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Center’s priority: protecting those who practice religion

Judicial-reform proposals are just two items on the Center for Arizona Policy’s 16-part agenda for 2011.

Cathi Herrod, president of the CAP, said those proposals aren’t the only ones inspired by Commission on Appellate Court Appointments member Louis Araneta’s comments about the religious activities of Independent Redistricting Commission applicant Christopher Gleason.

Herrod said the Gleason situation showed that some people are denied their right to practice their profession or serve in public life because of their faith. SB1288 would protect them by prohibiting the government from denying them an occupational license or registration because of their free exercise of religion. The bill also has a clause stating that a person cannot be denied a position on a board or commission because of his or her religious beliefs.

Herrod couldn’t think of any examples of that happening in Arizona other than the Gleason incident. But she said it has happened in other states, and the CAP wants to prevent it from happening here.

“We are just being proactive in Arizona,” she said.

One bill the CAP supports, SB1282, would protect churches from being forced to register as political committees when members of the clergy speak out about political issues, once again, an issue Herrod said was inspired by problems in other states, not Arizona.

Another CAP-backed bill, HB2565, would strengthen the rights of religious organizations on college campuses. Herrod said HB2565 is similar to a CAP-sponsored bill in 2009 that implemented similar protections for K-12 students.

Three of the bills CAP plans to push this session weren’t introduced before House and Senate deadlines. A CAP spokesman wouldn’t say whether the group plans to support similar measures that have already been introduced, or push the proposals as striker amendments.

RELATED: Policy center’s quandary: How to give voters scoop on judges

Center for Arizona Policy 2011 legislative agenda

• HB 2416 (Ash)/SB 1246 (Barto) – Makes it illegal for a physician to provide an abortion without the “voluntary and informed consent” of the patient, including providing an opportunity for the patient to view ultrasound images and hear her fetus’s heartbeat.
• HB 2384 (Lesko)/SB 1265 (Barto) – Bans the use of public monies, including federal pass-through funds and tuition to universities and community colleges, for abortions. Requires groups that want to qualify as charitable organizations to provide the Department of Revenue with a statement certifying that they don’t provide, pay for, promote or provide referrals for abortions.
• SCR 1017 (Barto) – Supports pregnancy care centers that provide information on adoption to people facing unplanned pregnancies.
• SB 1250 (Barto) – Requires fertility clinics to keep on file for 99 years non-identifying information on sperm and egg donors used to conceive children.
• SB 1187 (L. Gray) – Allows spouses to file for a 60-day stay on the dissolution of a marriage, and allows the courts to grant a 120-day extension so the couple can seek reconciliation. The bill also expands the scope of court-run classes on the impact of divorce.
• SB 1188 (L. Gray) – Requires the state, in most adoption circumstances, to give preference to married couples over individuals. If a married couple is not available, the bill would not prevent single individuals from adopting.
• HB 2706 (Lesko)/SB 1553 (Murphy) – Establishes “empowerment accounts” to allow disabled students to attend the school of their parents’ choice.
• SB 1453 (Crandall) – Allows parents to withdraw their children from any school activity they deem harmful, including anything that questions their beliefs on religion, morality and sex, and requires schools to get parents’ consent before showing R-rated movies to students.
• SB 1152 (Crandall) – Defines a home school in statute as a non-public school.
• HB 2411 (Farnsworth) – Stiffens penalties for child prostitution by requiring offenders convicted of prostitution with a minor to serve their sentences consecutively.
• HB 2565 (Court) – Bans religious discrimination against students or student organizations at universities and community colleges.
• SB 1288 (Yarbrough) – Prohibits government entities from denying, suspending or revoking a professional license or certificate due to someone’s religious beliefs. It also prohibits government from denying someone a position on board or committee due to religious beliefs.
• SB 1282 (Yarbrough) – States that a religious organization does not have to register as a political committee if it does not spend “a substantial amount of time or assets” on political activities.
• No bill introduced yet – Requires Senate confirmation of the governor’s judicial nominees.
• No bill introduced yet – Allows taxpayers to make additional contributions for scholarships that allow students to attend schools of their parents’ preference.
• No bill introduced yet – Requires the state to create a database of information on judges facing retention elections, including information about opinions they’ve written.

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