A very sad thing happened on the floor of the Arizona state House on Wednesday. From the Associated Press: "Republican Rep. Steve Smith on Wednesday said the prayer offered by Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe at the beginning of the previous day's floor session wasn't a prayer at all. So he asked other members to join him in a second daily prayer in 'repentance,' and about half the 60-member body did so. Both the Arizona House and Senate begin their sessions with a prayer."
According to Rep. Mendez, who identifies as atheist, "'I wanted to find a way to where I could convey some message and take advantage of the opportunity that people have when they offer these prayers,' he said. 'If my lack of religion doesn't give me the same opportunity to engage in this platform then I feel kind of disenfranchised. So I did want to stand up and offer some kind of thing that represented my view on what's going on.'"
Fellow Democratic state Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai was far more outraged by Smith's attack on Mendez' beliefs. "'I want to remind the House and my colleagues and everybody here that several of us here are not Christianized. I'm a traditional Navajo, so I stand here every day and participate in prayers,' even without personally embracing them, said Peshlakai, D-Cameron. 'This is the United States, this is America, and we all represent different people ... and you need to respect that. Your God is no more powerful than my God. We all come from the same creator.'"