On the response of the Arizona State Legislature on Humanist Prayer

The Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix is a small but active and loving community in Mesa. Our organization is dedicated to learning, exploration, upholding the virtues of freedom, and providing service to the surrounding communities.

First, we would like to thank members of the faith community who came to stand with us. Thank you for hearing our concerns about what happened on Tuesday, April 18 in the Arizona House of Representatives. Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you for being a good neighbor and supporting us in our time of need. You are the example of goodness that today’s polarized climate desperately needs. I would also like to thank those representatives that stood up in defense of religious freedom. Representatives Gonzales and Benally, thank you.

In the invocation written by our Program Director, James Fuchs, James invokes the shared goodness of humanity to band together, to put aside our petty differences and truly work to make Arizona a better place in which to live and work. He calls for justice. He calls for unity. He calls upon the assembly to do good.

However, our legislature clearly did not hear this call. Their “hearts have become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes.” They took something beautiful—a call to love their neighbors—and they polluted it so that they could exclude those who are different. In an outrageous display of abuse of power, they held a second invocation, as though the first was unworthy or didn’t matter or should be silenced. Let’s think about this. They invoked God to ask for forgiveness for Athena’s invocation, an invocation intended to inspire unity and a desire to achieve shared prosperity for all citizens among our elected officials. Our legislature works for us, for all citizens of this great state. They are not to pick winners and losers with respect to the beliefs and faiths of others.

Those without belief in God or gods are honest and hardworking citizens, too. Our lawmakers have the duty to uphold the Constitution: to defend the rights of everybody, not just those with similar beliefs. What happened Tuesday sets a dangerous precedent. It sends the message that those who are different are not welcome here. It sends the message that they get to decide who can participate in the democratic process. It is the duty of all citizens to defend the rights of others, even those in the minority.

This time, they came for us. If they can get away with marginalizing those with a peaceful and loving invocation, then who is next? Will they determine which is the right god? Will they determine which is the right way to pray? Is it now the job of our legislators to tell you how to worship properly and if you don’t you should not try to become a public servant? No. No this is not right. If you wish to defend your sovereign rights to pray and worship as you see fit, then we invite you to join us and send a message to your representatives today to keep the government out of religion. This time they came for us. Next time, they may come for you. Don’t let them tell you that the way you pray is wrong or unworthy of inclusion.

Chris Wojno
President, Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix