The conclusion of the mystery surrounding the case of the missing Bibles in the members' lounge of the Arizona House of Representatives has revealed an unlikely culprit: an elected official who is also a pastor.
The lower house of the Arizona State Legislature includes a lounge for representatives to call, meet colleagues or staff. The Bible is prominently displayed there for those who wish to read it.
The 23 last march, the security team was notified of the disappearance of two copies of the holy book of the room. During her inspection of the living room, she discovered the Bibles hidden under the armchair cushions.
A week later, security was again brought in to search the premises after another bible went missing, which they found in the fridge. The security team decided to temporarily install cameras in the living room, which was not equipped with them, unlike most other common areas.
On April 10, the wrongdoer was identified as Democratic Representative Stephanie Stahl-Hamilton who is also a Presbyterian minister.
On the images, we can see the chosen one grabbing a Bible, even though several of her colleagues are present in the room. Unable to resist the temptation, the representative does not wait to be alone and hides the book behind an armchair, not realizing that she has a good chance of being seen by other people when she commits her act. Luckily for her, none of them notice her; well unfortunately for her, however, she is filmed.
Stahl-Hamilton declined to answer reporters' questions, but his office eventually sent a statement to Capitol TV that his actions were "just a playful way to comment on the separation of the Church and of the state." The elected official added, "I'm a Presbyterian minister, so obviously I have no problem with the Bible."
House Speaker Republican Ben Toma told the Capitol Press Office thathe had no intention of pressing charges, but that other elected officials could take action against him for disturbing public order.
Three Republican representatives announced their decision to refer to the House Ethics Committee. According to the three elected officials, by stealing Bibles on several occasions, their colleague created a hostile work environment. They state in their complaint that she may have offended other Christians and that her explanations and apologies are not sufficient:
"Rep. Stahl-Hamilton's actions are not only disorderly, they demonstrate a profound lapse in judgment and a flagrant disrespect for the beliefs of her colleagues and the people of Arizona at large, which makes his conduct unethical and unacceptable."
On April 26, Republican Representative Lupe Diaz, also a pastor, opened the parliamentary session by declaring that the Bible was "God's love letter to mankind" that some were trying to destroy:
"Over the millennia, tyrants have tried to eliminate it, burn it, bury it, hide it, and keep it away from people because it has the power to transform."
The accused representative apologized, assuring that she had “never intended to destroy, desecrate or offend” and that the Bible was “very close to her heart”:
"I recognize that a conversation ["un debate", NDLR] on the separation of Church and State should have started with a discussion."
Stahl-Hamilton holds a master's degree in theology from Princeton. His official website promotes his faith and indicates that she is pastor not installed.