Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
"[N]o religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." - Article VI, Paragraph 3, U.S. Constitution.
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof..." - First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
"The liberty of conscience secured by the provisions of this constitution shall not be so construed as to excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify practices inconsistent with the peace and safety of the state. No public money or property shall be appropriated for or applied to any religious worship, exercise, or instruction, or to the support of any religious establishment. No religious qualification shall be required for any public office or employment, nor shall any person be incompetent as a witness or juror in consequence of his opinion on matters of religion, nor be questioned touching his religious belief in any court of justice to affect the weight of his testimony." - Article 2, Section 12, Arizona Constitution.
Rep. Steve "Secession" Smith (R-Maricopa) from District 11 has been working overtime this session for the title of "Most Offensive Legislator." Dude, if I award you the title now, will you please just go away?
The latest incident involves what should have been a non-event in the 21st Century under American constitutional law. "Rep. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, acknowledged his secular views as he gave the daily House invocation on Tuesday, urging legislators to look at each other, rather than bow their heads, and 'celebrate our shared humanness.'" Arizona lawmaker: I’m an atheist:
Rep. Juan Mendez, D-Tempe, who said it was freeing to be open about his secular views, also introduced about a dozen fellow members of the Secular Coalition for Arizona who watched from the House gallery.
[Note: "Atheism" and "Secular humanism" are not interchangeable synonymous terms. Look it up Arizona Republic. Nowhere in his invocation did Rep. Mendez state "I'm an atheist" as you attribute to him in the headline (see below).]
Tuesday’s invocation was to have been given by Serah Blain, executive director of the Secular Coalition of Arizona. But Mendez said House staff had no record of his request to allow Blain’s remarks, so he offered the remarks himself.
“This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration,” he 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.”
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.
House lawmakers appeared to have no reaction to Mendez’s remarks. . . until the next day when Rep. Steve "Secession" Smith and his religious bigotry reared its ugly head at the Arizona Capitol. Arizona legislators spar over use of daily prayer time:
The dust-up stems from the decision by Rep. Juan Mendez, D-Phoenix, a self-professed atheist, to use his turn Tuesday offering the traditional prayer at the beginning of the House session. He started out by urging colleagues "not to bow your heads.''
* * *
No one said anything publicly at the time. But by Wednesday's session, Rep. Steve Smith, R-Maricopa, lashed out at Mendez. He said if Mendez did not want to offer a prayer, he should have skipped his turn in what had traditionally been a rotation among members.
And to make up for that lack, Smith insisted Wednesday on offering a prayer -- actually the second for the day -- "for repentance of yesterday,'' asking asked colleagues to stand and "give our due respect to the creator of the universe.''
* * *
Smith's actions drew a slap from Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai, R-Cameron. She noted that many of the prayers that are offered are done so in the name of Jesus Christ.
"We have Native Americans out there that are not Christianized like myself,'' she said.
Yet Peshlakai said she and others have never made a fuss over those prayers. And she said it was inappropriate of Smith to criticize what Mendez did.
"You have tradition that you pledge and pray,'' Smith responded later. In fact, House rules list the order of business each day as roll call, followed by prayer and then the Pledge of Allegiance.
"A prayer wasn't offered yesterday,'' Smith said.
"It's almost as if you stood up and said ... well, instead of saying the Pledge you stood up and said, 'I love all the nations of the world' and sat down,'' he explained. "Well, that's not the Pledge of Allegiance and what he said yesterday was not a prayer.''
And Smith noted that Mendez, during that time, mentioned that members of the Secular Coalition of Arizona were in the gallery, explaining that was part of the reason he was offering his alternative.
Smith said those who do not believe in an Almighty are entitled to the same consideration and rights on the House floor.
"However, when there's a time set aside to pray and to pledge, if you are a nonbeliever don't ask for a time to pray,'' he said.
Which begs the question, "Believer in what or whom exactly?" Jesus Christ? Because now you have just imposed a religious test, and established a requirement that one must believe in the Christian faith.
There are many religions in the world, and believers in a religious faith and non-believers alike are all entitled to the free exercise of their religion or "liberty of conscience" under the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions.
Maybe Democrats, when it is their turn for the invocation, should put this guiding principle to the test by inviting leaders from other religions to give the invocation. They can start with Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Here is a pie chart of the world religions by percentage according to the CIA Factbook as of 2007.
You should note that non-believers outnumber many of the world's established religions. In fact, The Arizona Republic noted that "A recent study by the Pew Research Center found that people with no religious affiliation make up the third-largest group worldwide, after Christians and Muslims. About 20 percent of people in the U.S. say they are religiously unaffiliated." So Rep. Mendez represents a sizable group of Americans.
Just as offensive to me as the religious bigotry of Rep. Steve "Session" Smith is this op-ed page post online at the Arizona Republic asking readers to weigh in on the question "Should atheists pray?"
The constitutional right to the free exercise of religion (U.S.) and the "liberty of conscience" (Arizona) are fundamental constitutional rights, they are not subject to a popular vote plebescite. That's what makes them fundamental constitutional rights! Under the Constitution, a pagan and a Satanist would each have an equal right to give the invocation. I'd buy a ticket to this event, just to watch Rep. Smith's head explode.