Arizona House Doubles Up on Prayer to Counter Atheist

Christian lawmaker calls second one 'repentance' for colleague's non-prayer
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 23, 2013 4:30 PM CDT
Arizona House Doubles Up on Prayer to Counter Atheist
This 2011 file photo shows Arizona state Sen. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, left, and Rep. Russ Jones, R-Yuma.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

A little addendum to a story out of Arizona this week about an atheist state lawmaker who took a turn offering a prayer of sorts before the day's session. In doing so, Juan Mendez asked his peers not to bow their heads and extolled the values of his own "secular humanist tradition." He said he hoped his move "marks the beginning of a new era in which Arizona's non-believers can feel as welcome and valued here as believers." Turns out, he might have to wait a while, notes the Phoenix New Times.

Yesterday, a Christian lawmaker said Mendez's prayer on Tuesday did not qualify as a prayer, and he asked lawmakers to stand for what the AP calls a "do-over." That is, Steve Smith gave a second prayer (after the morning's regular prayer) in the name of "repentance." Smith explains: "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." The Supreme Court might have something to say on the matter, or something like it. Justices this week agreed to hear a case from the town of Greece, New York, in which residents sued over town officials' practice of opening meetings with a Christian prayer. (More Arizona stories.)

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