Two weeks ago, Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed an Executive Order to create the “Governor’s Office of Faith and Community Partnerships.” She did something similar in 2010, but this newer order includes some changes:
The role is described similarly, including the appointment of people from faith-based groups, but her new order allows the office to accept and spend money, including the ability to get local, state, or federal government funding.
For that reason, groups like the Secular Coalition for Arizona, atheist State Representative Juan Mendez, atheist Congressional candidate James Woods, and a host of other allies gathered outside the state capitol this morning to speak out against this breakdown of church/state separation and deliver a letter to the Governor:
“Arizona is full of atheists, and Governor Brewer needs to understand this,” American Atheists president David Silverman said at a press conference outside the state capitol this morning. “Governor Brewer needs to know when she puts together this office… that the faith portion of that excludes approximately a third of her state’s voters.”
The letter delivered to Brewer’s office this morning asks for accountability of any taxpayer funds used by this office, to make sure that programs receiving any taxpayer funds are “free of religious content,” and that any programs receiving taxpayer funds are completely inclusive.
“To this day, I still get e-mails from constituents… who never thought it would be possible for people of secular community and atheism to be part of the government,” Mendez says today. “I think the governor’s actions [are] a missed opportunity and a kind of systemic exclusion around the idea of service and civic [engagement]. There are a lot of people who don’t engage in faith who want to be welcomed into not just helping solve social problems, but the invitation from government to speak and share their experiences.”
No word yet on whether Brewer received the letter or plans to respond to it.