Arizona has developed a penchant for political stances that spark legal and policy battles that sometimes hurt the state’s image among Hispanics, young people, tourists and businesses.
Arizona’s image problem has popped in the past few years with guns, immigration and battles with President Barack Obama, to the lament of the tourism industry, meeting planners and business recruiters.
Those folks have been worried over how the pro-gun-rights Arizona Legislature will react in the wake of the Newtown, Conn., shootings and Obama’s push for new federal gun controls.
But there is another bill introduced at the Legislature that could be cause for some public relations headaches for Arizona, spark a legal fight and feed into the Grand Canyon State’s right-wing narrative that’s been turning off some tourists, young professionals, Hispanics and businesses.
A group of Republican lawmakers want to require Arizona students to recite a loyalty oath to the U.S. and its Constitution before they can graduate high school. They are sponsoring House Bill 2467 in the Legislature. If passed, it would make the loyalty oath a prerequisite for graduation from any public high school in Arizona starting with the 2013-14 school year.
Students would be required to say:
I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose or evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; so help me God.
The wording sounds somewhat similar to oaths of office taken by members of Congress and the U.S. president. Some states have required public employees, including school teachers, to take or sign similar oaths.
From an economic development and tourism perspective, if the issue somehow takes off, it could write another unflattering chapter in Arizona’s book.
The bill also comes as the Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Gov. Jan Brewer look at setting new standards for Arizona schools.
The chamber and other business groups want Arizona students to be more career-ready. Business and political leaders also want to attract and keep more young professionals and college students. Controversy over a loyalty oath, if it passes, might not mesh with those goals.
The Arizona bill could also face legal challenges if it is approved.
Jehovah’s witnesses, some Muslims and pacifist Quakers have in the past challenged loyalty oaths imposed by the federal government and other agencies, saying they conflict with their beliefs and religious professions. Similarly, some Arizona students could challenge the proposed high school oath as a violation of their religious liberties and freedom of expression.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona could not be reached for comment Friday.