Atheist Legislator in Arizona Blocked from Giving Invocation That Doesn’t Reference a Higher Power

In 2013, when Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez delivered an atheist invocation on the House floor, the celebration was short-lived. One of his religious colleagues gave a second Christian invocation the following day. As if God would use it to offset the secular invocation in some sort of weird karmic rebalancing.

Things went a little better when Mendez delivered a secular invocation in 2014.

So when Mendez signed up in January to give the invocation that took place yesterday, you’d think there’d be no problem at all.

Instead, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro blocked him from giving the speech, citing an unofficial rule that all invocations had to be made to a Higher Power.

This year, Mendez said he made a request on the first day of the session in January to give the prayer on Monday. Mendez was told that day was already spoken for.

Shortly thereafter, Montenegro put out a memo saying that the House rules that require the day start with a prayer requires something that specifically refers to a higher power.

“Prayer, as commonly understood and in the long-honored tradition of the Arizona House of Representatives, is a solemn request for guidance and help from God,” Montenegro wrote. He said anything else — including a moment of silence — does not meet that requirement.

That’s bullshit, of course. An invocation can be given to whomever you want. The Supreme Court ruled in Greece v. Galloway that atheist invocations were legal in government settings alongside religious ones.

But Montenegro chose to replace Mendez with a minister “who made repeated references to the Almighty as well as Jesus Christ.”

Mendez was able to deliver his prepared invocation, but only during a time reserved for personal comments — after the invocation. It’s unequal treatment, no matter how you slice it.

“We need not tomorrow’s promise of reward to do good deeds today,” Mendez said in his floor speech.

I think we all know how this issue must be handled. Time to invoke Lucien’s Law.

Mendez should call The Satanic Temple — the group that already forced the Phoenix City Council to eliminate invocations altogether just to prevent Satanists from speaking at their meeting — and have them pray to Satan on the House floor.

And if you think that’s a mockery of the system, well so is whatever the hell Montenegro just did.

(Thanks to Brian for the link)

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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