How One Right-Wing Christian Group Is Leading Arizona's March Toward Conservative Extremism

How One Right-Wing Christian Group Is Leading Arizona's March Toward Conservative Extremism

On Thursday, a day after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer (R) vetoed the state's highly-criticized SB 1062 -- a measure that would have allowed business owners to reject services to any individual on religious grounds, which was widely seen as discriminatory toward the LGBT community -- the state House passed another controversial measure: the "Women's Health Protection Act," or HB 2884.

Both HB 2884, a bill seeking to permit surprise inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant, and the failed SB 1062 are backed and co-drafted by the Center for Arizona Policy, a conservative Christian advocacy organization. A similar piece of "religious freedom" legislation pushed by CAP in 2011 was also vetoed by Brewer.

Since the group's 1995 establishment, 123 CAP-supported measures have been signed into law, including the state's 2008 constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. That effort was spearheaded by the group's president, Cathi Herrod. Twenty-nine bills backed by CAP have been vetoed by various Arizona governors after being passed by the state legislature.

Despite the national outcry and bipartisan opposition to the group's most recent legislative affront on LGBT rights, a number of CAP's controversial bills continue to make their way through the Republican-controlled Arizona legislature.

Here are four of them:

HB 2565: Criminalizing assisted suicide
Passed the House, referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Although Arizona already has a law banning assisted suicide, HB 2565 seeks to expand the definition of manslaughter to include "offering or providing the physical means that another person uses to commit suicide, with the knowledge" that the individual intends to end his or her life.

HB 2284: "Women's Health Protection Act"
Passed the House, headed to the Senate.

House Bill 2284 would allow unannounced government inspections of abortion clinics without a warrant. The legislation also seeks to make it a class 1 misdemeanor to help "a minor avoid Arizona's parental consent requirements" to obtain an abortion. Furthermore, the bill would require abortion clinics to submit an extensive report of each abortion performed at the facility, including "what steps are taken to save that child's life."

SB 1048: Corporate scholarship tax credit
Passed the Senate, passed the House Ways & Means Committee. Referred to the House Rules Committee.

By expanding Arizona's corporate scholarship tax credit program, SB 1048 would permit small businesses organized as S corporations to claim tax credits for contributions to "school tuition organizations" -- tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations that allocate the majority of their annual revenue to scholarships or grants for private schools. Opponents of the bill argue that it would divert funding from public school districts.

HB 2281: Property tax exemption for religious institutions
Passed the House, transmitted to the Senate.

House Bill 2281 would exempt nonprofit religious assemblies, as well as institutions leasing "property, buildings and fixtures," from paying property taxes. A similar CAP-backed effort was vetoed by Brewer in 2013.

Here are 13 of the 123 CAP-supported bills that have been signed into Arizona law:

  • Prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, strengthening informed consent requirements and requiring FDA compliance for medication abortions (2012). The 20-week ban was later ruled unconstitutional.

  • Exempting religiously-affiliated employers from being forced to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs or contraception (2012).
  • Ensuring that arts funding is not spent on obscenity or material that disgraces the flags of Arizona or the United States (2012).
  • Requiring an ultrasound before an abortion, banning telemedicine abortions and improving safety standards for abortion clinics (2011).
  • Ending taxpayer-funded insurance coverage for government employees' abortions (2010).
  • Banning partial-birth abortion (2009).
  • The Abortion Consent Act: requiring informed consent, enhancing parental consent and expanding rights of conscience protections for healthcare workers (2009).
  • Defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman in the Arizona Constitution (2008). This bill was advanced through a ballot initiative.
  • Funding community-based marriage classes (2007).
  • Funding for abstinence-until-marriage education (2005, 2006 and 2007). In 2008, former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano (D) rejected federal Title V abstinence-until-marriage funding.
  • Banning taxpayer funding of human cloning (2005).
  • Providing equal access for religious groups to rental of school facilities (2003).
  • Prohibiting physicians' assistants from performing surgical abortions (2002).
  • CORRECTION: This post has been updated to reflect that SB 1048 would be expanding the corporate scholarship tax credit program, not Arizona's Empowerment Scholarship Account program.

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