The mystery of the missing Bibles from the Arizona House of Representatives members’ lounge has been solved.
And it didn’t take a Hercule Poirot or a Columbo to solve it.
No, a simple motion-activated camera, surreptitiously placed in the room, revealed the culprit as a state representative.
Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, D-Tucson, a Presbyterian minister, loves the Word of God so much that she takes copies of it from tables in the lounge and stuffs them under seat cushions and even sticks them on a shelf in the lounge refrigerator.
“I hold Scripture very dear to my heart,” she said Wednesday, following the moment of prayer that begins every House floor session. “It is what guides me. It is what shapes and informs the decisions I make. I have the utmost respect for people of all faiths, and for people … who choose not to have a faith. And because of that respect, I recognize my actions could have been seen something as less than playful — and offensive.”
It began a couple of weeks ago. Bibles lying on tables in the lounge went missing. Eventually security personnel advised the House speaker, Ben Toma, R-Glendale, to put a clandestine camera in the lounge. The Ring doorbell camera caught Stahl Hamilton in the act.
She wasn’t protesting any particular instance or singular grievance, she said, but that “the Christian Bible gets used like a weapon around this place.” So she started her little one-woman campaign against the blurring of lines separating church and state. The lounge was, after all, in a government building.
Ironically, it was Stahl Hamilton’s complaint that sparked the recent expulsion from the House of Rep. Liz Harris for disorderly conduct.
Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham, R-Gilbert, said it made him uncomfortable — he felt “like a disappointed dad,” he said. It was “kind of offensive to people who believe in and cherish the Bible.” But Toma wouldn’t say whether his party will seek to discipline the Presbyterian pastor.
Other Republicans couldn’t help but have a little fun with the episode. Rep. John Gillette, from Kingman, had his go: “You preach tolerance while making ethics complaints, stealing Bibles. Stalin would be proud.” But the zinger of the day belonged to Sen. Anthony Kern, of Glendale, who tweeted, “Maybe @stahlhamilton was hiding bibles because she thought they were ballots??”
Predictably, the problem for the Dems is not their member slinking around messing with House property; it’s that there were Bibles in the room in the first place. And if there are Bibles, why aren’t there Qurans or Dhammapadas in the room as well? And doubly despicable was the presence of cameras.
Well, the cameras are gone now, so maybe the Legislature can get back to the business of trying to overturn just one of Gov. Katie Hobbs’ record-setting 63 vetoes of Republican bills this term. She broke former Gov. Janet Napolitano’s 58 vetoes, which she accomplished in 2005.
So far, they’re 0 for 63.