So Arizona State Representative Juan Mendez gave a secular invocation in the state House of Representatives on Tuesday. (Invocation. Honestly, what a word. Normally the legislators in Arizona call up spirits every morning. “Hellooo. Hellooooooo, is anyone there?” Then one day there’s a slip-up and one legislator talks sense for once.) Well we can’t have that.
American Atheists announced Friday that it has demanded an apology on behalf of all non-Christians for disparaging remarks made by Arizona state Senator Steve Smith on Wednesday. Smith’s remarks were in response to the secular invocation offered by state Representative Juan Mendez on Tuesday in the state House of Representatives.
Smith, a conservative Christian, opened Wednesday’s House session with not one, but two prayers, the second in “repentance” of the secular invocation offered the day before by Mendez. Smith invited the other lawmakers present to join him; about half of the sixty did. Smith said, “When there is a time set aside to pray …, if you are a nonbeliever, don’t ask for time to pray.”
Religious test for office. Dude, that’s a no-no. You’re not allowed to do that.
“Opening the legislative sessions with prayer is disenfranchising to anyone who is not Christian as demonstrated by Representative Mendez’ attempt to balance this outdated practice with a secular alternative,” said President David Silverman. “But for Senator Smith to say that a fellow lawmaker’s secular choice requires ‘repentance’ is reprehensible. His statement excluding nonbelievers is one of the most un-American remarks I have ever heard from a public servant and is a perfect example of why there should not be any prayer sponsored by government. Senator Smith should be ashamed. He owes Representative Mendez an apology. He owes non-Christians an apology. He owes the American people an apology.”
“For Smith to suggest that Mendez’s expression of Humanist beliefs requires our government to pray for repentance is really awful and insulting. I’m incredibly disappointed,” said Seráh Blain, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition of Arizona.
Stop trying to exclude and disenfranchise us! It ain’t right!