Dear Governor Brewer,
I love Arizona. I grew up there, a proud honors graduate of Saguaro High School, where I was president of the Teen-Age Republicans. Indeed, I was such a good teen-age Republican that in 1976 Sen Goldwater named me Arizona State Teen-Age Republican of the Year. I still have his letter.
Not only do I love Arizona, but I love religion. That might sound odd, I know. But I hold three advanced degrees in the subject: a college minor, a seminary MA, and a Ph.D. in the History of Christianity from Duke University. I have spent my adult life as a professor of religious studies, a best-selling author of eight books in the field, and an internationally-known expert in religious trends. And, more humbly, I hope, I am a serious, practicing Christian. I was confirmed in faith at Scottsdale United Methodist Church on Miller Road when I was 14 years old.
It pains me to say it, but I am now ashamed to read the words, "Arizona" and "religion" in the same sentence regarding HB2153, the legislation making its way to your desk under the guise of protecting religious freedom. One of the things Christianity teaches me is that God is love, and the God of Love loves everybody, even when we struggle to do the same. Yes, our religious denominations teach many different things about what is sin or what is sinful -- and our Constitution gives each of us the right to practice our religion as we choose. But as children of God and citizens of a great nation, we should not legally aid discriminatory or hateful acts against those whom we find difficult to embrace. As I read HB2153, it seems to care more about protecting exclusion than about creating a society where all citizens have equal rights under the law. One may not like someone or approve of their choices on the basis of religious faith, but we all must understand that faith also demands that every human being is treated with respect and dignity (that's actually in my church's baptism vows).
Please veto this bill. I no longer live in Arizona. But I am a daughter of the beautiful state in the desert, a person whose own journey was deeply shaped by living in a place where God is present in every sunrise and sunset. My native friends taught me that the Great Spirit lives in us all. I pray that you would be strengthened by the God whose heart is ever-open, and the God who through all of human history has challenged us to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Most sincerely yours,
Diana (Hochstedt) Butler Bass, Ph.D.
Saguaro High School, class of 1977
Student government officer and former TARS president