There’s nothing unusual about opening a session at a state House of Representatives with prayer, but eyebrows were raised and questions are being asked about the particular prayer offered by State Representative Stephanie Borowicz in Pennsylvania.
In a 100-second invocation just before the legislation inducted its first Muslim woman, Borowicz praised President Donald Trump’s support of Israel, asked for forgiveness for America because “we’ve lost sight of you, we’ve forgotten you, God, in our country, and we’re asking you to forgive us”; quoted from 2nd Chronicles in a call for the nation to “turn from its wicked ways” and declared that she could “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.”
That’s pretty standard language for church and home, but it clearly made even some of Borowicz’s colleagues uncomfortable in the political setting. In the video, Speaker Mike Turzai can be seen glancing around anxiously and finally tapping Borowicz’s elbow, prompting her to wrap up her prayer. It raises questions about just what is and isn’t appropriate for politicians in terms of religious expression while on duty, with some calling on Borowicz to apologize.
“It blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders — leaders that are supposed to represent the people,” Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell, the newly sworn-in Muslim Democrat told the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. “I came to the Capitol to help build bipartisanship and collaborations regardless of race or religion to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the Commonwealth.”
Representative Jordan Harris says he’s a committed Christian, but he agreed with Johnson-Harrell’s words. “I’m a Christian, and I believe in Christ,” Harris said in a video posted to Twitter. “What I believe is Christ’s teaching more than anything, and his teaching would not be about, and was not about, dividing us as a people, but uniting us as a people.”
Prayer should never be weaponized, especially on a celebratory day for @RepMovita as she’s sworn in as the 1st Muslim woman to serve in the #PAHouse. This prayer was deeply disrespectful and meant to intimidate Movita & her family. We won’t stay silent on what matters! #LoveWins pic.twitter.com/V7vIepG2Da
— Jordan A. Harris (@RepHarris) March 26, 2019
“That’s how I pray everyday,” Borowicz said when asked about the prayer by reporters. When asked to respond to calls to apologize she said, “Oh no, I don’t apologize ever for praying.”