Americans United

Yesterday, Arizona state Rep. Athena Salman stood before her colleagues and offered an invocation. At first, it appeared to be just like any other day in the statehouse, where the House always opens its session with a prayer. But then Rep. Mark Finchem stood up, alleged that the prayer violated House rules and asked to give a substitute prayer. Finchem’s objection: Salman is an atheist and her prayer did not speak to what he understood to be a higher power.

Salman “believe[s] in the power of humanity to do good in the world” rather than a “supernatural God” and “goodness and humanity” is the higher power she appealed to in her invocation. The House Majority Leader and Speaker agreed with Finchem, however, and in an act of religious discrimination, ruled her humanist prayer was not actually a prayer and her understanding of a higher power doesn’t count.

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