“The Power Worshippers”: Post Reviews Katherine Stewart’s Latest (Terrifying) Book

The Power Worshippers”: Dianne Post Reviews Katherine Stewart’s Latest (Terrifying) Book

She’s done it again — she’s terrified me. Katherine Stewart has another great book in The Power Worshippers:  Inside the Dangerous Rise of Religious Nationalism.

I don’t know how she:

  1. gets into these religious meetings;
  2. convinces these people to talk to her; and
  3. manages not to lose her mind.

As Stewart says, Christian nationalism is a political ideology, not a religious one. It’s also not a grass roots movement, but a grab for ultimate power driven from the very top. They have captured the Republican party and seek to undermine American institutions that are the bulwark of democracy. The Republican party is now ranked internationally as authoritarian as are the political parties in Turkey or Hungary. They are totally in bed with the Russian Orthodox church which is one of the most authoritarian in the world – working hand in hand with the Russian state, just as in the time of the Czars.

Christian nationalists’ reading and interpretation of the Bible is at odds with centuries-old mainstream religious beliefs. In a George-Orwell-style reversal, they want to punish the poor, destroy the environment, and expel the strangers. Poverty is due to lack of spiritual growth, and multiculturalism introduces pagan and new age ideas, such as Gaia, and social causes such as environmentalism

Ending Public Education: Theocracy, Segregation and Greed

The move to end public education is part of the religious nationalists’ campaign to transform America into a theocracy. They claim public schools are too secular. It’s also about segregation, just as private schools were in the 1960s. But what they really want is to get their greedy hands on the money that goes to public schools — the real gravy train.

Church planting is one method of using public school dollars. They “plant” a church inside a school campus so Monday through Friday it’s a school, but Sunday it’s a church. They don’t pay for the school or the upkeep or the utilities, and the “rent” they pay is minuscule compared to the costs the taxpayers have borne to build and maintain the school. The Harvest Preparatory Academy in Yuma is one of these, with its World Harvest Church run by the same people “planted” in the same space.

Total Submission of Women

The total submission of women is another Christian nationalist main theme. They argue that if women don’t want male “protection” then they are agreeing to be raped. They also urge the complete obedience of children to the tune of beating little ones in a high chair for not following orders.  The abortion issue is entirely a political calculation, nothing to do with morality or life or ethics or religion.

It is ironic how the religious nationalists don’t believe in government, but they want government to impose their choices on us. They don’t believe in masks because “my body, my choice,” but that doesn’t apply to women who want to control their bodies. They believe preachers should be able to preach politics from the pulpit, but doctors cannot tell women truthful scientific health information in the privacy of their own offices.

Some mainstream Christians and progressives have stood up against this juggernaut, but not strongly enough. Some of the nationalist groups are burrowing within to destroy even those.

Stewart lists corporations whose funding drives the movement, as well as the people (and even whole families) who control the trajectory. She outlines the inner workings of the outer manifestations we see.  She divulges a litany of delusional people with very bizarre ideas about holy war, property in slaves, health care, and education. Though poor whites are the system’s biggest losers, they have bonded — like Stockholm Syndrome victims — with the oppressors to seek to “take back” the country to a time that never was.

The Courts are Already Packed

Biden cannot pack the courts because twenty years ago, Christian nationalists already started packing the courts… and they have pretty much done the job. Legal decisions since then show that they want to imprint Christianity in society as privileged and use the court system to create an exception for them from the general law.

The ruling that invocations at public meetings and crosses on public lands are allowable because they are symbolic only engrains those religious symbols in public spaces and into the public consciousness. The Trinity Lutheran ruling — that churches can compete for government funds for physical renovations — was the camel’s nose under the tent; money is fungible and what is not spent on the parking lot will be spent on proselytizing.

In the Town of Greece v Galloway decision, they pretended that religious speech was the personal speech of the speaker so  that to prohibit it would be discrimination. In fact, the speakers are public officials at a public meeting. Yet when a public official says an obvious truth, i.e. religion has been used in many terrible ways to harm people, that is found to be discrimination against religion and required reversal of the decision! 

Claiming to Seek Neutrality is a Farce, When One Sect Already Has a Leg Up

“Sincerely held religious beliefs” are simply code to be able to discriminate against anyone you want. To claim they seek neutrality is a farce when one sect already has a leg up. Religious freedom to them means privilege for those with the “right” religion.

