Dr. Gilbert D. Shapiro had a guest opinion in the Arizona Daily Star the other day that merits your attention. Is theocracy encroaching on government priorities in Arizona?:
As an organization dedicated to reason, science, free inquiry and respect for basic human rights, the Center for Inquiry of Southern Arizona (CFI-SAZ) is troubled that our governor and primarily Republican state legislators enact into law clearly unscientific, religion-based bills generated by the influential Center for Arizona Policy (CAP).
This Phoenix-based fundamentalist Christian lobbying organization got its start in 1995 with a stated goal to protect and defend "conservative and pro-family views." As detailed on its website (www.azpolicy.org), however, its clear intention is to impose its biblical worldview on all Arizonans.
Indeed, 84 bills (22 in the past two years) advanced by the Center for Arizona Policy have become law. No CAP-opposed bills were passed. It should come as no surprise this was due to overwhelming support from Gov. Jan Brewer and Republican House and Senate legislators.
In 2010, The Arizona Capitol Times, a nonpartisan newspaper covering state politics and government, reported that "insiders" judged CAP and its president Cathi Herrod among the most influential lobbying organizations and lobbyists in Phoenix.
Has theocracy come to Arizona? This possibility should concern believers in other faiths and the estimated 760,000 Arizonans who, according to the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, are nonbelievers.
CFI-SAZ aligns with other national groups such as Americans United for Separation of Church and State, Freedom from Religion Foundation and Secular Coalition for America. We are all fighting to keep religion out of government.
Our focus is to remind elected representatives that they were placed in office not by a particular God or religious organization, but by the pluralistic and multicultural voters of Arizona.
We insist that all legislative decisions on women's reproductive issues, gay rights, adoption, stem-cell research and sex education in schools, among others, be based on reason and science (rational thought).
This stance acknowledges universally accepted facts and evidence which, to date, have provided us with the best understanding of our world. In our view, this approach has been responsible for the greatest advancements in human health and happiness.
By contrast, many Christian fundamentalists claim that fertilized human eggs have souls, homosexuality is a choice, creationism/intelligent design is science-based, abstinence education is effective, euthanasia is murder and the United States was founded on and should be guided by Christian scripture. These are uniquely religious positions. Because these claims are totally unsupported by sound evidence, such positions should be excluded from public policy decision-making.
To be clear, CFI-SAZ respects any religious group's right to lobby lawmakers to support initiatives consistent with their beliefs. Additionally, we do not take the position that policies and bills are necessarily flawed because they emanate from faith-based thinking.
However, when publicly elected officials swear to their God to defend and uphold the secular Constitution of a constituency of many and no faiths, yet demonstrate a non-negotiable commitment to advance their personal beliefs, they have revealed a serious conflict of interest. They should recuse themselves from public office.
If you believe as we do that laws and public policy must be based solely on logic, science and testable evidence, please share that conviction with your state legislators.
The Tucson Weekly has published the Taliban's, er, CAP's legislative agenda for this session. Will Cathi Herrod Ever Apologize?:
I'm going to show you a list of bills CAP is supporting and trying to push through, according to their handy Five Minutes for Families e-mail alert I got this week. But I also want to let you know about a Center for Arizona Policy meet and greet taking place in Tucson on Feb. 11, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at El Parador. You can register here. Wouldn't it be great to get as many people there as possible to meet and greet with Herrod, and let her know we'd like CAP to stay out of our lives and maybe even out of Tucson?
For more on CAP, go here. Herrod's bills:
Taking Back Territory in 2011: Twenty-two bills. That's how many pro-family, CAP-supported laws the Arizona legislature has passed over the past two years. It brings the total number of CAP-supported bills to 84. Now, thanks to the unprecedented 2010 elections that swept in a two-thirds majority of family-friendly legislators in both the Arizona House and Senate, we have a unique opportunity to propose legislation to take back territory for Arizona families in the areas of life, marriage and family, and religious liberty.
That's why we've set forth one of the most ambitious legislative agendas in CAP's history. We've captured the moment and aim to recover territory, once thought lost for good. Here are the bills we'll be supporting this session.
**Bills without numbers have not yet been introduced.
HB 2416/SB 1246: Mother's Health & Safety; Ultrasound Provision - Updates health and safety standards for abortion clinics; provides women with the opportunity to view an ultrasound image before an abortion is performed; bans the use of telemedicine for abortions.
HB 2384/SB 1265: Abortion Funding Prohibitions - Closes loopholes in Arizona law that allow taxpayer dollars to directly or indirectly fund abortions and abortion training.
SCR 1017: Pregnancy Care Centers Resolution - Acknowledges the profound positive impact of Arizona's pregnancy care centers that provide help for those with crisis pregnancies.
SB 1250: Donor-Conceived Medical History Act - Requires infertility clinics to keep the medical history of egg and sperm donors for 99 years in order to provide donor-conceived children with a complete medical history.
SB 1187: Divorce Reform - Improves the parenting education classes required for divorcing parents to include the impact divorce has on adults and children; allows couples to ask for additional time to reconcile before a divorce is finalized.
SB 1188: Adoption; Marital Preference - Gives children in foster care a chance to have a mom and a dad by ensuring that married couples are given primary consideration as adoptive parents.
Educational Opportunities Act - Allows Arizona taxpayers to make additional contributions for scholarships that enable children to attend the schools that their parents believe are best for them; clarifies statutes governing school tuition organizations.
Arizona Empowerment Accounts - Enables parents of students with special needs to select the education and educational services they deem best for their children.
Parents Rights - Prohibits Arizona schools from showing R-rated movies to minors without first receiving written consent from their parents. Provide for recognition of parents' rights in charter schools.
SB 1152: Homeschool Definition - Defines a homeschool as a nonpublic school.
HB 2411: Child Prostitution Sentencing - Strengthens Arizona law to allow harsher punishment for predators who engage in child prostitution.
Affirming Religious Liberty
HB 2565: University Religious Liberty Act - Protects freedom of religion and freedom of speech for university students and university student groups.
Rights of Conscience - Protects professionals from legal persecution for practicing their faith.
Church Political Committee - Safeguards churches from being forced to register as a political committee when they speak out on issues or ballot measures.
Judicial Selection Ballot Measure - Improve Arizona's judicial selection process to allow for more accountability and transparency.
Judicial Retention - Provide more information to voters regarding judges up for retention election.