Back in April, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey used his office to promote Christianity.
Not just content to wish Christian citizens a Happy Easter, he declared “He is risen!” and posted a Bible verse on his official Facebook account. (It’s still there.)
He later doubled down on that post when asked about it:
“We won’t be removing this post. Ever. Nor will we be removing our posts for Christmas, Hanukkah, Rosh Hashanah, Palm Sunday, Passover or any other religious holiday. We support the First Amendment, and are happy to provide copies of the Constitution to anyone who hasn’t read it.”
That’s… not how the First Amendment works. At the very least, it would be somewhat more defensible if Ducey, in his official capacity, recognized other religious holidays (not just Judeo-Christian ones) the same way he talked about Easter.
At the time, the American Humanist Association sent him a warning letter about the need for religious neutrality by public officials. Attorney Dianne Post of the Secular Communities for Arizona sent a separate letter calling on Ducey to stop playing favorites with religion in his capacity as a governor:
If you are going to recognize Christians, you have to recognize Wiccans and the Satanic Temple too. Under the Arizona Constitution, you cannot treat the non-religious differently, so you’ll have to recognize them as well, I suppose on Darwin Day? The best course for government is to stay out of it completely and leave it to the personal realm.
Elected officials should not use their government position and government property to promote their religious views. The governor’s office is to represent and protect the rights of all residents of Arizona, including those who do not believe in a monotheistic god or any gods at all. Therefore, it is inappropriate for government entities to erect or sponsor religious symbols or displays on government property.
None of this should have been complicated. Ducey can personally celebrate Christianity all he’d like. No one’s stopping him from Jesusing all day long when he’s off the clock. But as the state’s leader, he has an obligation to represent all of his constituents without endorsing his favorite brand of mythology using state resources.
One way to at least pretend to care about religious neutrality would have been to acknowledge the Islamic celebration of Eid, the conclusion of the holy month of Ramadan. (Good god, even Donald Trump managed to do that.)
And yet a scroll through Ducey’s official Facebook page includes nothing about Eid. There’s no attempt to wish Muslims a happy or blessed holiday.
That hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Dianne Post, legal chair for one of two groups that issued letters demanding the governor remove the Easter message, said Wednesday that Ducey’s failure to acknowledge Eid was another example of his “favoritism toward certain religions,” which she believes “causes divisiveness within Arizona.”
Asked Wednesday whether the governor had purposely skipped posting an Eid message, Ducey spokesman Patrick Ptak sidestepped the question.
“On Easter, the governor expressed a message of his faith — something as Americans we’re all privileged with the freedom to express,” he told The Arizona Republic.
“He encourages that freedom among all Arizonans, and wishes a joyful Eid celebration to all Arizonans observing it.”
It’s quite literally the least Ducey could do: getting his spokesman to offer a half-hearted recognition that non-Christians exist in Arizona. (But only after defending the governor’s Easter bonanza.)
The unstated message is clear: Ducey doesn’t give a damn about non-Christians in Arizona and he believes using his office to promote Christianity is perfectly acceptable. It’s not like his Republican base is ever going to hold him to ethical standards.
There are, however, two state legislators who noted the hypocrisy.
State Rep. Athena Salman told me his actions suggested a “fundamental lack of respect” toward Muslims.
After exploiting his own faith to create a media firestorm over his Easter tweet of a Bible verse, it’s impossible to believe the Governor’s snub of Arizona’s growing Muslim community was an oversight or an accident. The fight over the Easter tweet was a fight that the Governor and his religious right supporters wanted to have. So The hypocrisy and fundamental lack of respect when not even wishing Muslims a Happy Eid is obvious.
State Sen. Juan Mendez gave Ducey a lesson in how the government works:
This is yet another prime example of why our nation’s founders built the wall of separation between religion and government. We are elected not to pick and choose which religions we privilege. We are elected to uphold and protect the secular functions of government, which this governor has routinely ignored. Once the Governor decided to play favorites with people’s faiths he created just the type of problem secularists endeavor to avoid.
Luke Douglas, the Executive Director of the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix, was far more blunt in an email to me:
… It’s one thing to say [Ducey is] going to post religious shout-outs on the State’s Facebook page. It’s another thing to say that and exclude the world’s second-largest religion with timing that betrays exactly what he meant with the Easter post.
… We’ve reached out to the Islamic community in Arizona to make ourselves available in solidarity, not out of shared beliefs, but out of a goal shared by all religious minorities to oppose Christian privilege and theocracy in the public arena.
That’s a fantastic response. It’s just disappointing that non-profits like HSGP and atheist politicians like Salman and Mendez have to give the governor a lesson in how to do his job since Ducey can’t be trusted to do the right thing on his own.
Maybe one day he’ll get his spokesman to send the atheists a thank-you note.
(Screenshot via YouTube. Portions of this article were published earlier)