In the Espinoza v Montana case, the court said that to prohibit religious schools from public money is to discriminate against religious schools. That “reasoning” renders meaningless the First Amendment, which prohibits the government from establishing religion.

A recent case in Maine rejected that foolishness by ruling that to deny religious schools from publicly funded vouchers is not discrimination based on religion, but based on the fact that they would spend government money in the way government money must not be spent: to establish religion.

Health Care by Priests, Rather than Doctors

Stewart covers a breadth of topics, from the minister’s housing scam to the lies of the Good News Clubs. She devotes a chapter to the problem of Catholic health institutions, relating story after story of how such institutions put women’s lives in danger. They take public money but deny reproductive rights and end of life requests, and lie to patients about legal rights and medical options. Often, they are the only medical resource available, resulting in health care by priests rather than doctors.

Arizona is a hotbed of these religious nationalist groups. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Arizona is the home to a large number of illegal armed domestic gangs, white supremacist groups, and of course the infamous Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF).

Arizona is also the petri dish for vouchers and has a sordid history of corruption in charter schools, as reported in the Arizona Republic in 2018. The vouchers were cash cows on the public dime. Eddie Farnsworth, a representative and then senator, made $14 million as he voted again and again not to regulate vouchers.

Senator Yarborough was another who retired to enjoy his ill-gotten gains. Glen Way got $18 million in no-bid public monies contracts to build charters. Yet these same people are wailing crocodile tears about a surcharge of 3.8% for those earning above $250,000 to pay for the public education that they have decimated.

Another religious nationalist case was argued to the Supreme Court the first week in November, with religious zealot Barrett not afraid to bare her colors.

As religious nationalists point out, it only takes action from 10% of the country to make radical changes. We need you to be that 10%.

Step up: join; volunteer; take action; run for office; write letters to the editor; protest; donate; lobby: no one can do everything, but everyone can do something.

Katherine Stewart will be the keynote speaker at the annual Secular Summit on December 5. Become a member of Secular AZ and show up at this virtual event.

 

Dianne Post

Legal Director, Secular Communities for AZ

November 5, 2020

Can Religious Exemptions Trump Public Accommodations Laws?

Dianne Post, Secular AZ Legal DirectorCan Religious Exemptions Trump Public Accommodations Laws?

On April 12, 2019, a man in west Phoenix, Arizona, shot and killed his wife and two children. Then he drove to another location and shot and killed a man there. When the police stopped him, he said that he had a sincerely held religious belief that in his church, not only would this behavior be all right, it would be mandated by God because he thought his wife was having an affair with the other man.

This is where we are going with this movement to justify a religious exemption to public accommodations laws. And it is a movement. It is an attempt to change this democracy into a theocracy. As the court said in Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, it is not about cakes or flowers any more than the sit-ins in the south in the 1960s were about sandwiches and soda. This is about equality and fairness.  This movement is a betrayal of American values and the Constitution.

An Attempt to Change Democracy into Theocracy

The underlying movement here is to create a religious exemption to public accommodations laws. We’ve seen this attack across the country in a variety of public services. To create such an exemption would take us back to the 1950s, when hotels, restaurants, department stores, hospitals, etc. could refuse to serve Black people, when Blacks and whites couldn’t inter-marry, when women couldn’t get birth control.

The Bible was the justification for the separation of the races as it is today, for the attack on the LGBT community, and attacks on women’s health care.  Slavery was once justified by religion. Banning of Muslims is justified by religion. These are facts, not “hostility to religion.”

These ideas are not just limited to the LGBT community. A woman in South Carolina wanted to be a foster mother and passed all the checks.  She was denied the ability at the last question. Why?

Because she was the wrong religion: Catholic. The appeals court in that case rejected the discrimination asserting that, “religious belief will not excuse compliance with general civil rights laws.” The government may not grant special religious exceptions from a law when it would cause harm to others. For more, read Maddonna v. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (on appeal).

Over the objection of an Orthodox Jewish community, a court in New Jersey in A Country Place v. Curto et al ruled that the swimming pool regulations that determined that women and men had to swim at different times — and then gave all the best and most times to men — was discrimination against women and could not stand.

Using Religion to Deny Medical Care

Even more dangerous is using religion to refuse medical care and treatment to women.

