A California State Senator’s Luncheon to Honor Students Begins with Christian Prayer

Over the weekend, California State Senator Roderick D. Wright (a Democrat) hosted a luncheon for high school honors students in his district. The invitation letter, sent out last month, was pretty straightforward and it sounded like a really nice gesture from a local politician:

Bob Smith (a pseudonym) was one of the attendees — his niece was being honored — but when the luncheon started, things got very quiet and very religious.

Beginning at the 0:48 mark in Smith’s video below, you can hear the person introducing Wright — Carson City Councilmember Mike Gipson — leading the crowd in a Christian prayer:

Senator Wright knew this was going to happen. He even mentioned it on his website:

LA Sheriff’s Lieutenant Scott Gage led the students, parents and teachers in the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by an invocation by Carson City Councilmember Mike Gipson.

Typically, government invocations are non-denominational, but I think it’s safe to say the line is crossed when you end the prayer with “Bless them now in Jesus Christ’s name. Amen.”

Smith notes:

There were noticeable Muslim students also at this event yet there was no mention of their faith.

There was obviously at least one atheist in the audience, too. Probably a lot more, though we don’t know for sure. But even if the entire audience comprised of Christians, it wouldn’t make this the appropriate venue for a religious prayer.

This wasn’t billed as a luncheon for Christian students only.

This was an event to honor the best and brightest students in Wright’s district, yet Wright and his colleagues used the time to make non-Christians feel excluded for the crime of not being in the majority faith.

Incidentally, Wright attended Pepperdine University, a private school affiliated with the Churches of Christ.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has been alerted.


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About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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