Invoking the Kindly Ones

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is disenfranchising to anyone who is not Christian as demonstrated by Representative Mendez’ attempt to balance this outdated practice with a secular alternative,” said President David Silverman.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!



  1. Stacy says

    Maybe Juan Mendez could give his next turn at an invocation to a pagan. Be fun to see how Smith responds to that.

  2. says

    Interesting ethics there, too, and ever so typical of breed, really, when you think about it… ‘Repenting’ of someone else’ invocation.

    I guess it makes about as much sense as dying for someone else’ sins. The additional bonus being: you get to make a big preachy deal of it, say how dreadful you think it is, but, see, you’re doing everyone a solid, here, in so doing. I’m ever so repentant, see. See the sackcloth and ashes? Bow before my superior humility, everyone.

    No, really. I’m terribly impressed by the very gesture. To the very point that, this being such a neat move, well, allow me to borrow it:

    (Clears throat…)

    I hereby apologize to anyone who might be listening–yea, to the universe at large–for the very existence of Smith.

    No, I am probably in no particular way responsible for said existence, sure… But, see, I still kinda feel the need. Something about watching him, oddly, made me feel kinda dirty. I hope by this action to feel somewhat cleansed.

    So, to everyone and anyone: my profoundest apologies.

  3. says

    Repenting someone else’s invocation?

    That’s kinda like being inducted into the LDS church after you die, isn’t it?

  4. screechymonkey says

    AJ Milne,

    It’s even worse than that, I think. To me, the “repentence” comment carries the message that not only is Smith sorry for what Mendez did, but he’s also apologizing to God for letting Mendez do that. Similar to some of the anguished cries about how God is going to punish Minnesota for allowing gay people to marry.

    “You’re going to hell if you do that” is annoying and rude, but “and I have to stop you from doing that or else I’m going to hell” is pretty much a recipe for oppression, isn’t it?

  5. says


    If it is, yeah, very much a recipe. And a very common one.

    It’s the cry of authoritarians everywhere. It’s necessary for some reason that we bludgeon and silence you. We don’t want to, oh no*. Hurts us more than you, we assure you. But the god/the greater good demands it/we’re following the orders we must/etc.

    (*/And don’t let the strange way we’re breathing so hard as we do so fool you. Really, we hate this. Honest.)

  6. Gordon Willis says

    But isn’t Mr Smith just doing his Christian job? He has to insist on repentance, otherwise God won’t know that America is a god-fearing country, and then where will you be? Those quaintly old-fashioned Kindly Ones couldn’t even begin to compete with Angels of Death and Fathoms of Blood and ever-so-many Frogs and Boils…Honestly, Ophelia, you really haven’t thought, have you? What can an atheist invoke but Spirits of Niceness or Genii of Being-Decent-Democratic-Citizens or similar potty piffle. It’s pathetic. They’ll be so totally squished by The Holy One’s delicately shaded equines nobody will ever know they were there. Hopeless.

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