May 22, 2013

An atheist prays in Az. state legislature

It's normally assumed that atheists don't pray. When an atheist state representative in Arizona -- one of the few openly atheist lawmakers in the country -- was tasked with offering a prayer to start an afternoon session of the state legislature, though, he stepped up. Juan Mendez, a 28-year-old Democrat who identifies labor leader and civil rights activist Cesar Chavez as his political hero, asked the legislators not to bow their heads, and then offered up a god-free prayer.

The Phoenix New Times reports:
'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."'
According to the Arizona Republic, the other lawmakers in the house had no response. In a comment Mendez left on the popular atheist blog The Friendly Atheist, he said "there are more non believers than you would think" in Arizona.

Mendez was elected to office in 2012. As a lawmaker, he has authored legislation that would bar credit card company marketers from college campuses, allow voters to register to vote the day of elections, reform the procedures for assessing affordable housing, require home owners associations to allow vegetable gardens, and start a micro enterprise development program. He hasn't sponsored or co-sponsored any legislation specifically related to religion or atheism.

Update (May 23): Mendez's secular humanist prayer did get some response, after all.