Secular Coalition for Arizona (Secular AZ) is pleased at the outcome of the recent Phoenix City Council vote to replace the official invocation at the beginning of city overnment meetings with a moment of silence. This was a true victory and fortification of the wall separating church and state. Secular AZ has decided to take this opportunity to encourage the Arizona State Legislature to adopt a similar, or at least more inclusive invocation policy. The proposed state solution would be similar to the current city adopted moment of silence, or even former Phoenix City Council policy which allowed any religious group to simply apply to give an invocation.
The current policy of assigning invocations at the state legislature is not transparent, fair or representative of the distribution of religious views held by Arizonans according to the 2014 Pew Poll on religious affiliations. In Arizona, state legislators are permitted to give invocations themselves or to invite a religious leader of their choosing to give invocations. Incidentally, a research project by Secular AZ revealed that of prayers given at the state legislature are proprtionately much more Christian than actual Arizona residents, of whom only 68% identify as Christian. Of the invocations offered in 2015, an astounding 96% were Christian in nature. This year so far: 100% of the invocations offered have been Christian.
Representative Juan Mendez of LD 26, who does not identify as Christian, gave a Humanist invocation in the House of Representatives in May of 2013. Backlash ensued from the public and from fellowed elected officials. Representative Mendez's requests to offer secular invocations in years subsequent years have been denied without any clear given reason or policy even though he has followed the same requesting procedures outlined for all elected officials. The granting of invocation privileges is clearly subjective and unfair.
Taking a Stand for Secularism
Secular AZ has delivered two letters, one to the Speaker of the House, one to the President of the Senate asking for a discussion on either cessation of invocations at government meetings or at least a process that is more fair and inclusive of the variety of religious represented among Arizona residents. You can read the letters to the state legislature here and here.
If you want to stand with Secular AZ in our fight for secular public policy, we encourage you to become a member today!