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.

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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