Rep. Juan Mendez
March 3, 2016
The traditional opening prayer given prior to the start of the session of the Arizona House was given by atheist Democrat Juan Mendez, but since it did not reference a higher power, Republicans in the House were upset and had a Baptist minister give another prayer that gave thanks to God.
After Mendez' invocation, House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro said the decision not to pray to God didn't meet the rules he issued for the opening prayer.
Earlier this year, Mendez signed up to give an invocation, but Montenegro blocked him, citing an unofficial rule that all invocations had to be made 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 count.
Seráh Blain was at the meeting and told Hemant Mehta what happened, which he published on his Friendly Atheist blog: "Immediately after Mendez gave it, House Majority leader Montenegro rose for a point of order saying that the rule calling for the House to open with a prayer was not fulfilled. Speaker of the House [Andy] Tobin said the point was well taken and called on a minister waiting in the wings to give a prayer to our heavenly father. Representative [Rusty] Bowers took a point of personal privilege to accuse Mendez of impugning people who pray."
Here is the invocation Mendez gave:
"We are here today, as everyday, to represent our pluralistic society — of which I am grateful to again be included in.
To represent that beauty of our multi-cultural state that reflects our diversity of color, of heritage, of religion and lack thereof.
Spanning across communities both urban and rural; we are the same. Yearning to better our lives. Looking to better the lives of others.
Let us embrace those that want to help our society grow. Let us accept each other for our differences. Let us work to help those we represent flourish.
We need not tomorrow's promise of reward, to do good deeds today. For some may seek the assistance of a higher power with hands in the air, there are those of us that are prepared to assist directly, with our hands to the earth.
Take these words to heart as we move this great state of Arizona forward: It is our responsibility to honor the Constitution and the secular equality it brings.
And so shall it be."