Lawmaker Comes Out as Atheist During House Prayer

Arizona Rep. Juan Mendez encourages colleagues not to bow heads

By Ruth Brown,  Newser Staff

Posted May 22, 2013 10:53 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Arizona House and Senate typically convene with a prayer, which members take turns delivering. But Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez did something unusual yesterday: He took the opportunity to announce that he's an atheist (he referenced his "secular humanist tradition") and encourage other members not to bow their heads in prayer, but rather to look at each other and "celebrate our shared humanness," the Arizona Republic reports.

"This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration,” he told the House. "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." He also quoted Carl Sagan, adds the Phoenix New Times, and afterward said he was just one of 1.3 million Arizonans who are not religiously affiliated.

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