Religion

Democrat Ruben Gallego Gives Non-Prayer to Arizona House of Representatives



For the second time in as many years, an Arizona lawmaker has delivered a non-prayer to the House of Representatives.

Last year, it was Democratic Representative Juan Mendez who spoke about his "secular humanist tradition" instead of delivering a prayer. Today, Democratic Representative Ruben Gallego gave an inclusive invocation telling people to pray or not pray to whomever they'd like.

"The purpose of our opening prayer is to ask for something important," Gallego said. "I'm asking that whichever God you pray to or whichever value system inspires you, let's stay focused on beliefs we all share--like the idea that we should do for others what we want for ourselves."

He went on to talk about the "golden rule."

Beforehand, Gallego -- a Harvard alumnus and Iraq War veteran -- said in a prepared statement, "We have to stop ignoring the secular community in Arizona. I'll work with anyone who wants to improve the quality of life in our state. It doesn't make sense to exclude people over religion if we're focused on the same goals."

Gallego gave his invocation as members of the Secular Student Alliance and Secular Coalition for Arizona showed up to interact with a few legislators, including Gallego, Mendez, and Democratic Representative Stefanie Mach.

As you can imagine, such invocations are rare, as many politicians, especially in Arizona, flaunt their adherence to Christianity as if it's a qualification for the job.

When Mendez gave his declaration last year, Republican Representative Steve Smith later took a timeout so he could lead everyone in a Christian prayer in "repentance" for what Mendez had done.

Gallego's invocation didn't draw a response to that level, but there was actually another prayer, in addition to Gallego's.

Although Gallego was under the impression he was scheduled to say the prayer, House Speaker Andy Tobin introduced a rabbi to lead the prayer.

Turns out, Republican Representative John Kavanagh introduced a group of local religious leaders from a multi-religious organization, including that rabbi, an imam, and several Christian church leaders sitting in the House gallery, before Mach introduced the equally large group of non-theists sitting next to them.

Gallego didn't say anything about his own religious beliefs, but according the leaders of the Secular Coalition for Arizona, Mendez has said that he's not the only Humanist in the Arizona Legislature.

Send feedback and tips to the author.
Follow Matthew Hendley on Twitter at @MatthewHendley.


KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley