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This morning, a Humanist delivered the first ever secular invocation in front of the Iowa State Senate.

Joe Stutler, a “reverend” from the Universal Life Church (which ordains just about anybody) and a board member for the Humanists of Linn County, did the honors. He was invited to speak by State Senator Rob Hogg and State Reps. Art Staed and Liz Bennett, all of whom represent Linn County.

I can’t embed the video right now, but you can watch it here beginning at the 10:01:35 timestamp.

We gather together this morning in this august chamber to conduct the business of We The People of Iowa.

As we begin today’s work, let us pause for a moment in contemplation and celebration of our diversity and of our commonality.

Senators and clerks, pages and staff, guests and lobbyists and constituents, coming from all across our great state, diverse in our races and religions, our genders, ethnicities, our ages and experiences, our sexual and political orientations, representing more than three million people, congregating here to work together in the spirit of our shared humanity to continue to build upon the legacy of our forebears for the sake of both ourselves and our posterity.

In our work and in our lives, let us not allow our differences to divide us, but rather instead let them inform us, educate us, give us insight into our fellow Iowans’ points of view.

Let us require clear arguments, credible evidence, and good rationale when presenting claims. Let us fully consider perspectives of those with whom we disagree.

Let us use our shared ability to reason, to gather and process data, to engage in cordial and informed discourse. Let these be the means by which we conduct our shared business and by which we conduct our lives.

Let us invoke reason and civility — and kindness — in the name of our shared humanity.

Thank you.

That speech was welcoming and uplifting, just as you’d expect. So why don’t we see more atheists delivering these invocations? Or, more to the point, why are politicians so afraid of giving them permission to speak?

Remember that atheist activist Justin Scott has been trying everything to get a state senator to sponsor him for this very invocation to no avail. He delivered an invocation in the Iowa House last year (as did another Humanist weeks later), but he couldn’t get an invite in the other chamber. His emailed to State Sen. Hogg, he told me, went unanswered.

Stutler told me he didn’t have the same problem. It was only after he was approved to speak that State Sen. Hogg asked him how he wanted to be introduced. So while it’s tempting to believe his ordination from the ULC played a role in the decision, that doesn’t seem to be the case at all.

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Hemant Mehta is the founder of, a YouTube creator, podcast co-host, and author of multiple books about atheism. He can be reached at @HemantMehta.