A Christian lawmaker decided to redo the opening invocation at the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday, a day after Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe led a secular "prayer."
"When there's a time set aside to pray and to pledge, if you are a nonbeliever, don't ask for time to pray," said Republican Rep. Steve Smith, of Maricopa, according to AzCapitol Times. "If you don't love this nation and want to pledge to it, don't say I want to lead this body in the pledge, and stand up there and say, 'you know what, instead of pledging, I love England' and [sit] down."
"That's not a pledge, and that wasn't a prayer, it's that simple," Smith added.
On Tuesday, Mendez surprised some at the Arizona House by revealing that he was an atheist, and led the opening invocation, which is traditionally a prayer before the session.
The Democrat asked fellow representatives not to bow their heads, but to look around the room at the men and women "sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people of our state."
"As my Secular Humanist tradition stresses, by the very fact of being human, we have much more in common than we have differences. We share the same spectrum of potential for care, for compassion, for fear, for joy, for love," Mendez said.
Smith, however, insisted on Wednesday that a proper prayer needs to be made, and about half of the 60-member body joined him in this second prayer of "repentance."
Mendez defended the invocation he offered on Tuesday, and said that he wanted to take the opportunity to convey a message.
"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," he explained.
Arizona House Speaker Andy Tobin said that he did not find Mendez's invocation to be problematic, but said that he also appreciates Smith's opinion.
"From my perspective I didn't see an issue with Mr. Mendez yesterday," said Tobin, R-Paulden. "I can appreciate what Mr. Smith was saying, but I think all members are responsible for their own prayerful lives and I think the demonstration that we take moments for prayer we all do collectively and in our own hearts."