The Phoenix New Times published an article on Republican House members’ overreach after Rep. Athena Salman offered a secular invocation on the House Floor earlier this week.
As Salman noted, “The Arizona House of Representatives is the people’s house,” she said, her voice cracking. “Opening prayers in the House should represent Arizonans of every faith’s perspective. This includes the hundreds of thousands of Arizonans who, like myself, who do not believe in a supernatural god, but do believe in the power of humanity to do good in the world.”
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.
Secular AZ is proud to support Rep. Salman’s constitutionally protected right to offer a secular invocation rather than a religiously based prayer. As our Board Chair, Zenaido Quintana, noted at yesterday’s Standing for Our First Freedom interfaith event, “By requiring these ‘prayers’ to recognize a ‘higher power,’ the House rules silence secular lawmakers and prejudicially deny them a platform to speak that is available to their religious colleagues.”
Read the article in The Nation here:
Will you stand with us as we support the separation of church and state in Arizona’s government? Please become a member of Secular AZ or donate today to help us continue to fight.
In a January 10, 2017 press release, the Corporation Commission announced that it will start a new practice: starting meetings with a prayer. Contrary to the statements of Chairman Tom Forese, prayer in any form does not encompass all faiths and beliefs. In fact, prayer before government meetings is a divisive act that only serves to set people apart. That was immediately evident by the comment of Forese to a reporter that if the Satanists requested to do a prayer, “Satan has no place at the commission.” This is exactly the kind of discrimination that is prohibited under the First Amendment.
Read the full text of our letter to the Corporation Commission in response to their January 10, 2017 press release in the attached file.