The federal Department of Health, under the current administration, has devised a new religious rule that will endanger millions of woman. Under the rule, health care workers can refuse to treat patients under the guise of religious freedom.

Such rules already exist, so long as the patient is given notice and options. This rule would increase the people and organizations to which it applies, and would cover additional things such as payments, grants, contract, and insurance. All a person or organization has to do is claim a religious justification and they can discriminate at will.   

Ambulance drivers could refuse to drive a person to the hospital. ER rooms could refuse to give the morning after pill to a rape or incest victim. A nurse could refuse to put in an IV for a person with AIDS. A clerk could refuse to sign in a Muslim or an atheist.  The staff could refuse to adhere to patients’ end-o-life decisions. Three separate federal courts have enjoined this rule.

None of this is new. Blacks were denied admission into white hospitals at one time, and often died before reaching a Black hospital. A woman in Sierra Vista, AZ who was having a miscarriage was denied services at a Catholic hospital so had to be driven another hour to Tucson. Such discrimination was wrong before.  It’s wrong now.

Majority of People Oppose Religiously Based Service Refusals

A recent public opinion poll by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) found that:

  • 69% of Americans favor laws that would protect LGBT people from discrimination in jobs, public accommodations, and housing. That has held steady for eight years.
  • Nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Americans enjoy bipartisan support, with majorities of Democrats (79%), independents (70%), and Republicans (56%) reporting that they favor laws that would shield LGBT people from various kinds of discrimination.
  • Solid majorities of all major religious groups in the U.S. support laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, and the workplace.
  • While white evangelical Protestants (54%) and Jehovah’s Witnesses (53%) are least likely to support LGBT nondiscrimination protections, even among these groups support remains in the majority.

Further, in 2018, 57% of Americans opposed allowing a small business owner in their state to refuse products or services to gay or lesbian people if providing them would violate their religious beliefs. Only 36% of Americans support such a policy.

Majorities of Americans of all racial and ethnic groups oppose religiously based service refusals. Black Americans (66%) are most likely to oppose allowing small business owners to refuse service to gay and lesbian people based on their religious beliefs.

The next highest group that opposed such discrimination was Hispanic Americans (60%), Asian-Pacific Islander Americans (59%), people who are mixed race or another race (58%), white Americans (54%), and Native Americans (52%).

Majorities of most major religious groups oppose religiously based service refusals, including: 

  • 83% of Unitarian Universalists
  • 69% of Americans who identify with New Age religions
  • 68% of Jews
  • 66% of Black Protestants, Buddhists and the religiously unaffiliated
  • 61% of Hispanic Catholics
  • 60% of Muslims and Hindus
  • 59% of other non-white Catholics,
  • 57% of Americans who identify with other religions,
  • 55% of white Catholics
  • 54% of white mainline Protestants
  • 53% of Orthodox Christians
  • 52% of Hispanic Protestants

What’s really happening here is an effort to give special privileges to a narrow segment of society while stigmatizing other groups and refusing them equal protection under the law. It’s based on the patriarchal underpinnings of religion and the fear of losing power.

We should reject it from the root to the branch. You know what you have to do: VOTE.

– Dianne Post, Legal Director

Revival of the Free Exercise Clause

Revival of the Free Exercise Clause

Dianne Post, Secular AZ Legal Director

In a follow up to the previous webinar about the decline of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, the American Bar Association’s next topic was the revival of the Free Exercise Clause. Two lawyers presented on the secular side and two on the religious side. 

As expected, the religious side said that the Employment Division v. Smith case in 1990 was a sea change in the law; the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) was necessary to correct the balance; and the Fulton v. City of Philadelphia, PA case (now at the Supreme Court) would restore the law to what it had been pre-Smith.

“A Great Imbalance in Freedoms”

The secular side disputed every point; i.e. the Smith case was no change at all, RFRA has caused an imbalance, and the Fulton case, if decided wrongly, would create a great imbalance in freedoms.    

Those arguing for religion to be supreme were Stephanie Barclay — now a professor at Notre Dame law school but previously with Beckett Fund — and Douglas Laycock at U of TX law school, who argued the ministerial exemption cases. Barclay thought government should have to explain why their regulations should be able to “burden” religion because religion stands in a “preferred position.” In her mind, we should look only at the alleged harm to religious people, not to all people. That attitude is counter to every principle of our founding documents and the evolution of our Constitution.

