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Ethics committee concludes Rep. Stahl Hamilton violated Arizona House rules by hiding Bible

In a unanimous decision, the Arizona House Ethics Committee concluded that Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton violated House rules for a Bible-hiding prank caught on camera.

Stahl Hamilton, a Tucson Democrat, never disputed the facts of the matter — on three separate occasions, she swiped Bibles from end tables in the Arizona House members’ lounge and hid them under cushions, and in one instance, a nearby refrigerator.

It’s now up to the full 60-member House of Representatives to decide if, or how, Stahl Hamilton should be reprimanded for violating House Rule 1 — disorderly behavior.

The House will reconvene on Monday after taking a four-week hiatus. 

Possible punishments range from a censure to expulsion – though that’s unlikely since it would take a two-thirds majority vote of the House to do so, and House Republicans hold a narrow one-vote majority over Democrats in the chamber.

In an April apology delivered on the House floor, as well as a written response to the ethics committee, Stahl Hamilton — an ordained Presbyterian minister — has described her actions as a playful commentary on the separation of church and state and a protest against the weaponization of religion in politics.

A seven-page report, released Friday by the ethics committee, cast doubt on the sincerity of the apology, as well as Stahl Hamilton’s characterization of her actions as a “joke.”

“Many members of this committee do not view this as an act of jest,” the report stated.

The report concluded that, by hiding Bibles, Stahl Hamilton “deprived members who choose to exercise their religious beliefs by referring to the biblical texts of an opportunity to do so.”

The committee also wrote that the “offense and disrespect” Stahl Hamilton displayed for the Bible were not unique to the Bible.

“Her actions would have been equally offensive and disrespectful if it had been the Book of Mormon, Qur’an, or any other religious text,” the report stated.

However, the Bible is the only religious text available in the members lounge.

Stahl Hamilton could not immediately be reached for comment. 

House Democratic leadership issued a statement accepting the report and its findings, but also made clear they accept Stahl Hamilton’s past apologies on the matter. 

“She has owned her actions,” leadership stated. “We will not engage in any further divisive rhetoric or political opportunism that this incident has inspired.”

Ben Giles is a senior editor at KJZZ.