Unfortunately, at this point, some leaders continue to advise their constituents to continue in their normal course of life. This will put many more people at risk and will have disastrous consequences, as clearly illustrated by the following articles:
- The Math Behind Why We Need Social Distancing, Starting Right Now
- How Much Worse the Coronavirus Could Get, in Interactive Charts
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.
Tell Senate President Karen Fann: Stop Religious Discrimination at the AZ Capitol
Whereas: All Arizonans have the constitutional right to a secular government and equal protection of the law regardless of their faith or lack thereof, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article 2, Section 12 of the Arizona State Constitution. And,
Whereas: The Arizona Legislature has a long history of discrimination against atheist legislators, including Senator Juan Mendez, who has been repeatedly hazed, harassed, and belittled for opening legislative sessions with secular prayers. And,
Whereas: Karen Fann’s Office confirmed that Senator Mendez would give the opening invocation on the Secular Day at the Capitol in order to represent the growing number of Arizonans who don’t believe in God. Then,
Whereas: Karen Fann broke her word and gave the invocation to Senator Mesnard, who previously in his capacity as Speaker of the House ruled atheist Representative Athena Salman out of order for her secular invocation. And,
Whereas: This action symbolically slapped Senator Mendez and atheists across the state, dozens of whom were in the gallery, in the face.
Therefore: I urge you to join the Secular Coalition for Arizona in signing our Demand Letter to Senate President Karen Fann to stop the religious bigotry and end invocations in the Arizona Senate.
Office of Senate President Karen Fann
1700 W Washington Street – Senate
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Dear President Fann,
I am reaching out on behalf of the Secular Coalition for Arizona in support of my Senator, the honorable Juan Mendez, and his application, submitted weeks in advance, to give the opening invocation on February 24, 2020. This date was not chosen casually, nor was the request, made repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the day, a random exercise of Senator Mendez’ right to open the Senate with an invocation. Monday, February 24th was the Secular Coalition for Arizona’s seventh annual Secular Day at the Capitol, in which nonbelieving and interfaith constituents traveled from across the state and from as far away as Kingman to hear the Senator’s invocation.
You can imagine our surprise when, in spite of being on the schedule, Senator Mendez was snubbed at the last moment and the invocation was instead explicitly Christian. If this is, in fact, just a scheduling mistake, then the failure speaks volumes about the Senate President’s priorities, competence, and ability to represent the diverse people and beliefs of Arizona.
If it was not an accident, then we are due for a very different conversation.
The long pattern of discrimination, hazing, and outright exclusion of voices outside the Christian faith speaks to the Legislature’s systemic discrimination against nonbelieving members. The very Senator called upon, and obviously prepared in advance, to give an explicitly Christian prayer instead of Senator Mendez, is the same former Representative who ruled Representative Salman out of order for giving a secular invocation three years before.
State-sponsored prayer inherently leads to polarizing debate. It inherently makes public servants the arbiters of whose faith is represented and whose is ignored. As long as the Senate opens with prayer, the least we can ask is that all perspectives be given a voice. The Constitution, in fact, requires that a government body opening with prayer must include all perspectives and cannot require a reference to a higher power. Town of Greece v. Galloway, 572 U.S. 565 (2014). When public bodies open with prayer, they cannot discriminate based on the views of the person praying. Williamson v. Brevard County, No. 17-15769 (11th Cir. 2019).
February 24 was the the Secular Day at the Capitol, with or without your support. Hundreds of Humanists, atheists, and interfaith allies gathered on the Capitol grounds to speak to our legislators. We support our Constitution and its guarantee of a wall of separation between religion and government. We organize at the local level and maintain dialogue with our legislators throughout the session. You missed your opportunity, Senator, to give Arizona’s growing secular voting bloc the pretense of representation. Now, you have the chance to make it right with meaningful change.
On behalf of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, I must implore you to stop this polarizing circus of invocation discrimination and end invocations at the Arizona State Senate.
Luke Douglas, Esq.
Secular Communities for Arizona
Executive Director and General Counsel
Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix
627 W. Rio Salado Parkway
Mesa, AZ 85201
Hey Tucson! Join Freethought Arizona and Secular AZ on Saturday, February 22, at the Murphy-Wilmot Library, for a presentation with David Tamayo, founder of Hispanic American Freethinkers, the first and only national Latinx 501(c)(3) educational organization of its kind.
– This free event starts at 2pm
– 530 N Wilmot Road, Tucson
Tamayo will present “Artificial Intelligence, Secular Humanism, and Other Scary Thoughts.” This talk will touch on topics located at the intersection of secular humanism, philosophy, consciousness, science, and free will.
SUNDAY SPEAKER DAVID TAMAYO: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE, SECULAR HUMANISM, AND OTHER SCARY THOUGHTS
David Tamayo is president and founder of Hispanic American Freethinkers, (HAFree) which is the first and only national Latino non-profit educational organization of its kind. He is also Chief Information Officer for a large aerospace engineering firm in D.C. David is the organizer of the HAFree High School Outreach Mentor Program to Latino and immigrant students teaching Critical Thinking Skills and Career Planning.
David sponsors and assists 10 cybersecurity teams at Langley High School competing in the U.S Air Force National CyberPatriot Competition. He is Vice President and founder of the Hispanic Business and Technology Council, a non-profit that educates young Hispanics to become IT leaders.
The meeting is free and open to the public. Doors open at 9:00 am for socializing with an optional Continental breakfast available for a $5 donation. The meeting begins at 10:00 am.
For more info, visit the HSGP website.
MESA, AZ 85201-4009
Secular Day at Capitol Map and Short Agenda Final
Calling ALL who support separation of church and state to join us on February 24, 2020, for our 7th Annual Secular Day at the Capitol. Here’s what you can expect:
– Learn about current threats to secular government
– Advocacy training
– Meetings with your lawmakers
– Group introductions from the House and Senate
– SPECIAL GUEST SPEAKER: DAVID TAMAYO, Founder and President of Hispanic Freethinkers
– Lunch & shirt included!
Registration closes February 17, 2020, so don’t delay!
Join our friends at the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix on Sunday, December 8, for Sunday Speaker Mandisa Thomas: “How Religion Has Crippled the Black Community.”
While the Black community in the United States makes up approximately 12 percent of the population, 79 percent still identify as religious, which makes the subject of atheism challenging, and open identification very stigmatizing.
Mandisa Thomas will discuss the institutional reasons for the high religiosity in the Black community, how her organization Black Nonbelievers is building community and increasing visibility for those who need support, and how the secular community can improve on its understanding and help for people of color in the movement.
Black Nonbelievers’ merchandise will be available for purchase at the meeting.
Doors open at 9:00 am for optional buffet breakfast ($5 donation) and socializing. Presentation begins at 10:00 am.
This members-only event is a day of secular networking, education, advocacy and action, including updates from our legal team and our Director of Government Affairs. (Not a member yet? Become one today!)
Our keynote speaker this year is Mandisa Thomas, founder of Black Nonbelievers. More speakers to be announced!
Tickets are just $15, lunch included. Become a host, super host, or event sponsor and help support the fight to keep Arizona secular!
See you at the Summit!
Seth Andrews and Matt Dillahunty team up for a one-night event hosted by the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix.
Join us for a fun evening of conversation and plenty of interaction with Seth and Matt, with the option of a VIP Dinner with Matt and Seth before the show!
HSGP is inviting secular-friendly organizations to set up tables for networking in the reception area all evening, where Seth and Matt will be tabling and signing books as well.
You have the opportunity to buy a ticket for Seth and Matt fans who otherwise wouldn’t be able to attend. Sponsor some tickets and we will make sure they get to the people who want them.
Cash Bars in the Reception/Networking Area.
THIS IS A TICKETED EVENT.
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.
Join us in Phoenix/Tempe or Tucson (or both!) for our annual Happy Hours with the Secular Stars
Enjoy drinks and appetizers as you learn about Secular AZ’s successes, meet our Secular Star lawmakers, and mingle with other Arizonans who want church and state to remain separate.
Come support the fight against religious influence in our state’s public policy. Please purchase tickets by September 15. See you at Happy Hour!
Tucson Happy Hour
When: Tuesday, September 24 from 5-7pm
Where: Dante’s Fire 2526 E Grant Road, Tucson
Phoenix Happy Hour
When: Thursday, September 26 from 5-7pm
Where: Boulders on Broadway 530 W. Broadway, Tempe
How? Simply eat at Blaze Pizza on Thursday, August 29th between 4 and 8 pm!
Show the flyer (below) when you pay (you can pull it up on your phone or print it), and Blaze will donate 20% of the bill to Secular AZ. It’s a great way to support separation of church and state in AZ while enjoying yummy pizza, salads and drinks.
Visit either of these two Blaze locations to participate: