Atheists Fight Arizona’s Tax-Funded ‘Office of Faith’

Proponents of secularism in Arizona on Wednesday sent a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer (R) asking that her Office of Faith and Community Partnerships not use public funds to advocate for religiosity.

Brewer in August issued an executive order creating a Governor’s Office of Faith and Community Partnerships, as well as the Arizona Council on Faith and Community Partnerships. The executive order superseded an earlier order written by Brewer in 2010 that created a task force focused on faith-based community partnerships.

But unlike the earlier version, the Governor’s Office of Faith and Community Partnerships is allowed to raise and allocate money.

Atheists and advocates for separation of church and state are critical of the office’s ability to allocate money, and say that the state should not be allowed to use taxpayer money to promote religious content.

“We support the use of tax dollars to provide critical services to those in need,” said Zenaido Quintana, chair of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, in front of Brewer’s office as the group, along with several others, delivered their letter.

“As a secular organization, however, we are categorically opposed to tax funded faith-based initiatives as fundamentally unconstitutional,” Quintana said.

The letter also asks that Brewer appoint council members that offer a diversity of religious and non-religious perspectives.

Brewer and the Arizona legislature have a history of passing laws in the interest of religious ideology. In 2012, Brewer signed a bill allowing some religious employers to drop birth control from their insurance plans.

She has also signed laws banning abortion 18 weeks after fertilization, adding crisis pregnancy centers to a list of referrals for pregnant women considering abortion, prohibiting family planning services from being discussed under the state’s Children’s Health Insurance Program, and requiring women under the age of 18 to get parental consent before obtaining an abortion.

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