State Pol: Sorry I Hid Bibles in Capitol Fridge, Couches

Arizona Dem Stahl Hamilton says 'playful protest' was over separation of church and state
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 29, 2023 10:00 AM CDT
State Pol: Sorry I Hid Bibles in Capitol Fridge, Couches
Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, D-Tucson, speaks during the opening of the Arizona Legislature at the state Capitol on Jan. 11, 2021, in Phoenix.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, Pool)

A Democratic state congresswoman in Arizona delivered a rather odd apology this week, after what she says was meant to be a "peaceful, playful protest" in support of the separation of church and state. Per the Arizona Republic, Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton told reporters on Wednesday that she was sitting in the lounge for House members at the state Capitol in Phoenix a few weeks ago when she noticed a Bible in the room. Irked to see it there, as the Capitol is a "government building," Stahl Hamilton decided to pull what she calls a "simple little prank": She slipped the Good Book under the cushions of a lounge sofa.

A couple of days later, when another Bible popped up in the lounge, Stahl Hamilton hid that one, too. More Bibles kept appearing to replace the missing ones, and Stahl Hamilton—an ordained Presbyterian minister who also holds a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary—continued to disappear them, placing them in "various locations," per the Hill, including putting one in the lounge fridge. "To my brain, it just felt like [it was] a game ... a peaceful, playful protest," she said Wednesday, per the Republic. "I have long been frustrated by the blurred lines between separation of church and state."

Meanwhile, GOP House Speaker Ben Toma was stumped over the mystery of the vanished Bibles—until a hidden camera he ordered placed into the lounge "busted Biblegate wide open," per KPNX. The culprit was soon sussed out, drawing ire from her GOP colleagues. "It's kind of offensive to people who believe in and cherish the Bible," Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham says, per the Republic. "I feel like a disappointed dad." Stahl Hamilton, who's long been a critic of Bibles or other religious texts seeping into the political arena, issued her mea culpa on the House floor Wednesday.

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"I acknowledge that a conversation about the separation of church and state should have began with a conversation. And for that, I apologize," she noted, per the Hill, adding, "I hold Scripture very dear to my heart." Dem lawmakers, meanwhile, are irked over the hidden camera. "Are the cameras now in the bathrooms?" says Democratic House Leader Andres Cano, per KPNX. "Is my office bugged with audio at this very moment?" It's not clear if Stahl Hamilton will face any disciplinary measures. (More strange stuff stories.)

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