Jarrett Maupin to Representative Steve Smith: Don't Apologize to Atheists for Prayer

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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.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley