PHOENIX (AP) — An ethics committee in the Arizona House has concluded that a Democratic lawmaker engaged in disorderly behavior by hiding Bibles in a lounge for legislators as a comment about the separation of church and state and the weaponization of religion in politics.
Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, of Tucson, was caught on video hiding the Bibles under furniture cushions. In an earlier instance that wasn’t captured on video, a Bible was found in a nearby refrigerator.
On Friday, the committee ruled the apology she made for doing so wasn’t complete. The committee’s report said Stahl Hamilton, an ordained Presbyterian minister, said she was sorry for those who were offended by her actions but never explicitly apologized for them.
The full House will decide whether to discipline Stahl Hamilton.
The Phoenix radio station KJZZ reported that possible punishments range from a censure to expulsion. But the station said expulsion was unlikely because it would require a two-thirds majority vote of the House, and Republicans hold a narrow one-vote majority over Democrats in the chamber.
The committee’s report said Bibles in the lounge were hidden on three occasions in March and April and that video footage showed Stahl Hamilton hiding the books in one instance. A camera was installed to try to find the person responsible.
In late April, after footage of Stahl Hamilton hiding the Bibles aired on a TV news report, she acknowledged doing so, saying she didn’t intend to offend anyone and that her actions were a playful commentary.
“I acknowledge that a conversation about the separation of church and state should have begun with a conversation, and for that, I apologize,” she said at the time.
Stahl Hamilton was accused in an ethics complaint of showing a lack of respect for other lawmakers and possibly causing offense to Christians who regard the Bible as a sacred text.
Efforts to reach Stahl Hamilton on Saturday for comment on the committee’s findings weren’t immediately successful.
Democratic leaders in the Arizona House told 12 News (KPNX-TV) in a statement that they accept Stahl Hamilton’s apologies.
“She has owned her actions. We will not engage in any further divisive rhetoric or political opportunism that this incident has inspired,” the statement said.
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