Ethics panel rules Stahl-Hamilton engaged in disorderly behavior by hiding Bibles 

Bibles, Stahl-Hamilton, ethics violation

A House ethics panel determined that a Democratic representative who hid Capitol Bibles engaged in disorderly behavior. (Deposit Photos)

Ethics panel rules Stahl-Hamilton engaged in disorderly behavior by hiding Bibles 

A House ethics panel determined that a Democratic representative who hid Capitol Bibles engaged in disorderly behavior.  

The House Ethics Committee released a report Friday with no recommendations for what disciplinary action, if any, should be taken by the full chamber against Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton, D-Tucson. Stahl-Hamilton was recorded on video in April removing Bibles from the members’ lounge of the House and hiding them. 

Reps. Justin Heap, R-Mesa; Lupe Diaz, R-Benson; and David Marshall, R-Snowflake, filed an ethics complaint against Stahl Hamilton shortly after the video footage of her was broadcast by news outlets. The ethic committee reviewed the complaint on May 25, but Republican members expressed frustration that Stahl-Hamilton didn’t attend the hearing.  

House Ethics members, comprised of three Republicans and two Democrats, unanimously came to the conclusion that Stahl-Hamilton engaged in disorderly behavior. Reps. Joe Chaplik, R-Scottsdale; Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert; Gail Griffin, R-Hereford; Jennifer Longdon, D-Phoenix; and Christopher Mathis, D-Tucson are on the committee. 

Bibles, Stahl Hamilton, House, members' lounge
This shows a Bible that Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton, D-Tucson, put in a refrigerator that House members and staff use. The lawmaker apologized to her colleagues on April 26 for removing and hiding Bibles in the members’ lounge, saying it was her way of protesting a lack of separation of church and state.

Stahl-Hamilton said in a text message Friday afternoon that she was reviewing the report with her lawyers but didn’t comment further about the report.  

On three separate occasions, Stahl-Hamilton hid Bibles in the members’-only lounge in areas that some members said were disrespectful to them and the Bible itself. Bibles were found by House staff underneath couch cushions, and one was in the House’s community refrigerator. 

She apologized for her actions on the House floor a day after the video footage of her was released and said it was a protest of the lack of separation of church and state she felt around the Capitol. That same day, she told reporters her actions were “impulsive” and said in her apology that she should have spoken to House leadership about the Bibles.  

“At the time it felt like a simple little prank,” Stahl-Hamilton told reporters on April 26. “In my brain, I felt like it’s a game. It’s just a peaceful, playful, protest of why we have religious books – just one – in a government building,” she added. 

But some members found Stahl-Hamilton’s apology lacking. Grantham said during her ethics hearing that she didn’t directly apologize for her actions, only apologizing for the offense some members took by it. One of the findings listed in the ethics report states that Stahl-Hamilton didn’t “fully apologize” for her conduct.  

Grantham also said he didn’t believe Stahl-Hamiliton’s description of hiding the Bibles as a protest because he didn’t feel that members were being coerced into any particular religion. He called her statement a “red herring” and a “total joke decoy.” 

House, Bibles
Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton, D-Tucson

The Ethics committee reviewed evidence from 2021 of Stahl-Hamilton, an ordained Presbyterian minister, discussing Biblical scripture on the House floor as a talking point about the border.  

Ethics members also concluded the removal of the Bibles was purposeful in their concealment and was disrespectful to some members.  

“Representative Stahl Hamilton could have placed the Bibles on a bookshelf or even placed them on the Sergeant at Arms’ desk after removing them from their usual places and still accomplished her stated goal … Her choice was not only disrespectful to the Bible itself but was deeply offensive to those Members who revere the Bible as their holy text,” the report states. 

Finally, the committee found Stahl-Hamilton offended members, violated the obligation to protect the integrity of the House, and caused the House to expend resources. 

The House Ethics Committee also determined former Republican Rep. Liz Harris also engaged in disorderly behavior earlier in the session when she invited testimony from a speaker who accused public officials and legislators of a debunked bribery scheme.  

Harris was expelled from the House but several Republican members said their decision was based more on the committee also concluding Harris lied during her ethics hearing.  

Stahl-Hamilton filed the complaint against Harris and her lawyer Domingo DeGrazia said he believed Stahl-Hamilton is facing “political retribution” from Republicans. Heap denied he was trying to “set up” Stahl Hamilton during his testimony in her ethics hearing. Marshall and Diaz also voted to expel Harris. 

Heap also said in a tweet on May 27 that he didn’t believe Democrats would be willing to expel Stahl-Hamilton.  

“Given the fact that she didn’t even show up to her hearing, expulsion is on the table. But for expulsion you need a 2/3rds majority. Which means we need at least 11 democrats to support it & doubt they will do so,” Heap wrote. 

Republicans could censure Stahl-Hamilton with a simple majority. The House will reconvene on June 12.