by Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
Last week, the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments finalized the short list of applicants for the Arizona Independent Redistricting Commission (AIRC). The leadership of the Arizona Legislature have 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans to choose from, and their four eventual picks have five Independent candidates to choose from when they select someone to be the chair of the AIRC.
The Appellate Court Appointments did a pretty good job of screening the applicants and establishing a pool of well-qualified group for the legislators to select from.
So naturally, the Republicans, in the form of Senate President-elect Russell Pearce and House Speaker Kirk Adams, have objected strenuously to the process.
They want a do-over on the nominating and interview process so they will have fewer "qualified" applicants to select from and more "malleable" ones instead.
However, they're not getting too far with their technical objections to the process, mostly because the Appellate Court Appointments Commission didn't do anything incorrectly.
So, being good Republicans, they aren't letting a little detail like the facts aren't on their side stop them from agitating for a change in their favor.
From a press release from Kirk Adams –
“Last week, an applicant for the Independent Redistricting Commission was blocked by the Commission on Appellate Court Appointments, apparently because of his religious faith. In an open meeting, a Commissioner opposed the application of Christopher Gleason for the sole reason that his application indicates he is a man of faith.
Ummm…this is one of those occasions where being a lowly unpaid blogger has its advantages. I get to use the word "I".
I was there last week when the member of the Appellate Court Appointments Commission expressed his reservations regarding the candidacy of Mr. Gleason.
The reservations weren't over the fact that Mr. Gleason is a "man of faith" or even over his specific faith. It was over his involvement in an organization, 4 Tucson, that desires to increase religious involvement and control of secular society. The Appellate Court Appointments Commission member, Louis Araneta of Maricopa County, expressed the concern that there should be a "separation between church and state."
As a citizen, Gleason has the complete right to participate in such an organization. That participation is protected by the first amendment to the United States Constitution (and probably other things, but I'm not a lawyer. If someone wishes to add to the list, comments are open.)
However, the law creating the redistricting process mandates that the district maps produced consider many characteristics; districts that are favorable to one religious denomination or another isn't on the list.
And neither the law nor the Constitution allow the imposition of religious standards on secular society.
It's no coincidence that the Center for Arizona Theocracy Policy is chiming in on this matter, loudly. They've demanded the resignation of Araneta, the "offending" member of the Appellate Court Appointments Commission.
The PR full court press is on, as the Republican side of the AZ blogosphere has also jumped in on this, from Greg Patterson at Espresso Pundit through the lesser lights/press release sites like Sonoran Alliance and ICArizona.
In our society, redistricting is boring, and most folks don't pay attention to it. Religion, however, is and has always been, one of the hottest of "hot button" topics, and it has the emotional ooomph required to motivate otherwise disinterested people to take a position on the matter without knowing the real facts of the matter.
Or even caring that their faith, the part of their being that is so important to them, is being used for base partisan politics.
This tactic is being used to bring pressure to bear on Rebecca White Berch, the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court and chair of the Arizona Commission on Appellate Court Appointments. Republican though she may be, she isn't known as a pushover, especially for the likes of noted blusterers such as Pearce and Adams.
That leaves this move, attempting to manufacture a little targeted public outrage based on false pretenses.
Time will tell if it works.
Note: Mary Reinhart of the Arizona Guardian has a story up saying that a special meeting of the Appellate Court Appointments Commission may be called for next week, but the story is behind a subscription firewall, so I can't read the whole thing.
BTW - check out Gleason's application. He's not "unqualified" for the AIRC per se, but his primary professional qualification seems to be that he has found a way to profit from kidney stones. Even if one ignores his delusions of theocracy, his absence from the list of finalists still isn't exactly a huge loss for the AIRC or Arizona.