Atheist Representative Juan Mendez Brings More Non-Prayer to the Arizona House
One week, the majority of the Arizona House of Representatives demands greater religious protections, even if it means allowing potential discrimination against others.
The next week, an atheist leads the House in prayer.
Democratic Representative Juan Mendez, who got national attention last year for coming out as an atheist on the House floor, reaffirmed this fact before the House Monday afternoon.
Mendez adapted a couple poems for this invocation -- William Cleary's "Grace to Shout" with Audre Lorde's "Litany for Survival":
In keeping with the spirit of the Opening Prayer during which we make a petition honoring our most sacred beliefs, I share with you a poem I adapted after hearing it from someone I respect -- a prayer from my Humanist worldview that appeals to all our common humanness.
Today I ask for us all
the grace to shout
the grace to shout when it hurts,
even though silence is expected of us,
and the grace to listen when others shout
though it be painful to hear,
the grace to object, to protest, when we feel, taste or observe injustice
believing that even the unjust and arrogant
are human nonetheless
and therefore are worthy of strong efforts to reach them.
Do not choose a path that leads to the heart of despair
but choose to fill yourself with courage and understanding,
Choose to be that person who knows very well
when the moment has come to protest
I ask for us all the grace to be angry
when the weakest are the first to be exploited
and the trapped are squeezed for their meager resources,
when the most deserving are the last to thrive,
and the privileged demand more privilege.
I ask that we seek the inspiration we find inside each other to make our voices heard
when we have something that needs to be said,
something that rises to our lips despite the fear that was created in hopes to silence us,
to make us feel unwelcome
Audre Lorde, writer and civil rights activist asked us,
To remember that when we are silent we are still afraid
So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive.
And so in closing I ask for us all to have the grace to listen when the many finally rise to speak and their words are an agony for us.
A few weeks ago, Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego also gave a non-prayer to the House.
Gallego and Mendez were among those in vocal opposition to the so-called "religious freedom" bill, SB 1062, and both voted against it.
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