Atheist Lawmaker Quotes Carl Sagan Instead of Praying Before a House Session

State Representative Juan Mendez
Left: State Representative Juan Mendez - Right: Sen. Steve Smith (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

It was quite an event at a session of the Arizona House of Representatives after Juan Mendez, who is an atheist democratic representative of Tempe, took the chance given to people who would like to pray before the session started. However, he asked the people present not to bow their heads as is the norm during most prayers. Instead, he asked the legislators to share in a moment of love and reflection, appreciating life and being dedicated to its improvement. As is the tradition, Arizona House of representatives and the senate start their sessions with a word of prayer from a member of the house and a recitation of the Pledge of allegiance.


Juan Mendez did it differently this time and even quoted Carl Sagan. He went ahead to stress that being human, we tend to have much more in common than differences. During the session Mendez introduced members of the Secular coalition for Arizona. One of the members introduced said that she was witnessing history. After the invocation, Mendez said that he hoped this was the beginning of a new era where non-believers in Arizona would be as welcome and valued as much as the believers.

With Arizona's legislature being controlled majorly by religious politicians, this has brought about a lot of comments and reactions. Steve Smith, a Christian republican representative, disagreed with the prayer the following day asking the other members to join him for a repentance prayer. This “repentance” prayer was done by half the house. He commented on the previous day's events saying that the invocation by Representative Juan Mendez was neither a pledge nor a prayer.

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