A Disgraceful Prayer – The Wrong Place, The Wrong Time

Having had the privilege as a Muslim of giving the opening prayer to the Arizona Legislature on two occasions in the past year, I read with interest the prayer provided to Monday’s opening session by Rep. Doug Quelland (R-Phoenix). Wednesday’s Republic describes the angry reaction from many legislators and specifically identifies the outrage of the Democrats. In fact, as a conservative, I am particularly offended since it brings guilt by association to others who may at times share some of his views. An opening prayer to any state Legislature which represents the diverse political spectrum of the state’s population should be provided in a manner that highlights the uniqueness of the individual in a manner respectful of all those present, regardless of faith or political persuasion. Alexis de Tocqueville stated that dictatorships can exist without God, but freedom and liberty cannot. Opening prayers or benedictions, interfaith prayer services, and other public acknowledgements of our diverse faiths are an essential practice in a secular democracy that promotes public religious tolerance and freedom. His exploitation of the prayer is disgraceful. There are certainly many political venues for Rep. Quelland to offer his views. However, the opening prayer service of Arizona’s House of Representatives, which serves all Arizonans is hardly the place and time. The American moto of ‘e pluribus unum’ (out of many one) is one which Rep. Quelland should refresh his memory the next time he offers a prayer to a diverse body of a diverse state. This column first appeared online at the Arizona Republic at this link.