A photo of Juan Mendez labeled "Secularist of the Week" next to a photo of Jake Hoffman labeled "Theocrat of the Week"

FFRF Action Fund lauds, deplores dueling senators in Arizona’s satanic showdown 

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FFRF Action Fund’s “Theocrat of the Week” is an Arizona state senator who is trying to defy the First Amendment and bar Satanic Temple displays from governmental property while our “Secularist of the Week” is his colleague championing this very group’s free speech rights. 

Arizona state Sen. Jake Hoffman introduced SB 1279, titled “Reject Escalating Satanism by Preserving Essential Core Traditions (RESPECT) Act,” in late January. The bill would ban “satanic memorials, statues, altars or displays or any other method of representing or honoring Satan” on public property. The Satanic Temple only organizes pagan displays in response to Christian monuments being displayed on government property in so-called public forums. The current climate for satanic displays in such venues is contentious, to say the least. A former congressional candidate from Mississippi, who vandalized a pagan idol monument outside Iowa’s Capitol building, was officially charged with a hate crime in late January.  

When discussing the bill, Hoffman said, “It is a desecration of our public property in the United States of America and in the state of Arizona for a satanic display, memorial, altar, etc. to be on public property.” 

The bill recently passed 5-1 through the Arizona Senate Government Committee, which Hoffman chairs. The sole Democrat in attendance, state Sen. Juan Mendez, was the only committee member to vote against it. One citizen who testified against the bill, Micah Mangione, quipped, “I am genuinely impressed that in only 25 words this bill seems to violate three separate clauses of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.” Mangione is, of course, referring to the clauses prohibiting the government from establishing a religion, barring government interference with the free exercise of religion and guaranteeing the right to free speech. 

Hoffman claimed, “It is legally and constitutionally suspect to argue that Satan, someone who is universally known to be an explicit enemy of God, is somehow a religion. That is an absolutely ludicrous statement to make.” However, the IRS has already recognized the Satanic Temple as a religion, which gives it the same charitable status as every other officially recognized religion.

Hoffman, a first-term senator and former member of the Arizona House, is the chairman of Arizona’s alt-right Freedom Caucus, which is modeled after its counterpart in the U.S. House and works to “combat both the left and ‘establishment GOP that refuses to answer to the will of the people.’” Hoffman also signed on as a fraudulent elector in favor of Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential race.  

The bill is now pending in the Arizona Senate Rules Committee, and will, thankfully, very likely be vetoed if it manages to reach Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs’ desk. Ironically, if SB 1279 did become law, Hoffman’s alma mater, Arizona State University, would likely be forced to change its Sun Devil mascot, Sparky.

Our “Secularist of the Week,” Sen. Mendez asked his fellow Arizona Government Committee members to kill the unconstitutional bill and wondered why he was the sole defender of the U.S. Constitution among them. Mendez said, “Any religion viewed by the sponsor as a desecration to Christianity is no longer safe in Arizona.” Mendez referred to the legislation as “a straight-up attack on the rights of people and religion,” and described Hoffman’s efforts as “literally trying to erase any religious group that does not agree with your view of Christianity.” 

Mendez is being attacked by the Arizona GOP for acknowledging members from the Satanic Temple of Arizona who traveled to the Capitol to testify against the bill by saying, “We are graced with the presence of ministers and members of the Satanic Temple of Arizona,” and for describing their “noble pursuits” of promoting compassion, free speech and justice. 

Mendez is openly atheist and laudably introduced legislation to regulate Christian health care sharing ministries earlier this month, one of FFRF Action Fund’s signature campaigns. 

“We are immensely grateful to have an ally like Mendez in the fight to safeguard the U.S. Constitution and religious rights for all, not just Christians,” comments FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor.

FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues.