Frequently, I talk about social support for the Arizona Freethinking Community but we also need political advocacy. Last Sunday, Tory Anderson and Matt Schoenley from the Secular Coalition for Arizona gave a talk about their successes and challenges with the Arizona State Legislature to a small crowd gathered at the University of Arizona Medical Center in the DuVal Auditorium. She was there at the request of FreeThought Arizona. The SC4AZ (Secular Coalition for Arizona) is a 501c4 non-profit organization which means that they can legally lobby and promote candidates. At the meeting they passed out a “scorecard” that summarized the voting record of our current legislators and scored them on their performance in regards to secular policy decisions. Many of the legislators are religious but still vote in favor of secular public policies. However, there are many that do not and would impose laws on the general population based on their religious beliefs. Some would go as far as voting for blatantly discriminatory policies such as were contained in HB2153/SB1062. Both the State House and the State Senate passed these discriminatory bills but several of the legislators rethought their position and urged the governor to veto. Also, the fact that it could have cost Arizona another Super Bowl must have been a motivating factor causing the Governor to veto the bill.
The success of getting the Governor to veto the discriminatory HB2153/SB1062 bill is admittedly a shared success. Several organizations weighed in and pushed for the veto including the Business Community and the LGBT Community, among others. However, the defeat of HB2281, which would have saddled tax payers with $2.1M of more property taxes, belongs solely to SC4AZ. They went alone against the bill that CAP wrote and supported.
There were other wins and some disappointments highlighted in Tory’s presentation. The overall message is that the SC4AZ is making a difference and CAP (Center for Arizona Policy) has taken notice. CAP’s power has been successfully challenged on numerous occasions and the result is that they no longer operate with the same impunity that they did when they killed the anti-bullying bill in 2012. More importantly, legislators have begun seeking help and advice from SC4AZ for proposed bills.
The idea of a coalition that acts on behalf of the Arizona FreeThinking community is a great one. Here in Tucson, we can concentrate on supporting the social support needs of our community comfortable in the knowledge that the SC4AZ is fighting for rational secular public policy in the state legislature. FreeThought Arizona and Tucson Atheists are local members.
SC4AZ is the first state chapter to be spun out of the SCA (Secular Coalition for America) located in Washington D.C. and often used as an example for other states to follow. You can find their webpage at www.secular.org. There you can download the 2014 Legislature Scorecard. You can also find a link that will help you find out who represents you in the Arizona Legislature. This information may be useful during the next election if you are interested in promoting rational secular public policy in Arizona.