In a members-only lounge at the Arizona State Capitol, where lawmakers can talk and relax, they can also pick up a Bible and read it. The sight of a Bible apparently upset Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton, an ordained Presbyterian minister. So she began taking them and hiding them in bizarre places, like in a refrigerator and under the couch cushions.
Only the installation of a hidden camera solved the mystery of the disappearing Bibles and showed the Democrat taking them.
Then came the public apology after she got caught.
“Members, I stand here today wanting to acknowledge the offense I committed by my actions of hiding Bibles in the members’ lounge,” the state lawmaker said in a two-minute floor speech. “The intent was never to be destructive, to never desecrate, or to offend.”
Cathi Herrod, of the Center for Arizona Policy, says Rep. Stahl-Hamilton admitted to her colleagues she hid them as a form of protest because she believes they should not be allowed on government property.
“She simply repeated the liberal mantra that somehow separation of church and state exists, but we all know that's not factual. That’s not historical,” Herrod tells AFN. “Separation of church and state is not in the U.S. Constitution.”
The phrase first appeared in Thomas Jefferson’s letter to a Baptist congregation, written in 1802. When the Danbury Baptist Association expressed concern Connecticut’s state constitution did not guarantee religious liberty, Jefferson assured the Baptist group the U.S. Constitution protects them with a “wall of separation between church and state.”
That famous letter is routinely cited by atheists and religious skeptics who claim Jefferson was suggesting religious faith is not allowed in the public square, such as the members’ lounge at the Arizona State Capitol. They insist doing so violates the Establishment Clause, and that legal fight is a never-ending one in the courts over praying coaches, public meeting invocations, and student ministries.
"Even if you think moving the [B]ibles is a petty move," atheist writer Hemant Metha complained in a Substack commentary, "it’s a far bigger problem that Christian legislators felt like they could leave the religious books inside the lounge in the first place."
That is why the atheist group Secular Arizona praised Rep. Stahl-Hamilton for “standing up for the constitutional requirement of separation of church and state.”
After the group defended the state rep, and took a pounding in its Twitter comments, it witnessed the Democrat cite her own religious faith in her apologetic floor speech.
“I hold scripture very dear to my heart. It is what guides me,” Stahl-Hamilton claimed in front of her colleagues (pictured at right). “It is what shapes and informs the decisions I make.”
It’s unclear how much the state lawmaker really believes that since she broke one of the 10 Commandments by stealing. She then lied about it, too, when TV news reporter David Caltabiano confronted her about the incident.
“Why would you hide the Bible?” Caltabiano, waiting for the lawmaker, asked her in a hallway.
“Who says anything about hiding Bibles?” Stahl-Hamilton, quickly walking away, told him.
“You’re caught on video,” the reporter informed her. “It’s a very simple question, Stephanie. Stephanie, you’re an ordained minister. Why would you hide the Bible, Stephanie?”
Like the lawmaker’s Bible stealing, that confrontation was also caught on video.
The official biography for Rep. Stahl-Hamilton states she is director of Christian Education and Youth Ministry at her local Presbyterian church. She earned a master of divinity at Princeton.
The morning after Stahl-Hamilton’s apology, fellow state Rep. Lupe Diaz led the morning prayer.
“The Bible is commonly known as God's love letter to humanity,” he commented before giving the invocation. “Not everybody really understands it, because it is spiritually discerned.”