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

Help us keep fighting for secular public policies! Make a donation to the Secular Coalition today

 

Fighting Against the Unconstitutional Use of Taxpayer Money to Endorse Religion in Fountain Hills

Secular AZ Board member and attorney Dianne Post joined concerned Fountain Hills residents to bring attention to the town’s improper and unconstitutional use of taxpaper money to promote a religious event.

At a June 1 Town Council meeting, FH resident Susan Fallon objected to Mayor Linda Kavanaugh’s proclamation supporting a “National Day of Prayer” event, noting that the Mayor’s endoresement and the town’s use of taxpayer dollars to support the prayer event represent an unconsitutional endorsement of religion.
Constitution
Fallon told the town council that “It is not acceptable for the government to insert itself into the religious arena, thereby excluding the growing number of agnostics, atheists and those who simply hold to no specific religion.”

Post agrees, noting in a letter to the town and the town council that:

“The town has communicated the message that the government endorses prayer and encourages its citizens to engage in it. That is taking sides on a matter of religious belief.

“We request that you take immediate action to rectify past violations and to prevent future violations. The city must withdraw support from the prayer event, issue no more proclamation, and spend no taxpayer dollars on prayer events.”

Read more in the Fountain Hills Times
 

 

Phoenix New Times: Whose Higher Power?

The Phoenix New Times published an article on Republican House members’ overreach after Rep. Athena Salman offered a secular invocation on the House Floor earlier this week. 

As Salman noted, “The Arizona House of Representatives is the people’s house,” she said, her voice cracking. “Opening prayers in the House should represent Arizonans of every faith’s perspective. This includes the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who, like myself, who do not believe in a supernatural god, but do believe in the power of humanity to do good in the world.”

Secular AZ agrees. Read the article in the Phoenix New Times here.

Phoenix New Times

Will you support the Secular Coaliation for Arizona as we fight religious preference in our state government? Please consider becoming a member or donating today
 

Religious Preference in the House: Rep. Salman and Secular AZ in “The Nation”

Secular Coalition for Arizona was featured in The Nation magazine this week. The article — entitled An Arizona Legislator Gave an Invocation that Didn’t Mention God. You Won’t Believe What Happened Next — detailed the controversy that erupted after Representative Athena Salman offered an invocation that didn’t mention a “higher power” on the House floor this week.

Secular AZ is proud to support Rep. Salman’s constitutionally protected right to offer a secular invocation rather than a religiously based prayer. As our Board Chair, Zenaido Quintana, noted at yesterday’s Standing for Our First Freedom interfaith event, “By requiring these ‘prayers’ to recognize a ‘higher power,’ the House rules silence secular lawmakers and prejudicially deny them a platform to speak that is available to their religious colleagues.”

Read the article in The Nation here:

The Nation Secular AZ article

Will you stand with us as we support the separation of church and state in Arizona’s government? Please become a member of Secular AZ or donate today to help us continue to fight.