Jarrett Maupin to Representative Steve Smith: Don't Apologize to Atheists for Prayer
That guy who thought politics makes strange bedfellows was really on to something.
Especially in the case of Phoenix African-American activist Jarrett Maupin, who sent New Times a copy of a letter he sent to Republican State Representative Steve Smith, asking him not to apologize for his recent retaliatory prayer against an atheist colleague in the House of Representatives -- an apology that has been requested from a national atheist organization.
-Reverend Jarrett Maupin Endorses Ben Quayle: "He's My N*gga"
-Atheists Want Representative Steve Smith to Apologize for His "Repentance" Prayer
-Steve Smith Says Extra Prayer to Offset Atheist Colleague's Non-Prayer
-Atheist State Representative Juan Mendez's God-Free Invocation (Video)
-Atheist Lawmaker Quotes Carl Sagan Instead of Doing Prayer Before House Session
For those who have not been following the saga, Democratic Representative Juan Mendez essentially came out as an atheist when he delivered the opening prayer for the House of Representatives last week by asking that people not bow their heads, and instead spoke about the values of his "secular humanist tradition."
"I hope today marks the beginning of a new era in which Arizona's non-believers can feel as welcome and valued here as believers," Mendez later said.
In response, Smith asked the next day that everyone in the House pray for the second time of the session -- in "repentance" for the previous day's lack of prayer.
Some atheist organizations took issue with Smith's clear shot at Mendez, who made a lot of non-God-fearing folks pretty happy with his coming out.
Lawrence Krauss, a theoretical physicist and director of the Origins Project at Arizona State University, who said that Smith "embarrassed himself," adding that Smith "demonstrated how, unfortunately, religious belief can be used as a basis for exclusion and hatred."
"Representative Smith owes Representative Mendez, and the citizens of our state, an apology for his inappropriate remarks," Krauss said in a statement.
The letter from American Atheists echoed that.
"Your invitation of a second daily prayer in 'repentance' for the secular invocation offered by Representative Mendez on Tuesday was insulting and degrading to him and to all nonreligious Arizonians as well as all non-Christian Arizonians," the letter said.
Well, Maupin's taking the side of Smith -- the same Steve Smith who's buddy-buddy with guys who aren't exactly friends to minority communities around here, like ousted Senate President Russell Pearce and Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Of course, Maupin's title is "Reverend," as he's a Baptist minister, so his defense of Smith isn't completely out of left field.
Read Maupin's letter, including some bombs he tosses at the atheist community, on the next page.
On behalf of Christians, particularly Black Christians, (who owe our freedom and continued socio-economic improvement to the Christian Liberation Theology that continues to and always has fueled the Civil Rights Movement in this nation) I am urging you not to apologize for your prayer. I was shocked and disappointed by the recent letter sent to you by various atheists, urging you to recant your words.
If you called for "repentance" during prayer for whatever reason, you are justified as a Christian and as an American blessed with freedom of speech, to do so. As a liberal democrat and proud radical Christian, I too feel that many in our GOP controlled legislature could benefit greatly from prayers of repentance AND atonement, particularly for legislative injustices forced upon many of God's children (with and without papers) in this state, by that illustrious and predominantly (allegedly) Christ-following body.
Representative Mendez took advantage of his right to speak freely. He chose to go to Carl Sagan and you chose to go to God. What if I was invited to offer prayer and I went to Jesus Christ in prayer asking for the oppressive and restrictive yoke of middle-aged-white-male-privilege and the burden of racism to be broken and lifted from our state, would I be wrong? Would I need to apologize if I prayed for God to bring about His reign of justice and end conservative policies that promote poverty and disenfranchisement? What if the next day someone else prayed that what I prayed for wouldn't happen? Would they need to apologize for that? I think not. I know many who would not agree with my activist Christian prayers. I would welcome them to pray or in Rep. Mendez's case say whatever is written on their hearts to say. That is how freedom works.
So, my brother, do not apologize for what you decided to pray for or about. No one need do that. While I don't necessarily agree with the aim of your prayer for "repentance", I am also not too fond of the values of "secular humanists" who remain a largely Anglo-dominated group that is itself, steeped in liberal racism and soft bigotry. One need only examine the national staff of the American Atheist's organization that sent you the letter condemning your prayer, to know that the God-less too, do not practice (especially in regards to hiring/leadership) the same level of respect for diversity they now require of you. Having an all-white staff and practicing the politics of tokenism on an organizational board isn't patriotic or progressive, it's patronizing and regressive.
I pray you continue to promote free speech during moments of prayer (for others, reflection) before sessions of the legislature. I hope people say whatever they want to say in prayer to God or out of sincere concern for their fellow man. I urge others who disagree to say whatever they want to say, the next day, or whenever they have the opportunity. No one has a monopoly on God's ear or the minds of free-persons listening to a colleague's secular petition. This is America. People say how and what they feel and others respond, all within the realm of civility. I thank God and WE ALL can thank The Constitution for that.
Keep The Faith,
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.