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PHOENIX (ChurchMilitant.com) - A former Arizona government official is blaming anti-Catholicism for his firing. Tim Jeffries, former director of the Department of Economic Security (DES) for Arizona, was let go in November 2016, allegedly for his role in mass firings of employees. He is also accused of paying for alcohol for staff.
Jeffries, however, is speaking out and blaming religious persecution by the media for his firing. In an interview with NBC 12 News, he accused the Arizona Republic, the newspaper that investigated Jeffries and his role in mass firings at DES, of anti-Catholic bias.
He commented, "The Arizona Republic is a liberal paper. They're hardwired to dislike a guy like me. They are anti-Catholic. They're anti-conservative. They're anti-business."
In the past, Jeffries has been outspoken about his Catholic faith in his role as leader of the DES, which has led to opposition and criticism. In June 2016, the Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) took issue with Jeffries' informing his employees in April about his trip to the famous Marian shrine of Lourdes, France, and offering to bring their written "special intentions" to the shrine.
In a letter to Jeffries, Madeline Ziegler, a legal fellow with FFRF, wrote, "This leads any reasonable observer to conclude that the DES under your leadership endorses religion over non-religion, and Christianity over all other faiths. Please inform us in writing of the steps you are taking to ensure these constitutional violations do not recur."
In response, Paul Watkins, chief counsel of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich's civil division, defended Jeffries and his actions.
"Mr. Jeffries' internal emails about his personal trip were private speech, did not bear the endorsement of the State and did not violate the Constitution," Watkins wrote. "Furthermore, if DES were to adopt a rule banning religious speech in internal workplace emails, as you suggest, it would violate the First Amendment."
In Jeffries' previously mentioned email to his employees, he had written:
If you are comfortable, I would be immensely honored to carry your special intentions to the Grotto at Massabielle on the River Gave in Lourdes. If you are moved to do this, simply place your special intentions in a MS Word document, then PDF the private document. Upon doing so, please e-mail the PDF to me. I promise that your private intentions will not be read. Your special intentions will be printed, and placed in a confidential envelope for my humble delivery to the Grotto.
Watkins further remarked, "Mr. Jeffries' email is plainly personal. At no time did Mr. Jeffries state that DES is sponsoring or endorsing his emails, his trip or his beliefs."
In an email to Kathryn Jean Lopez, editor-at-large of National Review Online, Jeffries wrote, "I love my Lord, family, country and state. I also love my constitutional freedoms and will not surrender them to anyone. Faith has a prudent, legal and wonderful place in America's public square, particularly as we lovingly serve the least."
In addition to these emails, Jeffries also came under fire for the purportedly brusque way in which he fired employees. He also allegedly paid for alcohol for stuff during work hours.
Jeffries claims the reasons for his firing were a "manufactured crisis" by the media in Arizona.
On the issue of mass firings, as part of his role as director of DES, Jeffries tried to fulfill Gov. Ducey's goal of cutting the DES by 10 percent or 770 employees. During the process, he took heat from the Arizona press for firing employees who claimed to be qualified and allegedly calling certain employees "idiots," "bullies" and "losers."
He also sent out an email to his employees in August 2016, calling out "haters" in his organization. In the email, he wrote, "Your ongoing distrust, dislike and discounting of the beautiful things in play at our great and noble agency weigh very heavy on my heart."
He went on to write in the email, "In fact, I also hope you will cease your covert attacks and simply engage me directly so we can learn from each other. Many others have done this. The conversations, the give and take, the back and forth, have been awesome."
Jeffries was officially forced to leave his leadership position at the DES on November 23, 2016, on the orders of Gov. Ducey.