On April 18th, 2017, State Representative Athena Salman offered a humanist invocation written by a member of her community, the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix. House leadership then ruled that, despite Salman’s assertion that her higher power is “the goodness in humanity,” Salman broke house rules by not praying to a higher power.
112 prayers have been recorded in the AZ House and Senate floors this year, 91% of them theistic and 80% specifically Christian or Judeo-Christian. Only six overtly secular invocations have been given this year, and three—including Rep Salman’s—prompted immediate reprovals or calls to order at the time they were delivered.
“The Arizona House of Representatives is the people’s house,” Salman said at a recent press conference. “Opening prayers in the House should represent Arizonans of every faith perspective. This includes the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who, like myself, do not believe in a supernatural God but do believe in the power of humanity to do good in the world.”
We agree: Legislative prayers—if they are to be held—must be open to Arizonans of every faith’s perspective, even those who do not subscribe to a supernatural power.
If you live in Arizona: call your legislators and tell them that lawmakers must be treated equally regardless of faith, and this includes expressing their beliefs during the opening prayer. Encourage them to seek better understanding of their nontheist colleagues’ viewpoints, to find common ground.