ARIZONA NEWS

Arizona Rep. Stahl Hamilton violated House rules by hiding bibles, Ethics Committee finds

Jun 9, 2023, 3:00 PM

Arizona Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (Arizona State Legislature and Pixabay Photos)...

Arizona Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton (Arizona State Legislature and Pixabay Photos)

(Arizona State Legislature and Pixabay Photos)

PHOENIX — The Arizona House Ethics Committee released its findings Friday on an ethics complaint filed against State Representative Stephanie Stahl Hamilton.

The Committee unanimously determined Stahl Hamilton engaged in disorderly behavior, thereby violating Rule 1 of the Rules of the Arizona House of Representatives and damaging the institutional integrity of the House, the report stated.

Several representatives filed a complaint against Stahl Hamilton in May alleging she engaged in disorderly conduct by moving two Holy Bibles from their locations in the Member’s Lounge and hiding them under couch cushions and a refrigerator in a shared coffee bar. They also allege her actions demonstrated “a lack of respect for other members of the Legislature staff, visitors, and their property, and the rule of law” and “may have caused offense to the practicing Christians in Arizona, who hold the Bible as a sacred text and expect their elected officials to uphold basic principles of respect an civility,” according to a newly released report. 

According to the Arizona Constitution, the committee is referring the report to the House to determine what disciplinary measures, if any, should be taken.

Here are the findings from the report:

  • The committee found Stahl Hamilton purposely removed the bibles from their locations within the Members’ Lounge on three separate occasions and she was solely responsible for repeatedly removing them. 
  • Found that she purposely concealed the Bibles in a manner that was disrespectful.
  • Did not fully apologize for her conduct.
  • Finds repeated actions offended some Members of the House, violated the inherent obligation to protect the integrity of the House and caused the House to expend resources. 

The first incident was reported in late March. The House Sergeant at Arms, Chuck Fitzgerald, noticed the two Bibles that were normally on the tables were missing from their usual locations. He checked the Lobby security camera footage but did not see anything. He eventually found the bibles the next day underneath the cushions of the Lounge chairs and returned them to their usual place, the report stated.

Five days later, he received a report of a Members’ Lounge Bible had been found in a refrigerator at the second-floor Coffee Bar.

The chief of staff permitted him to set up a camera in the Members’ lounge to “solve the mystery,” according to the report.

On April 10, Fitzgerald noticed the Bibles were missing again. He checked the camera footage and saw Stahl Hamilton had entered the lounge, taken mints out of a jar, taken the bible sitting on a table and pushed it under a couch cushion. She then walked to the west side of the room and took the second Bible and put it under the couch.

Later that month, Stahl Hamilton admitted to the offense and apologized. She stated her intent was not to be destructive, desecrate, or offend. She characterized her actions as “playful commentary” on the separation of church and state and peaceful protest. 

Even though Stahl Hamilton wrote in response to the complaint that she apologized for her actions, the committee disagreed after careful review saying “her personal actions falls short of fully taking responsibility for the behavior,” according to the report.

House Democratic leadership released the following statement accepting the findings:

Our leadership team has seen the Ethics Committee report and we accept its findings. However, we also accept the apologies delivered by Representative Stahl Hamilton to her colleagues when this issue first came to light, and subsequently. She has owned her actions. We will not engage in any further divisive rhetoric or political opportunism that this incident has inspired. It is time to focus and devote our attention to the important work we have left at our Capitol.

 

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Arizona Rep. Stahl Hamilton violated House rules by hiding bibles, Ethics Committee finds