Reported By Randy DeSoto | Published March 27, 2019 at 12:08pm | Modified March 27, 2019 at 9:40pm
Pennsylvania Democrats, including the state’s governor, chastised a freshman Republican representative for an “offensive” and “Islamophobic” opening prayer at the state capitol in Harrisburg on Monday, during which she mentioned Jesus numerous times.
In her prayer, Rep. Stephanie Borowicz — an associate pastor’s wife representing a district in the center of the Keystone State — also thanked President Donald Trump specifically for “unequivocally” supporting Israel.
The lawmaker began the invocation, “Jesus, I thank you for this privilege Lord of letting me pray. I Jesus am your ambassador here today representing you, the King of kings, the Lord of lords. The great I am.”
Borowicz referenced the tradition of leaders praying for the country, including George Washington at Valley Forge, Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, as well as the members of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia who “fasted and prayed for this nation to be founded on Your principles and Your words and Your truths.”
“God forgive us — Jesus — we’ve lost sight of you, we’ve forgotten you, God, in our country, and we’re asking you to forgive us,” she said.
Borowicz then paraphrased the Bible passage 2 Chronicles 7:14, saying, “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek Your face, and turn from their wicked ways, that you’ll heal our land.”
The verse has often been quoted by political and religious leaders, including Ronald Reagan who had his family Bible opened to it when he was sworn as the 40th president of the United States in 1981, CBN News reported. Mike Pence used the same Bible, opened to the same passage when he took the oath as vice president.
Borowicz further prayed, “thank you that we’re blessed because we stand by Israel,” a clear reference to the Bible’s Genesis 12:3.
The representative concluded her invocation: “I claim all these things in the powerful, mighty name of Jesus, the one who, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord, in Jesus’ name.”
Someone, apparently a representative, yelled out as Borowicz was finishing, prompting Republican House Speaker Mike Turzai, who had looked uncomfortable at various points throughout, to nudge her arm indicating it was time to wrap it up.
Borowicz’s prayer came before Pennsylvania’s first Muslim-American female representative, Movita Johnson-Harrell, was sworn in. Johnson-Harrell recently won a special election to fill a vacant seat for a Philadelphia district.
Pennsylvania Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said on Tuesday that he apologized to Johnson-Harrell for Borowicz’s prayer, Fox News reported.
“I was horrified. I grew up in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said. “Pennsylvania was founded by William Penn on the basis of freedom of conscience. I have a strong spiritual sense. This is not a reflection of the religion I grew up in.”
Johnson-Harrell told reporters she thought pretty much the “entire invocation was offensive,” describing it as a weaponization of Jesus and the Israeli – Palestinian issue.
“It blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders — leaders that are supposed to represent the people,”she added in an interview with the Pennsylvania Capital Star.
Democratic Leader Frank Dermody called Borowicz’s invocation “beneath the dignity of this House,” The Associated Press reported.
Majority Leader Bryan Cutler did not find fault with his Republican colleague.
“I, for one, understand that everybody has sincerely held beliefs and I would never ask any one of us as an individual to go against that,” Cutler said.
Borowicz was unapologetic, according to state house reporter Andrew Bahl.
“That’s how I pray every day,” she said, adding, “Oh no, I don’t apologize ever for praying.”
Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Institute, said that individuals offering the opening prayers “should be free to pray as their faith and conscience dictates.” He said he would hope their words would not be censored.
“A Christian praying out loud to Jesus and speaking his name should not be a surprise to anyone, nor viewed as offensive,” Geer said. “From the days of William Penn and Benjamin Franklin, prayer is at the centerpiece of Pennsylvania’s founding and flourishing, and we must never abandon it.”
Harrisburg-based conservative radio talk show host Marc Scaringi agreed.
“State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz’s prayer wasn’t offensive,” he contended. “It was a beautiful invocation for the blessings of Jesus Christ. What’s offensive is Governor’s Wolf’s apology — that he was ‘horrified’ by the prayer.
“Strangely, Wolf invoked Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, in rebuke of Borowicz and her prayer. Yet, Penn founded Pennsylvania to be a peaceful refuge for members of all religious beliefs — and yes, that includes Christians too! Pennsylvanians should be horrified by our Governor’s apparent rebuke of the blessing of Jesus Christ.”
Rep. Jason Dawkins, a Muslim lawmaker, opened Tuesday’s Pennsylvania House session by reading from the Quran, prompting applause in the chamber, Fox News reported.
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