Laycock thought the court has been wrong on the cross and prayers cases, but is right on the money cases because handing out money is a neutral general rule and withholding money punishes religion. He also claims that the decisions regarding church closures during COVID should not focus on how bad the health crisis is or the impact on the pandemic, but on how religion has been burdened. This argument suggests that the public health of the entire country — indeed the world — is less important than the ability of a few to meet in large crowds.

This is no religion I grew up with.

No Restrictions on Religion… At All

Richard Katskee from Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out that the two clauses, Establishment and Free Exercise, should not be at odds, but should be in harmony. He argued that churches already get lots of special privileges from the government, and that no one has the right to get government money (or any money) and then refuse to do the job they were hired to do.

But the Christian Nationalists are arguing that there can be no restrictions on religions at all, which is clearly wrong. This would give them a “favored” place, as everything else is and can be regulated.  These same Christian Nationalists certainly believe women’s bodies can be regulated.

Ira Lupu from George Washington University Law School argued that Smith was not a sea change at all and was not based on a religious exemption, but on “good cause” for an unemployment benefits decision. He claimed it was the Warren Court that expanded not only criminal and civil rights, but religious rights, as well. The attempts today to overturn Smith are an expansion of religious rights, especially Burwell v. Hobby Lobby.

The biggest disagreement came when Laycock suggested that religious agencies should just be left to refuse customers/clients based on any reason they like, so long as they refer them elsewhere. Katskee disputed that by saying compare it to race; would we say that religious agencies can refuse service by saying “we don’t serve your kind here,” go elsewhere?

In some situations, other options don’t exist; in Madonna v. US District CT SC, the evangelical placement agency that refused Catholics was the only one in the region. Many Catholic hospitals are the only medical care available for women for miles around, and when they refuse reproductive care, they put women’s lives at risk.

Laycock retorted that race is different because we had a civil war and 150 years of civil rights struggle. Is that his suggestion on how to resolve things — have a civil war?  He might get his wish.   

As Katskee pointed out, the question is not should religious groups be prohibited from government money because of religion; the question is should religious groups be able to get government money and refuse to complete the job they were hired to do. The framing of the question often dictates the answer.

We are in for a rough road. We need to outsmart and out-organize the opposition. We need all of you to help.

Dianne Post

10/19/20

   

The Decline of the Establishment Clause?

The Decline of the Establishment Clause?

Dianne Post, Secular AZ Legal Director

The ABA sponsored a 90-minute seminar on October 8 on the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment. Marc Stern, general counsel of the American Jewish Committee, moderated the presentation.  He began by outlining the two strands of Establishment Clause jurisprudence: a strict prohibition against aiding religion versus accommodation to religion.

The first speaker was Thomas C. Berg, a professor of law and public policy at the University of St. Thomas in Chicago. He said the Establishment Clause is declining in both a good and bad way.  The good way, as he believes, is that government money can now go to religious operations. Repeatedly he trumpeted the Espinoza v. Montana mandatory school funding decision as allowing impoverished parents to choose which schools to send their children to. That is a complete red herring, as most students in private and religious schools come from well-off families, not the poor, and “school choice” is code for school discrimination as the South developed it after Brown v. Board of Education mandated integration.

To Enforce the Establishment Clause is Not Discrimination

What listeners in the chat pointed out is that the religious want “religious choice” to pick a religious school with taxpayers paying for it, but they don’t want women to have “religious choice” to use contraception, or have an abortion and have the government or even insurance pay for it.

The bad way was an increase in allowing the government itself to pray and display religious symbols as in the Town of Greece v. Galloway city council invocation case and Bladensberg cross case. That was about the extent of our agreement.

I understand they don’t want to pay for my abortion; I don’t want to pay for your child to go to religious school either.  They don’t want to pay taxes, but they want tax money. They want to be able to discriminate, but they don’t want to be discriminated against.  They want to have their cake and eat it too.

Steven Green, professor of law and director of the Center for Religion at Willamette University in Oregon, was the next speaker.  He noted that this struggle has been going on since the Great Society began giving money to private groups to engage in government welfare programs.  The trend has accelerated. Green argued that we can accommodate religion, but when it is a zero sum game and a burden is transferred to another person, that we cannot do (e.g. the Hobby Lobby case was wrongly decided as  “religious personhood” of a business is a complete farce and the “burden” was transferred to someone else, the women employees locked out of health care).

