Secular Coalition for Arizona – www.secularaz.org
Contact: Tory Roberg, Director of Government Affairs – firstname.lastname@example.org – 623-570-6396
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Extreme legal immunity for religious groups decried by community organizations
(Mon., Mar. 8, 2021) Phoenix, Ariz. — Faith communities, civil liberties organizations, and other community groups today released a joint statement raising the alarm about an Arizona bill that would provide unprecedented legal immunity for religious organizations that violate nearly any criminal or civil law at any time. The statement reads:
As community leaders and advocates committed to the safety of our communities, we are deeply concerned about the incredible danger posed by HB 2648. This bill is disguised as religious liberty legislation protecting the right to worship during public emergencies, yet whether intentionally or unintentionally, the bill as written would give religious organizations immunity from all criminal and civil liability for any behavior connected to that organization’s religious exercise. This means religious schools and organizations could avoid liability for child abuse; religious hospitals could avoid accountability for refusal of services; employees of religious schools and hospitals could lose the right to sue for harassment, discrimination, or criminal behavior; a house of worship could disregard fire codes; religious daycares could refuse to comply with child-protection laws. The list of potential abuses and harms is endless.
Religious freedom is indeed an essential right, and as such, it already has strong federal and state protection, even in a time of crisis — including during our current pandemic. The Arizona Religious Freedom Restoration Act provides that the “government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion,” and the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent rulings protect worship services during a time of crisis.
HB 2648 goes far beyond the current law to allow religious organizations to directly endanger members of the public and the members of those organizations themselves. We implore our Arizona State Senators to vote down this dangerous bill that jeopardizes the lives and wellbeing of children and other vulnerable people.
The statement was signed by: National Council of Jewish Women AZ (NCJWAZ); Protecting Arizona’s Family Coalition (PAFCO); American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona (ACLU of Arizona); Secular Coalition for Arizona (Secular AZ); NARAL Pro Choice America; Equality Arizona (EQ AZ); Desert Star Family Planning; Arizona Center for Women’s Advancement (ACWA); Arizona NOW; American Association of University Women Arizona (AAUWAZ); Affinis Humanity; Arizona Jews For Justice (AJJ).
HB 2648 passed the Arizona House on February 23 with a unanimous Republican majority along with Democrats César Chávez; Diego Espinoza; Alma Hernandez; Aaron Lieberman; Jennifer Longdon; Robert Meza; and Amish Shah. The bill passed the Senate Government Committee today [along party lines].
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Secular Coalition for Arizona (Secular AZ) is a nonprofit advocacy organization that works to ensure a secular state government. We lobby on behalf of all individuals who believe that public policy free of religious preference is the best way to ensure freedom of conscience for Arizonans of all faiths and of none. Secular AZ is the local affiliate of the Secular Coalition for America.