Secular Coalition for Arizona
Invocation for Opening of AZ House of Representatives Session
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you to 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. 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…
Carl Sagan once wrote, “For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love.” There is, in the political process, much to bear. In this room, let us cherish and celebrate our shared humanness, our shared capacity for reason and compassion, our shared love for the people of our state, for our Constitution, for our democracy–and let us root our policymaking process in these values that are relevant to all Arizonans regardless of religious belief or nonbelief. In gratitude and in love, in reason and in compassion, let us work together for a better Arizona.
Juan Mendez, serves in the State House of Representatives and represents District 26 which includes north Tempe, northwest Mesa, and a large portion of the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. Yesterday during his inclusive opening “prayer,” he appealed to the legislature to represent ALL the people of Arizona regardless of religious belief and base their decisions on reason and compassion. According to Jonathan Turely, “Arizona had an extraordinary moment.” He’s right of course. The moment was “extraordinary.” It made national news and the dust hasn’t settled yet. The echoes of the last word of this secular invocation hadn’t died out before the story was picked up by USA Today, The Huffington Post, The Raw Story, azcentral.com, and of course Jonathan Turley. There are probably others covering this news item. This should not be news worthy. It should not be an “extraordinary event” when someone comes out and appeals to a legislature to represent ALL of the people it represents. Recent polls show that one in five Americans do not affiliate with a religion. If one looks at only the young people under 30, fully one third of them are unaffiliated—one in 3! Of course, that’s a nationwide survey. NPR did a story back in January about the growth of the nones. In the article they state that religion still rules in America. There is only one openly “none” in the current Congress and that is Kyrsten Sinema who is also from Arizona. Statistics state that the average American is slightly more religious than the average Iranian. Really? Wow!
Evidently, the CAP (Center for Arizona Policy) hasn’t noticed what occurred yesterday. It will and it’ll start lining up candidates to run against Mr. Mendez. However, the CAP could be a little distracted by the fact that a bill it sponsored making abortions illegal after 20 weeks was struck down by Judges in Ninth Circuit Court. CAP may be too busy trying to figure out how to spin the murder conviction of the Pennsylvania abortionist to its advantage or counting the money it made on the $250 per plate CAP Family Dinner with Ben Carson held earlier in the month. Or perhaps CAP is busy playing ghost writer for legislative bills and resolution such as the resolution to maintain the Boy Scout’s “Don’t ask don’t tell” policy.
The Secular Coalition for Arizona is the only group in the state that can seriously impact the CAP and its legislatively imposed policies but we are seriously out gunned. Currently, we only have one professional lobbyist while the CAP maintains a constant presence at the state legislature. Even so, this year we’ve moved from a strictly defensive posture to one that is actively trying to reverse the damage caused by the CAP and 114 bills that have been signed into law since they formed in 1995.
The Secular Coalition for Arizona (www.secularaz.org) is a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization that represents 17 organizations in the Arizona nontheistic community — a vibrant and growing community of Arizonans who self-identify as Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, Freethinkers, and other labels of personal choosing to elected officials in and from Arizona.
Psst…The Secular Coalition for Arizona does accept donations…