Green said the Establishment Clause has been turned on its head, especially in Espinoza; i.e. the original intent — that government should not fund religious activity — has come to mean that government cannot discriminate against religious activity in funding. But to enforce the Establishment Clause is not discrimination.Religions get benefits that others don’t, such as:

  • paying no tax
  • filing no donation/income documents
  • getting breaks on zoning, parking, drinking, dietary practices, running businesses, and other regulations

They want to continue to get all those benefits that other non-profits don’t, and get the money too.

Green also argued that the expression clause has also been eroded in the last 10 years. He pointed out that we cannot look at a frozen point in time 240 years ago and identify all the history impacting the actions nor understand the motivations. Also, we have to allow for changes in attitudes and perceptions. 

Disestablishment (states having a state religion) disappeared in 12 years.  That was a total change in attitude. At the time of the First Amendment, over 90% of Americans were Protestants. Now less than 50% are. We cannot cherry-pick certain speeches or laws and use those as an analogy. No social impetus has driven the court to support religion. Usually social trends lead the court; in this case, the court is trying to create a trend to take us backward to some previous time.

Holly Hollman, general counsel and associate executive director of the Baptist Joint Committee, spoke next.  She was clear that their history is one of supporting separation of church and state. Our country is envied for its tolerance and lack of discord over religion. These religious decisions are destroying that balance.  They believe that keeping government and religion separate benefits religion; it is not hostile to it. Separation avoids government financial entanglement, which was the main purpose. We have gone from no funding of churches to mandatory funding of churches in the Trinity Lutheran case.  Hollman argues that this trend is harming churches by decreasing their independence, by encouraging attacks on churches for the special treatment they now get (why should churches be exempt from taxes when they get tax money etc.), and discourages fairness to all religions, which leads to intolerance and the weakening of religious freedom for everyone.

Asma Uddin, from the Religious Freedom Center at UCLA, was the last speaker.  She claimed that the main purpose of the Establishment Clause was to expand volunteerism, a point Green completely disagreed with.  She claims that the court in Espinoza simply expanded religious choice (with no consideration for those who chose no religion). Uddin reiterated the holdings of a bunch of cases, read some list written by a professor, and repeated slogans like “leave religion alone” and “religious choice,” but really had not much to add to the discussion.

When You are Used to Being Dominant, Fairness Feels like Oppression

Marc Stern remarked that society is becoming less religious by the decade, and asked how does this or should this influence the court. Green pointed out that the court is seeking to return to an earlier place because white Protestants are concerned about losing their privileged status in society.  They realize they are being deposed from their positions and so they feel attacked. When a group has been in control and held power and then equality is imposed, that group feels they are being treated unfairly.

Studies have been done in school where teachers called on boys disproportionately.  The teachers didn’t believe it until they watched the video tapes.  They thought they were calling on girls equally – they weren’t.  So they started calling on girls equally. The boys complained that they were not being treated fairly. When you are used to being dominant, fairness feels like oppression.

Green pointed out an extremely interesting contradiction: In the Lady of Guadalupe case, the church argued that teachers in the school, even if teaching math, were in fact part of the religious education of the school, because everything the school does is for the purpose of religious teaching. Thus the teachers came under the ministerial exemption and could be fired at will by the church.

But on the other hand, in Espinoza the school argued that they were discriminated against not based on what they did (religious teaching) but what they were (a religious school).They claimed this was “status discrimination” against them, not based on what the school did i.e. religious teaching.

These two positions are completely at odds. If you can’t discriminate against a religious school because it’s a status discrimination and what they actually do (teach religion) is not important, then how can the teachers in Lady of Guadalupe school be so integral to the religious teaching because that is the sole purpose of the school that they don’t come under Title VII, but the ministerial exemption to be fired at will by the church? Is the purpose of a religious school education (as they argued in Espinoza) or religion (as they argued in Lady of Guadalupe)? Again, they want to have their cake and eat it too.

The Secular Coalition has prepared a 37-page report outlining all of the 208 religious exemptions, special privileges, and harmful provisions in the Arizona state law from religious favoritism.  We hope to work with you and state legislators in a new legislature in 2021 to remove these attacks on our religious liberty.

Dianne Post

10/9/2020

Christians Only: Nonbelievers Need Not Apply?

