppose Tax Law that Benefits Private Religious Education over Public Education
Several HSGP members expressed grave concerns about challenges to secular public policy in Arizona, specifically in the realm of education equality. Donning a T-shirt in support of Secular AZ, Kathy Pettycrew stated “As the law stands, my husband and I can give only $400 in tax-deductible donations to a public school in Arizona, yet we are allowed by law to give more than twice times that much to a private religious school. At the very least, shouldn’t the tax benefits of giving to public and private religious schools be equal?” Secular public policy would ensure public tax dollars are given to public education at an equal or even proportional rate to private religious education.
Our Partnership with HSGP
The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix advocates for secular humanist values in the greater Phoenix area. Focused on education, they provide bi-monthly meetings in their private meeting space for educational speakers, arts and humanities projects and community service activities. Their members embrace a wide range of interests but a common thread shared is a commitment to secular public policy as good for all Arizonans. Secular AZ and the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix stand in common cause.
HSGP has partnered closely with Secular AZ SC Arizona since our formation in 2010. We are committed to serving as the voice of this vibrant group at the state capitol on matters of church/state separation, and look forward to continued activism and interchange with their membership.