The Arizona State Senate and the House of Representatives begin each session with a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
On some level, I understand the inclusion of the Pledge of Allegiance. Since Arizona lawmakers often challenge the authority of the federal government, stating the Pledge of Allegiance may remind them that Arizona is not a sovereign country; it's one state in the United States.
But a prayer at the opening of an official meeting of US lawmakers?
Apparently, Arizona lawmakers take turns offering the opening prayer, and on Tuesday, all hell broke loose– literally and figuratively— when Rep. Juan Mendez (D-Phoenix) came out (as an atheist), asked people not to bow their heads, and offered this "prayer" to open the session.
"I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of people of our state."
I think this is a perfectly fine "prayer", but holier-than-thou Rep. Steve Smith (R-Maricopa) judged it a non-prayer. Smith insisted two prayers must be recited on Wednesday "for repentance" and asked everyone to stand and "give our due respect to the Creator of the universe."
This is fundamentalist hogwash.
Again, I ask the Republicans in the Arizona Legislature: What Would Jesus Do?
1- Jesus would pass Medicaid expansion and stop arguing about the elements that must be included in a proper prayer.
2- Jesus would say to Smith, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone."
3- Jesus would give Mendez a high five for suggesting that legislators dedicate themselves "to working toward improving the lives of people of our state."