Juan Mendez of Tempe opened the afternoon session last week with a humanist affirmation instead of a prayer.
“Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads,” Mendez said. “I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.”
“This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration,” Mendez said. “But this is also a room where, as my secular humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love.
Mendez continued, “Carl Sagan once wrote, ‘For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.’”
Did the wind just change directions?
Most articles didn’t reveal that he offended and got in response a second prayer.
Republican Rep. Steve Smith on Wednesday said the prayer offered by Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe at the beginning of the previous day’s floor session wasn’t a prayer at all. So he asked other members to join him in a second daily prayer in “repentance,” and about half the 60-member body did so. Both the Arizona House and Senate begin their sessions with a prayer and a recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.
“When there’s a time set aside to pray and to pledge, if you are a non-believer, don’t ask for time to pray,” said Smith, of Maricopa. “If you don’t love this nation and want to pledge to it, don’t say I want to lead this body in the pledge, and stand up there and say, `you know what, instead of pledging, I love England’ and (sit) down.
“That’s not a pledge, and that wasn’t a prayer, it’s that simple,” Smith said.
Aaah, that’s more like the Arizona we know. Being an atheist is unAmerican. Mendez was also supported, sort of.
“From my perspective I didn’t see an issue with Mr. Mendez yesterday,” said Tobin, R-Paulden. “I can appreciate what Mr. Smith was saying, but I think all members are responsible for their own prayerful lives and I think the demonstration that we take moments for prayer we all do collectively and in our own hearts.”
Huh, agrees with Smith but supports Mendez–now there’s a politician! It takes a Native American to set it straight.
Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, who represents a northern Arizona district on the Navajo reservation, did take offense. She said Smith’s criticism of another member’s faith, or lack of it, was wrong.
“I want to remind the House and my colleagues and everybody here that several of us here are not Christianized. I’m a traditional Navajo, so I stand here every day and participate in prayers,” even without personally embracing them, said Peshlakai, D-Cameron. “This is the United States, this is America, and we all represent different people … and you need to respect that. Your God is no more powerful than my God. We all come from the same creator.”
Insiders still. Will no one say that prayer of any sort doesn’t belong at the beginning of a legislative meeting? Peshlaki is at least saying that we are all of the same heritage so to speak but nevertheless.
The Supreme Court is going to rule on this again but it’s hard to see how they won’t support the 1983 Marsh vs Chambers ruling where it was decided that the tradition of prayer was a culturally shared communication rather than a “decidedly religious practice.” Here is Berger’s majority opinion.
The use of prayer is embedded in the nation’s history and tradition. That the practice of the Nebraska legislature is consistent with the framers’ intent is proven by their use of chaplains. Additionally, the Supreme Court and Congress have traditionally begun their sessions with prayers. Individual states do not have to abide by more stringent First Amendment limits than the federal government. The Establishment Clause does not always bar a state from regulating conduct simply because it harmonizes with religious concerns. Because of the principles upon which the nation has developed, religion has become part of the fabric of society. The offering of the prayer is a tolerable acknowledgment of beliefs widely held among the people of this country. The public payment of the chaplain is historically allowable because it was done by the Continental Congress years earlier. The pervasiveness of involving prayer with governmental activity without adverse effect has shown that there is no real threat from continuing the practice.
In Florida they worry about this. Florida though it may seem liberal is pretty damned conservative. You can’t pee in Florida without prayer. Indeed, the only time I was threatened with Christ was in Florida. When climbing on an airboat I was stopped by the owner, the father of a friend of mine, and asked if I had Jesus in my heart. I stared at him and asked what? “Did I have Jesus in my heart?” The small group of crackers (Florida natives) peered at me and I did what any person under torture would do, I told him what he wanted to hear. Yes. And I got my free air boat ride. Perhaps he thought he was saving me I don’t know. He was cantankerous but not an asshole so I let it go. Mostly because I was surrounded, had no escape, and couldn’t think of a response as I was so damned surprised by it. What kind of faith is it when forced and how does that save me?
No such worries with the mayor of Deltona, FL:
“In some way, you affect the lives of everybody in your community. I don’t think there’s any harm at all in taking a moment to think about the real reason you’re there: to help your fellow man,” Masiarczyk said. “I don’t see how that can be separated from a religious prayer or invocation. Any kind of guidance we can get as elected officials we could sure use.”
You can’t help your fellow man unless you’re religious. This doesn’t sound like the generous prayer of shared communication. This sounds like foam at the mouth you all must be christ-lovers to be moral bullshit. I’m sure he means a special sort of guidance.
The SC case involves Greece NY and whether the opening prayer was too Christian, did they try hard enough. There’s the rub. Tradition since 1983 has supposed to have been as general nondenominational prayer whatever that means.
The justices said they will review an appeals court ruling that held that the upstate New York town of Greece, a Rochester suburb, violated the Constitution by opening nearly every meeting over an 11-year span with prayers that stressed Christianity.
The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the town should have made a greater effort to invite people from other faiths to open its monthly board meetings.
I suppose now that the pope has become Unitarian anything is possible.
Jim Newman, bright and well