PHOENIX (LifeSiteNews) — A Democratic lawmaker who’s also a Protestant minister was caught on security camera taking and hiding Bibles in the state House lounge after fellow legislators noticed the sacred books kept going missing. Though she initially avoided responding amid controversy over her behavior, she later apologized and said it was meant to be a “playful commentary on the separation of church and state.”
Arizona Democratic Rep. Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton of Tuscon, an ordained Presbyterian minister, was caught on security camera taking Bibles from the members-only House lounge and hiding them under sofa cushions, Fox News reported.
CAUGHT ON VIDEO: AZ Dem lawmaker/ordained minister busted swiping Bibles from House’s members-only lounge. She calls it a ‘ little playful commentary’ for separation of church and state, Republican leadership are not laughing. #azfamily pic.twitter.com/pSPth8jeR7
— David Caltabiano (@DavidCaltabiano) April 25, 2023
The discovery came after House members called on security officers to investigate following the disappearance of two Bibles on March 23. The officers searched the premises and discovered the sacred texts wedged in between the cushions of two chairs.
The following week, another Bible went missing and was later discovered stowed away in a refrigerator.
The unusual developments led the House’s security team to install a security camera inside the House lounge. When another set of Bibles once again went missing on April 10 during a legislative session, security camera footage showed Rep. Stahl-Hamilton taking the Bibles and stashing them under two lounge couches.
Republican Rep. Lupe Diaz (R-Benson), a pastor of Grace Chapel, responded by opening the April 26 legislative session speaking about the Bible and efforts by “tyrants” to destroy or conceal it, Capitol Media Services reported.
“Over the millennia, tyrants have tried to eliminate it, burn it, bury it, hide it and keep it from people because it has the power to transform,” Diaz said in his two and a half minute address followed by the House’s daily prayer.
Asked about the issue by a CBS 5 reporter on Tuesday, Stahl-Hamilton at first attempted to avoid the question and deflected with, “Who says anything about hiding Bibles?”
She later addressed the controversial actions in remarks shared with Capitol Media Services, characterizing her Bible-hiding “just a little playful commentary on the separation of church and state.”
“I am a Presbyterian minister so I obviously don’t have a problem with the Bible,” she said.
She also apologized to her colleagues in the House, explaining her “intent was never to be destructive, to never desecrate or to offend” and that the Bible is “very near to my heart.”
“I stand here today wanting to acknowledge the offense I committed by my actions of hiding Bibles in the members’ lounge,” Stahl-Hamilton said. “I acknowledge that a conversation about the separation of church and state should have began [sic] with a conversation.”
She said Holy Scripture “is what guides me” and “what shapes and informs the decisions I make,” adding that she also respects others regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof.
“And because of that respect, I recognize my actions could have been seen as something less than playful and offensive,” she said.
According to Capitol Media Services, House Speaker Ben Toma doesn’t plan to pursue a complaint against Stahl-Hamilton.