Longform

Cathi Herrod's Center for Arizona Policy Hates Gays, Abortions, and Likes to Tell Politicians What to Do

Page 2 of 7

The passage was a blow to "religious freedom," Herrod wrote in a CAP "Action Alert" e-mailed to the organization's followers on February 27, 2013.

"Center for Arizona Policy is assessing the impact and what next steps to take in order to protect the residents of Phoenix from this deceitfully crafted law," Herrod wrote at the time.

Actually, CAP already had a bill in play, SB 1178, which would have broadened the protections of Arizona's version of the RFRA, "regardless of whether the government is a party to the proceeding."

As with SB 1062 in 2014, Yarbrough was the primary sponsor of 1178, which passed both the House and Senate with little fanfare.

However, Brewer vetoed the bill in May 2013. Sending it to her was a violation of her dictate that she would sign no law until she got a budget that included her Medicaid-expansion plan.

Fast-forward to 2014. The language of 1062 was different from that of 1178, but the intent was the same.

Echoing the language of corporate personhood used in the U.S. Supreme Court's infamous Citizens United decision (language that would play a significant part in the Hobby Lobby case before the Supreme Court), 1062 defined a "person" as "any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly, or institution or other business organization."

Herrod's rhetorical reliance on the case from New Mexico, where the photographer was successfully sued for not photographing the wedding of a lesbian couple, revealed 1062's true purpose: allowing discrimination against gays and shielding that discrimination from future court action.

This time, the LGBT community and its allies responded to the challenge with righteous fury. Organizations such as Equality Arizona, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Secular Coalition for Arizona sounded the alarm.

SB 1062 passed the state Senate, then the House, encountering significant pushback from Democrats. Media outlets from around the country began paying attention, and an eclectic array of demonstrators showed up nightly at the Arizona Capitol, demanding that Brewer veto the bill (See "Gays Bash Back," March 20).

Though Brewer had a week to make a decision after passage, the groundswell of those against the bill already was reaching hurricane force. It included corporate leaders, business associations, U.S. senators Jeff Flake and John McCain, several Arizona gubernatorial candidates, three Republican state senators who had voted for it, and even former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

When it looked as if Arizona could lose the February 1 Super Bowl in Glendale, Brewer acted three days earlier than she needed to, blasting the proposed legislation as divisive and unnecessary.

"Religious liberty is a core American and Arizona value," Brewer said in her veto statement, "so is non-discrimination."

In fact, Herrod's contention that the bill wasn't discriminatory doesn't wash. Her group's agenda always has been anti-gay.

In a position paper on homosexuality published on CAP's AZPolicypages.com, the group promulgates the idea that gays engage in aberrant behavior, rejects any biological basis for homosexuality, and criticizes "advocates of homosexual behavior" for trying to "force society to accept the [gay] lifestyle as normal, healthy, and equal to heterosexuality."

CAP also buys the shibboleth that gays can be transformed into heterosexuals through prayer therapy.

The 2011 version of this paper, archived on the anti-CAP website stopcap.org, claims, "There are many documented cases of homosexuals modifying their behavior and becoming heterosexual through ministries such as Exodus International."

The reference to the Florida-based organization since has been removed from the policy paper, probably because the ministry dissolved in 2013, with its president, Alan Chambers, issuing an apology to the LGBT community, saying he was sorry that his ministry "promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation."

Chambers went on to write that he was saddened that so many gays "have interpreted this religious rejection by Christians as God's rejection."

In 2011, CAP also referenced Exodus International as a "resource" for those "dealing with unwanted feelings of same-sex attraction."

It now directs such individuals to the Restored Hope Network "coalition of ministries," according to its website, "serving those who desire to overcome sinful relational and sexual issues . . . particularly homosexuality."

CAP's benighted beliefs about homosexuality shouldn't be surprising. In 2001, the organization vehemently opposed the Arizona Legislature's repeal of antiquated statutes that outlawed sodomy, oral sex and "open and notorious cohabitation," among other things.

Once the repeal passed the Legislature, CAP rallied the faithful and lobbied then-Governor Jane Hull, a Republican, for a veto. Hull received many calls and letters urging her to let the 100-year-old laws stand.

Yet common sense prevailed. Hull signed the repeal, explaining, "At the end of the day, I returned to one of my most basic beliefs about government: It does not belong in our private lives."

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons