One of the big stories of the 2017 session of the 53rd Legislature was #PrayerGate. On April 18, 2017, Rep. Athena Salman, who is an atheist, read a secular meditation on the Floor of the Arizona House. This is against the rules. According to the Majority Party (who makes the rules), the daily prayer on the Floor of the House must include seeking guidance from a higher power.
After Salman read her inspirational statement, Rep. Mark Finchem jumped out of his seat to protest her “prayer” as “inappropriate” because it didn’t mention God or Jesus. Finchem was allowed to offer a replacement prayer with God in it. A debate about “appropriate” prayer ensued, with atheists, Native Americans and others defending traditions that have been deemed “inappropriate” by the Republicans who control the Legislature. This is not the first time that Godless prayer in the Arizona Legislature has made international news.
A few days after #PrayerGate, the Secular Coalition of Arizona held a press conference in support of religious freedom– even for the nonreligious. I was glad to stand with Salman, the Native Americans, the Secular Coalition, other Unitarian Universalists, and those who practice Christian or non-Christian religions or no religion.
At the press conference we jointly read the secular meditation that Athena read on the floor of the House.
I stand with the Secular Coalition on this issue because I believe in the separation of church and state and because I am a Unitarian Universalist. We’re the “It’s Complicated” religion because we accept refugees and outcasts from many other religions, and we accept nonbelievers. We are guided by our seven principles which include honoring the inherent self-worth of others, the interconnectedness of life, democracy and fairness, the search for truth (even if it means believing in science!), and more.