Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reason vs. Ideology: The Debate (Don't Hold Your Breath)

Posted By on Wed, Feb 23, 2011 at 2:25 PM

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Cathi Herrod, executive director of the Center for Arizona Policy, took to whining in a Feb. 19 guest column published by the local daily about being put on the hot-seat by the Center for Inquiry of Southern Arizona.

On Feb. 3, The Range wrote about the CAP-supported legislation. The Center for Inquiry's Gil Shapiro, in his own Feb. 7 Star guest column, examined the CAP's right-wing ideological influence over the state Legislature and governor's office.

In Herrod's column, she wrote that her organization “promotes and defends foundational principles impacting Arizona families.”

“The fact is it's easier for people like Dr. Shapiro and the Center for Inquiry to make baseless claims than to debate us on the merits of the issues.”

In response, Shapiro sent a letter to the Star on Feb. 20 with a letter attached that he sent to Herrod on March 29, 2010 asking to do exactly that—sit down with Herrod and her staff to talk about their differing views.

Shapiro asked the daily to consider moderating such a debate.

“As I mentioned to you previously, according to a state senator, Gov. Brewer and leaders of Arizona’s House and Senate contact the Center for Arizona Policy before making any legislative moves. This strengthens the claim that CAP is widely acknowledged to be one of the most influential lobbying organizations in Arizona,” Shapiro wrote.

In the March letter to Herrod, Shapiro made it clear where the Center for Inquiry comes from, with a mission to “…foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.”

Reason? Remember that? Almost brings The Range to tears.

Herrod's perspective of being a pro-family organization is interesting during a time when Gov. Jan Brewer is getting ready to drop 280,000 people off the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), the state's Medicaid program. I mean, if your organization touts a mission to support and care for Arizona families, then why not put pressure on the governor to protect those losing health care, and those dying because they can’t get the transplants they need?

After the jump, read Shapiro's letter to the Star and the letter sent to CAP in March 2010.

REQUEST FOR CENTER FOR INQUIRY/CENTER FOR ARIZONA POLICY DEBATE

February 20, 2011

To the editorial board of the Arizona Daily Star:

On behalf of the Center for Inquiry of Southern Arizona, I would like to thank you for publishing Cathi Herrod’s column, Bills backed by Center for Arizona Policy promote, protect what's best for families.

In this response to our February 7 column, Is theocracy encroaching on government priorities in Arizona?, we found two of Ms. Herrod’s statements especially interesting:

(1) “Once again, we see that those who oppose our work resort to this line of attack rather than argue issues based on the merits.”

(2) “The fact is, it's easier for people like Dr. Shapiro and the Center for Inquiry to make baseless claims than to debate us on the merits of the issues.”

Really? On March 29, 2010, we sent her the letter below requesting to debate our opposing views. Ms. Herrod never replied nor acknowledged our request to engage CAP on the issues. Obviously, it was she who didn’t want to debate!

Because the opposing positions of CFI and CAP focus on fundamental foundations and guidelines for laws and policies affecting all Arizonans, the Star’s editorial board might want to consider serving as moderator for a public debate between the two groups.

You could publish segments by topic over several weeks. A debate would inform your readers, show the Star to be unbiased, and increase Star readership given the controversial nature of the topics. As the legislature is in session, such discussions would be both timely and relevant. Star editors, readers, CFI and CAP would pose the questions. The Star may even want to consider moderating a live debate at DuVal Auditorium or Centennial Hall (taped for broadcast on local TV) with the responses transcribed and published.

As I mentioned to you previously, according to a state senator, Gov. Brewer and leaders of Arizona’s House and Senate contact the Center for Arizona Policy before making any legislative moves. This strengthens the claim that CAP is widely acknowledged to be one of the most influential lobbying organizations in Arizona.

If you think such an event would enlighten your readers, we suggest you invite both parties to debate ‘the merits of the issues’ as soon as possible.

Thank you for giving this proposal your fullest consideration.

Cordially,

Gil Shapiro
Spokesperson, Center for Inquiry of Southern Arizona

Cc: Cathi Herrod, President, Center for Arizona Policy
Rhonda Bodfield, political reporter, Arizona Daily Star
Patty Machelor, religion reporter, Arizona Daily Star
Jim Nintzel, political reporter, The Tucson Weekly
Ginger Lamb, publisher, Arizona Capitol Times
Dan Barker/Annie Laurie Gaylor Co-Presidents Freedom from Religion Foundation
Ronald Lindsay, President and CEO, Center for Inquiry/National HQ
Sean Faircloth, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America.
Matt Schoenley. President, Secular Coalition for Arizona
John Lynn, Coordinator, Arizona Coalition of Reason.


March 29, 2010

Ms. Cathi Herrod
President, Center for Arizona Policy
Suite 250
7227 N. 16th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85020


Dear Ms. Herrod,

Members of the advisory board of The Center for Inquiry of Southern Arizona would like to meet with our counterparts at the Center for Arizona Policy.

We are troubled by your organization’s lobbying our elected officials to support only legislation and policy which conform to a uniquely (fundamentalist/evangelical) Christian belief system.

Indeed, the CAP mission statement says,
Center for Arizona Policy is a nonprofit research and education organization committed to protecting and defending the family by influencing policy, communicating truth, and empowering families to promote timeless values. Our mission is to:
1. Inform policymakers by providing research and factual information on vital issues affecting the family.
2. Communicate truth on family issues through the media.
3. Equip concerned citizens and churches to be persuasive advocates for the family.

By using the Christian code words “communicating truth” (twice), it is clear that your mission, at its core, is to impose your religious beliefs on the citizens of Arizona.

By contrast, the Center for Inquiry’s mission is to
…foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values".

It is evident that we differ on how to best determine which legislation and policies will be in the best interests of all Arizonans.

We envision this meeting as one where we both can gain a better understanding of each other’s philosophy on dealing with the major issues of the day.

It is our intent that this get together will be respectful, mutually educational and constructive.

For further information about the Center for Inquiry of Southern Arizona, please visit our website: www.centerforinquiry.net/saz

We look forward to hearing from you shortly. Please direct your reply to Jerry Karches, Coordinator CFI/SAZ. (Information is at the bottom of this letterhead)

Cordially,

Gil Shapiro
Spokesperson, Center for Inquiry of Southern Arizona

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