Arizona's John 'Birth' Society : It's All Politics A bill that would require presidential candidates to supply their birth certificate before they can appear on a state ballot got initial approval from the Arizona state House on Monday.
NPR logo Arizona's John 'Birth' Society

Arizona's John 'Birth' Society

Back in the early 1960s, the John Birch Society was one of the more famous right-wing political groups in the country.  Some of its pronouncements, like that of founder Robert Welch's contention that Dwight Eisenhower was a "conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy," were often ignored or ridiculed.  But the group had a sizable following and included several members of Congress.

There appears to be a rise in right-wing political activity in latter years, especially since Barack Obama was elected president.  Part of that is linked to Obama's election itself, part is because of the decline of the economy and the uncertainty and fears that accompany that.  Some of the new groups, such as the Michigan-based Hutaree group, are violent; Hutaree has been charged with conspiring to kill police officers.  Others are just angry, and they have expressed it with ugly and often hateful rhetoric.

Then there are the birthers.  These are the folks who are convinced that Obama is not a natural-born citizen of the U.S. and thus is ineligible to be president.

According to the Arizona Republic's Casey Newton, several laws have been proposed -- in Oklahoma, Florida and Missouri -- to make sure that state election officials, such as the secretary of state, inspect presidential candidates' birth certificates before that candidate could qualify for the ballot.

Now that bill has gone further in Arizona than anywhere else, as yesterday the Arizona state House gave it initial approval, legislation, Newton writes, that "originated from a fringe group."

State Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat, complained that "Republicans continue to take Arizona down the wrong track by wasting taxpayers' time on frivolous legislation instead of working on important issues like health care for kids and seniors and education." 

But some Republicans are not embracing the bill either.  A spokesperson for GOP Secretary of State Ken Bennett said in an e-mail message "that creating state-level eligibility requirements to run for federal office could violate the U.S. Constitution":

While everyone has an interest in ensuring that only eligible citizens run for president, there are obvious issues with states implementing what could become a patchwork of different tests for a presidential candidate to prove his/her citizenship.

The bill has been amended since its initial language, so it still needs final approval from the House and another vote in the Senate before it can reach the desk of Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican.

This action came the same day the Arizona state Senate approved one of the toughest immigration laws in the U.S.  Here's coverage of that from the Arizona Republic, New York Times and the Associated Press