Some good news this week: 19 states are either considering or have already passed legislation that would allow terminally ill Americans to receive compassionate medical aid-in-dying (sometimes referred to as MAID).
American Atheists advocates in support of medical aid-in-dying bills because we believe this practice creates a person-directed system that honors the values, beliefs, and dignity of individuals, affording dying people and their loved ones autonomy, comfort, and some semblance of peace at end-of-life. 80% of Americans report they would prefer to die in the comfort of their homes. Instead, 80% die in acute care hospitals or nursing homes, where they receive unnecessary, unwanted, and increasingly expensive medical care.
Research shows 84% of Americans support medical aid-in-dying for terminally ill patients, and these bills apply to mentally competent people with prognoses of six months or less to live. Even so, religious groups like the Catholic Church continue to vigorously oppose these policies because their creed says assisted dying is suicide and suicide is just as sinful as murder – even in the face of unimaginable suffering.
The narrow religious beliefs of a few mustn’t be imposed on the lives and deaths of millions, but currently only 1 in 5 Americans has access to this care option. You can see what laws are in place in your state here. Because we are committed to passing medical aid-in-dying legislation in all 50 states, we’re partnering with Compassion & Choices for a Lobby Day in Maryland on February 12.
Some bad news that’s also on our radar: In Arizona, SB 1279 advanced 5-1-2 out of committee and is expected to pass through both the House and Senate. The bill is misleadingly called the RESPECT Act, which stands for “Reject Escalating Satanism by Preserving Essential Core Traditions.” It’s sponsored by Senator Jake Hoffman, the infamous leader of the state’s far-right Freedom Caucus.
That his proposal to ban Satanic displays on public property would blatantly infringe on Arizonans’ right to religious freedom is a fact that is, apparently, lost on Hoffman, a self-proclaimed “fierce defender of the Constitution.” Thankfully, it was called out by Micah Mangione, who testified in opposition to SB 1279 and observed, “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.”
Although Governor Katie Hobbs is likely to veto the bill, what’s unfolding in Arizona is still worth our attention. Hoffman is just the latest Christian nationalist to propose an egregious assault on religious freedom and the separation of religion and government. However, his rhetoric is even more dangerous because the clear message is that nonbelievers have no place and should have no protections in American society. SB 1279’s proponents made it clear they make no distinction between Satanists and atheists, calling the former a “lack of faith” and the “antithesis of religion.”
Alison Gill, our Vice President for Legal & Policy, submitted testimony in opposition to the bill, arguing it establishes a dangerous precedent. “Religious freedom does not exist in a legal system where lawmakers can just strip away protections for members of disfavored minority religion because they object to it. Such a system cannot help but foster religious favoritism and coercion.”
The advocacy work of American Atheists has never been so important. To support our efforts advancing compassionate medical care, protecting the civil rights of atheists, and more, please give $10, $30, or $60 today. And be sure to register for our upcoming 2024 Convention in Philadelphia! We’ll be announcing an exciting line-up of speakers very soon.
PS: It remains to be seen whether Arizona State University will have to euthanize its beloved mascot Sparky the Sun Devil.
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