Atheist lawmakers are few and far between, but one Arizona State Representative tasked with delivering the opening prayer for Tuesday's House session delivered a Carl Sagan quote instead.
Democratic Representative Juan Mendez, of Tempe, spoke about the secular humanist tradition and noted that he is just one of 1.3 million Arizonans not affiliated with a religious tradition or organization, according to the Phoenix New Times.
"Most prayers in this room begin with a request to bow your heads. I would like to ask that you not bow your heads. I would like to ask that you take a moment to look around the room at all of the men and women here, in this moment, sharing together this extraordinary experience of being alive and of dedicating ourselves to working toward improving the lives of the people in our state.
This is a room in which there are many challenging debates, many moments of tension, of ideological division, of frustration. But this is also a room where, 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 closed with the Carl Sagan quote, "For small creatures such as we, the vastness is bearable only through love."
Mendez also introduced members of the Secular Coalition for Arizona sitting in the House gallery. One member said she was "witnessing history."
"I hope today marks the beginning of a new era in which Arizona's non believers can feel as welcome and valued here as believers," Mendez concluded.