By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Juan Mendez) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America (Juan Mendez) [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

An atheist lawmaker’s prayer before the Arizona House fell short of Republican member’s expectations.

Juan Mendez, a Democrat member of Arizona House and an atheist who was stripped of the chance to deliver the opening prayer of the chamber by his majority Republican colleagues in February, finally got the opportunity in March. However, to his consternation, the leaders opined that his prayer was insufficient and ended by calling on a Christian pastor. Mendez's opening prayer included a call to work together as a state so that its residents may prosper. He also requested they “honor the Constitution and the secular equality it brings.”

However, Republicans were infuriated that he did not perform any prayers to any higher being. He deliberately did not invoke God.

During the invocation, Mendez expressed his gratitude for his representation of a “pluralistic society” and also his thanks for beauty of the multicultural state which mirrors the diversity of religion, heritage, and color. He also thanked the absence of religion and encouraged lawmakers to be receptive of differences. Mendez suggested that religious faith is not compulsory to possess a moral compass.

Mendez insisted that there is no requirement of a promise of reward in the future so that one do good deeds at present. He continued by saying that while a few of the lawmakers ask for assistance of God with their hands in air, a few lawmakers are ready to help them directly, with hands to earth. He urged his colleagues to make these words a centerpoint of their activity as they all move Arizona forward. It is a responsibility to honor such a constitution along with its accompanying secular equality.

The Republican response was scathing. Steve Montenegro, the House Majority Leader, said that the decision by Mendez to not pray to a higher being fell short of House rules that were issued earlier in 2016 for opening prayer. David Gowan, the Speaker of the House described Montenegro's action as “point of order well taken.” He then asked a Baptist Minister, Reverend Mark Mucklow, to provide an apparent suitable response.

A number of GOP members of the House made it clear that they saw the behavior of Mendez as an attack on their Christian faith. State Representative Mark Finchem of the Republican Party said that he is saddened and also offended that a member belonging to this body would disregard with complete knowledge the House rules and call for prayer.

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