Every session at the Arizona State House of Representatives begins with a prayer or invocation. Congressmen and women can sign up to lead the prayer in the morning, but there is a catch- apparently, the prayer has to include God. While yes, traditionally prayers are said to a higher power, with the rise of atheism, modern congressmen and women may not subscribe to traditional religions. Therefore, many if not all of the prayers held at the House of Representative sessions are Christian in nature.
Democratic State Representative Juan Mendez is not a Christian, in fact, he is an atheist. He had long been denied the option to lead the morning invocation for fear that his prayer would not include God.
Thursday morning, the atheist congressman was able to offer his prayer after a colleague gave up his spot. In his secular invocation, Mendez gave thanks for his “pluralistic society” and “multicultural state,” encouraging his peers to “accept each other for our differences,” even saying that religious faith is not necessary for a true moral compass.
According to the Supreme Court ruling in the 2014 case Greece v. Galloway, prayer is allowed at government meetings, as long as individuals of all faiths are allowed to have their time. This has led to the large influx of Satanist and Atheist groups lobbying to have their time at government meetings in recent months. So Mendez’s invocation was entirely legal and within his rights to give. Unfortunately, the Arizona House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, who is also a Christian minister, did not think the prayer was sufficient. He called Rev. Mark Mucklow to finish the prayer:
After the reverend gave his final prayer, business was able to begin. Many representatives expressed their distaste with Mendez’s invocation, even saying that they were offended by his words, and that his prayer was “proselytizing.” Representatives Mark Finchem and Kelly Townsend had caustic remarks about the prayer:
While the atheist congressman may have upset his conservative colleagues, he was well within his rights under the law to give an invocation that did not fall under Christian purview.
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