June 2019 Church & State Magazine - June 2019

Arizona Governor Under Fire For Religious Holiday Social Media Postings

  Rob Boston

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) is refusing to back down in the face of complaints that he used a government social media account to promote his Christian faith.

On Easter Ducey, who is Catholic, posted the words “He is risen” along with an image of a cross and a Bible verse on his official Facebook page. The posting drew the notice of the American Humanist Association (AHA), which wrote to Ducey to protest “such blatantly religious statements on a government-run page, unambiguously promoting Christian beliefs.”

The Arizona Republic in Phoenix reached out to Americans United for an opinion. AU Associate Legal Director Alex J. Luchenitser agreed with the AHA that the post was problematic. 

“This Facebook post and similar posts that governor has placed on his official page in conjunction with Christian holidays contain expressly sectarian Christian language, usually Bible verses,” Luch­enitser said. “When the governor has posted messages on his Facebook page about Jewish holidays, they’ve been respectful but had very little religious content. As far as I can tell, he hasn’t posted messages during the holidays of any other religion, so when you look at the overall pattern of posts, there’s a clear message of favoritism toward Christianity.”

Another church-state expert, Charles Haynes, director of the Religious Freedom Center in Washington, D.C., pointed out that Ducey’s posting clearly had religious intent. “There is no First Amendment prohibition on government officials acknowledging various holidays, religious and secular, on [government-sponsored] accounts,” Haynes said. “But to endorse a religion in this way, in my opinion, violates the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.”

Ducey, however, remained defiant. He issued a tweet reading, “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.”

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