Arizona’s religion and politics dust ups are occasionally reported in the U.S. national news. Recently, the spotlight fell on our governor, Jan Brewer, when she was faced with signing the very controversial SB 1062. The bill had recently passed the state senate and its idealistically similar house version HB 2153 had passed. It was set to become law. The governor had five days to decide. She decided to veto it.
The Center for Arizona Policy (CAP) strongly supported the bill. CAP is a highly effective group of lobbyists pushing their “values” agenda through the Arizona legislature since 1995. They claim they are responsible for getting 123 bills signed into law since their inception and 60 in the last five years alone. Now they are being challenged. An opposing group the Secular Coalition for Arizona (SC4AZ) is standing up to the CAP to maintain what’s left of church/state separation here in Arizona.
The Secular Coalition for Arizona is a fairly young organization. Its mission is to represent non-theist organization operating within the state. SC4AC works directly with the legislature and is mainly a lobbying organization, like CAP. Unlike CAP, SC4AZ is correctly classified as a non-profit, 501c4 organization. That means donations made to SC4AZ are not tax deductible. Fifteen individual organizations make up the coalition. SC4AZ also works with other groups outside the coalition such as Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.
The Center for Arizona Policy has occasionally received negative news coverage. For example, a complaint was made that they were violating the IRS regulations on non-profits. Also, in 2012 an article blamed CAP, “A Homophobic Group,” for killing an anti-bullying law. After the governor vetoed SB 1062, articles appeared that exposed their incredible political power. But these minor setbacks are not doing enough to stop the evangelical Christian organization. Therefore, it’s up to us to support the Secular Coalition for Arizona and its component organizations. Let’s keep up the pressure. We must thwart CAP’s religious policy assault.
One veto shouldn’t lull us into complacency. There are plenty of other battles yet to fight. CAP is behind other potentially harmful bills. We’re concerned about HB 2481 which defines state employees able to perform marriages as ministers able to discriminate based on “deeply held religious belief.”
Perhaps, if we win a few more, we can take the battle to them and reverse some of their recent gains. There is one issue, above all others that non-theists hold in high regard—the separation of the church and state. Religious people may be treated special by their god after they die, but here on earth, in this country, in this state they should hold no special privilege to tell others what to believe or how to live their lives. If your “deeply held religious belief” says you have a right to tell me what to do…So what? My deeply held belief says, “Mind your own business!” If you don’t like gay people, don’t date them. If you don’t feel abortions are right, don’t have one. If you serve the public with your business, follow the rules of the society and treat people equally or get out of that business. Church rules apply only to church members. Seems simple enough.