The AZ Legislature has a long history of discrimination against atheist legislators, who have been repeatedly hazed, harassed, and belittled for opening legislative sessions with secular invocations.

It happened again this week, at our annual Secular Day at the Capitol. Senate President Karen Fann’s Office confirmed that Sen Juan Mendez would give the opening invocation that day, in order to represent the growing number of Arizonans who don’t believe in God. She broke her word and gave the invocation to Senator Mesnard, who gave a (conveniently ready-to-go) Christian prayer.

This action symbolically slapped Sen Mendez and AZ atheists, dozens of whom were in the gallery that day, in the face.

We’re tired of this disrespect toward nonbelieving Arizonans. We’re also tired of the controversy that surrounds public prayer and the petty theatrics it seems to attract.

Arizona can do better.

We’re calling upon Senate President Fann to stop the religious bigotry and end invocations in the Arizona Senate.

Please sign our petition to end invocations in the AZ Senate.

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Tell Senate President Karen Fann: Stop Religious Discrimination at the AZ Capitol

 

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Click here to sign this petition.

AZ Supreme Court Upholds Bigotry in the Name of Religious Freedom

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Secular government supporters decry Supreme Court decision upholding religious discrimination against LGBTQ customers

(Wed., Sept 17, 2019) Phoenix, Ariz. — The Arizona Supreme Court decided 4-3 yesterday that business owners who cite a conflict of religious belief can be permitted to refuse to serve certain customers. Specifically, the case ruled that the city of Phoenix could not enforce an ordinance which prohibits discrimination in providing products or services at places of public accommodation based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability.

The court ruled in favor of two self-described Christian artists at Brush and Nib Studio, saying the City cannot force them to create custom wedding invitations for same-sex couples. The women argued that the ordinance violates their First Amendment and Arizona constitutional rights to religion and free speech. 

The women were represented by Scottsdale-based Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), a legal group which challenges similar laws nationwide, and which is identified as an anti-LGBTQ hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Per attorney and Secular Coalition for Arizona board member Dianne Post: “As the court said in Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers, it’s not about cakes or flowers—or in this case, invitations— any more than the sit-ins in the south in the 1960s were about sandwiches and soda. This is about equality and fairness. Movements toward theocracy betray American values and the Constitution.

“How do we know a person is actually motivated by a sincere religious belief rather than ignorance or bigotry? What’s really happening here is an effort to give special privileges to a narrow segment of Christians while stigmatizing other groups and refusing them the constitutional protection of the 14th Amendment— that all citizens shall not be denied equal rights under the law. This is clearly a political decision based on Christian nationalism, accomplished by the court-packing plan of Governor Ducey. Rather than engage the issue, the court has chosen to see, hear, and speak no evil in the face of evil standing in front of them.”

Legal experts have anticipated a challenge like this returning to the U.S. Supreme Court since the ADF represented a Colorado baker facing penalty under that state’s anti-discrimination law in 2018.

We Did It!! Bill Funneling Taxpayer $ to Fake “Women’s Health Clinics” Defeated

GOOD NEWS! Late night, the AZ Senate voted down a terrible bill that would have funneled taxpayer money into fake “women’s health” clinics that were, in reality, fronts for pro-life groups that seek to thwart access to safe, legal abortion.

 

HB 2759 got just 15 votes, one short of what’s needed -thanks in large part to secular supporters like you who raised their voices loudly in opposition to this bill.

As Secular AZ’s Tory Roberg says, “We are strong, but we are mighty!”

We want to thank those who spoke out, attended the rally at the State Capitol, and contacted their lawmakers to voice their opposition to this clear violation of separation of church and state.

Secular AZ took your voices to the House and Senate, where Tory stood up and testified in front of both appropriations committees. Secular AZ was alone in providing public testimony… and these efforts made the difference!

But this is just one of many such battles. Did you know that Secular AZ is the only group with a paid lobbyist, full legal team, and active board of volunteers that fight tirelessly for separation of church and state at the Capitol?

We don’t receive funding from any national groups. Instead, we rely solely on the generosity of Arizonans like you who understand the value of this work.

When the lines between church and state blur, we see attempts to:
  • limit access to reproductive health care
  • restrict women’s right to choose
  • install policies that discriminate against LGTBQ individuals
  • pass bills that harm sound science and medicine
  • decrease funding for public schools

With more than 4,000 supporters around the state, we amplify the voice of reason at the Arizona State Capitol as we fight for secular public policies that benefit allArizonans.

Help us keep fighting! Now, more than ever, we need your support. Please donate today to help keep religious influence out of Arizona’s public policy.

TAKE ACTION NOW Against Bills That Funnel Taxpayer $ to Anti-Choice Fake Health Centers

Mirror bills HB2759 and S1547  just passed committee and will likely be heard on the floor this evening. We need your voice to stop them on the floor.
Please contact your own legislators as well as targeted Republicans Rep. Steve Pierce (LD-1) [602-926-5584 | spierce@azleg.gov] and Sen. Kate Brophy McGee (LD-28) [602-926-4486 | kbrophymcgee@azleg.gov] before the bill is heard on the floor this evening.
You may use Phone2Action here or call your lawmakers directly.
What are these bills? They appropriate $2.5M for three years (total $7.5M) to anti-abortion organizations providing services to pregnant women and women with young children. Read for yourself: apps.azleg.gov/BillStatus/GetDocumentPdf/471431
We oppose the bills on these grounds:
  • They give away $7.5 million in taxpayer funds to unlicensed fake pregnancy centers— faux healthcare facilities designed only to convince women not to have abortions, often with misleading or inaccurate information.
  • The bills are only a few paragraphs long. They do not require the state to provide any oversight of how the money it is being spent, or how effective the programs are (even in stopping abortions).
  • The bills do not require the facilities to be licensed. (Most fake pregnancy centers are not.)
  • Similar programs have already proven extremely wasteful and ineffective, even from a pro-life standpoint. A similar Texas program providing millions to an anti-abortion organization known a Heidi Group was shut down last year and faces investigation into questionable billing after the group only served 5% of the number of women it promised.

Please make sure to indicate in your message any areas of expertise you may have. Keep in mind lawmakers are already familiar with anti-abortion rhetoric; our most effective messages this time will be about the bills’ extreme fiscal irresponsibility.

