Secular lawmakers in Arizona are coming out of the woodwork this week in response to the flood of anti-atheist rhetoric from their colleagues within the state’s capital.
Candidate for the Arizona Senate and self-described non-theist, Scott Prior, describes his battle as a non-believer and how he can’t stand idly by while other faiths hold a monopoly over secular people.
“There has been a lot of highly visible discrimination against minority faiths and nonbelievers in this state recently. When the Phoenix City Council held an emergency meeting to discuss whether it would allow the non-theistic Satanic Temple to offer an invocation, I heard a lot of inflammatory things said about secular Arizonans. There’s too much animosity against my community for me to be silent any longer.”
Another atheist politician, who represents predominantly Christian voters, was prevented from giving a secular invocation last week due to the governing body’s bylaws stating that prayers must open with a reference to “a higher power.”
According to reports, State Representative Juan Mendez wanted to welcome a 150 members of The Secular Coalition of Arizona to the state’s legislative body with an invocation. However, the House Majority Leader was blocked from giving the invocation citing the bylaw as a way to marginalize the organization, thereby retaining the Christian stranglehold over the House.
“I’m a secular humanist. It is infuriating that our community is not allowed to be represented in the opening invocation in the State House of Representatives. The people’s house. I have worried in the past about publicly talking about being non-theistic because I do not really think religious identity should be the focus of politics. But there is such a terrible stigma about non-theists right now. I want to work on changing that.”
Prior hopes that by declaring his non-belief to all of Arizona and the nation, others will may find the strength to come out and halt the discrimination against atheists and those of secular views.
“I have never been secretive about my atheism, but I decided I needed to put it front and center when my community came under attack.”