10 Ways Fake Women’s Health Centers Cause Harm:

  1. LYING ABOUT MEDICAL FACTS: Fake women’s health centers give women false, incomplete, or inaccurate medical information, including claiming that abortions pose health risks such as infertility, breast cancer, and birth defects in future pregnancies. As the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has repeatedly stated, there is no evidence whatsoever to support these medically inaccurate and deliberately misleading claims.
  2. SETTING UP SHOP NEAR REAL HEALTH CARE FACILITIES: Many fake women’s health centers set-up near comprehensive clinics that offer abortions, and choose similar names for themselves to confuse women and their families.
  3. PUSHING WOMEN PAST IMPORTANT DEADLINES: Decisions about a pregnancy are time-sensitive. Fake women’s health centers postpone appointments or give women inaccurate due dates, hoping to push people past the legal limit for abortion. They also tell women that they may not even need an abortion because 1 in 4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage, suggesting they wait it out.
  4. DECEPTIVE INTERIORS: After fake women’s health centers have successfully lured pregnant women to their facilities, they disguise their interiors to further deceive women that they will receive comprehensive care. Anti-choice leader Johnson also advised centers: “that waiting rooms should feel like ‘professional environments’ instead of ‘grandma’s house,’ and discouraged crucifixes, fake flowers, and mauve paint before showing slides of Planned Parenthood waiting rooms and encouraging staff to make their centers look just as ‘beautiful and up-to-date,’ especially if they have a ‘medical model,’ meaning they offer sonograms and other medical services. Johnson also said pregnancy center staff should mirror Planned Parenthood’s language.”
  5. DECEPTIVE WEBSITES: ​Fake women’s health centers use deceptive websites to trick women into believing they are comprehensive health care clinics, and particularly target
    women seeking out abortion services. Lauren Chenoweth, a former media specialist at Heartbeat International said, “[Women are] going to Google ‘abortion,’ or they’re going to Google ‘abortion services’ or ‘pregnancy help,’ and that’s why we want to focus on our websites…We want to be strategic in getting them to our centers​.”
  6. DECEPTIVE ADVERTISING: Fake women’s health centers use aggressive advertising tricks including geo-targeting and search optimization to lure women into their clinics. Anti-choice movement leader, Abby Johnson, said at a training for fake women’s health centers: “Women seeking abortions, women that are pregnant, that are vulnerable, they are going into Google and they are typing ‘pregnancy symptoms.’ There’s a way in Google where you can basically set that search to your website… We want to look professional… business-like. And, yeah, we do kind of want to look medical. The best client you ever get is one that thinks they’re walking into an abortion clinic.”
  7. HIDING AVAILABLE SERVICES: Even when directly asked, fake women’s health centers do not disclose that they do not offer abortion services. Instead, fake women’s health centers staff are trained to deflect the question. Some fake women’s health centers even market pre-abortion appointments, offering free ultrasounds to draw people to their clinics. However, in many states the pre-abortion ultrasound must take place at the abortion provider. Many also advertise that they provide “abortion counseling,” leading women to believe that they may be an abortion provider or refer women for abortion care.
  8. UNNECESSARY AND INVASIVE ULTRASOUNDS: Even the “licensed” fake women’s health centers provide minimal medical care – just pregnancy tests and invasive ultrasounds that are used to manipulate women by showing the fetus or detecting a heartbeat. Though the FDA warns that there are risks associated with ultrasounds and they should only be performed for medical purposes, fake women’s health centers ignore those risks and commonly subject women to unnecessary or duplicative ultrasounds, just for show. Some fake women’s health centers consider higher-energy Doppler or trans-vaginal ultrasounds — which provide audio or clearer imaging — their “Hail Mary” tool, even though these procedures are not routinely done by real doctors except when medically necessary. During the ultrasound, fake women’s health centers misrepresent how far along a pregnancy is as a way to mislead the patient on their options. The farther along you are the harder it is to get an abortion.
  9. SHIRK MEDICAL LIABILITY: Fake women’s health center clinics specifically avoid taking responsibility for women’s health outcomes after their initial appointments. In fact, fake women’s health centers are careful not to set up a formal “patient-physician relationship” in order to avoid liability. Heartbeat International, one of the largest Fake Women’s Health Center networks, advises its affiliates to avoid giving women the “expectation of continued services” and “clearly state that no follow-up care will be provided, and that the patient-physician relationship is terminated.” Other fake women’s health centers have required women to sign waivers that release them from any responsibility to provide accurate medical diagnoses.
  10. FOLLOW-UP HARASSMENT: After deceiving and scaring women and their families, some fake women’s health centers make women promise to not get an abortion. And, fake women’s health centers have been known to harass women who express an interest in abortion. “The woman from the [Fake Women’s Health Center] began calling her almost daily and telling her aggressively that she would die, or end up in hell, or get very sick, if she were to go through with the abortion. This woman would hide under the guise of ‘checking up on her.’”

Secular AZ Responds to Camp Verde H.S. Bible Instruction

Please read Secular AZ’s letter to the Camp Verde Unified School District re: proposed bible instruction at Camp Verde High School.

It is well-settled that public schools may not advance or promote religion; the government must not encroach on personal religious freedom, which necessarily includes both the right to choose a religion or no religion at all. The Supreme Court has held that “the preservation and transmission of religious beliefs and worship is a responsibility and a choice committed to the private sphere.”  Further, school involvement in religious activity remains illegal even though the students’ attendance is “voluntary.”

(tl/dr: Allowing access to schoolchildren during school hours to proselytize and recruit for religious activities is a violation of the Establishment Clause)

Secular AZ’s letter to the Camp Verde Unified School District

YOU DID IT! AZ Science Standards to be Based on Actual Science

Diane Douglas' standards rejectedGive yourselves a hand, Secular Supporters! You spoke out en masse, and your voices were heard. 

Thanks in large parts to your activism, the AZ Board of Education voted 6-4 to adopt science standards that recognize evolution and climate change, rejecting Superintendent Diane Douglas’ suggested standards that privileged religious belief over fact-based information. 

In the words of our Board Chair, Zenaido Quintana: “We’ve been very concerned about Diane Douglas’ efforts to push her religious views on more than a million kids in Arizona’s public schools. Our students deserve to be taught science in their science classes, and to be free from religious indoctrination at school. The State Board of Education made the right decision in adopting science standards approved by highly-qualified science teachers. We appreciate that the Board listened to the voices of science experts and secular allies in making their decision. We are grateful our community was heard.”

Nice job! We’re so glad that Arizona students will receive a science education based on facts, not dogma.

Read more: Phoenix New Times; AZ Central

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