When politics uses Jesus ‘as a weapon’

Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, a Republican from rural Pennsylvania, insists she was just praying when she led the Pennsylvania House of Representatives on Monday.

Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, the first Muslim elected to the legislative body, thinks the prayer was more than coincidence.
Johnson-Harrell was being sworn in after winning a special election. The gallery featured her guests, many of whom were Muslims.

Borowicz, the wife of a pastor, said ‘‘At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord,’’ in her prayer.

Johnson-Harrell says Borowicz used Jesus as a weapon.

‘‘It was directly a political statement, and I think we need to be very, very clear that everybody in this House matters, whether they’re Christian, Muslim or Jew, and that we cannot use these issues to tear each other down,’’ Johnson-Harrell tells the Associated Press. ‘‘And not only that, it was made during my swearing in.’’

By the end of the invocation, legislators were raising objections when the speaker nudged Borowicz to wrap it up, WHYY reported.

The Pennsylvania House and religion have been pretty tight.

House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, who controls the invocations, banned anyone who’s not a “believer.” Last summer, he lost a federal court decision on the point and since then the lawmakers themselves give the invocations.

Johnson-Harrell didn’t understand the reason for the passive aggressiveness because Muslims “actually believe that Jesus was a prophet; Muslims understand the significance of Jesus in this world and in our own personal lives,” she said.

“It was not meant to bring us together, it was not meant to inspire us, it was beneath the dignity of this House,” the House minority leader said.

Borowicz told WHYY she was unaware of any pushback, and later posted the remarks to her Facebook page, where they met almost universal condemnation.

  • Borowicz told WHYY she was unaware of any pushback,

    Clueless or willfully ignorant?

    • BJ

      Busy? I’ve spend days not following twitter and facebook because you know, work.

    • AmiSchwab

      willfully hateful

  • Al

    I’m beginning to understand the major religious split in the US isn’t between us Christians and Muslims and Jews and other groups. It seems like it’s between evangelical Protestants and, well, the rest of us. I attend church weekly (often more than weekly), and the language in this prayer is completely foreign to me.

    • Jack

      Somehow we have forgotten that Christians, Jews, and Muslims are all praying to the same God (just using different names).

      I’ve walked out of more than one church where one of those religions was condemned for the acts of a follower.

  • MrE85

    Not sure if this fits the “politics” heading or a new one, “just prayin'”

    Probably both.

  • Mike

    I’m always amazed at how the actions of the Christianists are so frequently at odds with the scriptures they claim to hold dear.

    “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

    Matthew 6:5

    • Al

      I’m less amazed than sad and frustrated. It’s human nature to take what we read and bend it to our own understanding and context.

      “Amazing” works more for me when it’s used to describe how what many of us believe to be the thesis of the Bible–love–is ignored or dismissed or twisted to solely serve that understanding and context. Like, love is the whole POINT. What part of that wasn’t evident?

  • Postal Customer

    “everybody in this House matters, whether they’re Christian, Muslim or Jew”

    You know who else matters? People who don’t buy into any of that. We’re a large and growing minority, and we’ll be a plurality at some point not too far away. We might not like you praying in any form in a governing body.

    • Al

      *Christian hat on* I’d like to sign on to omitting prayer from governing bodies, please and thank you.

      • Jack Ungerleider

        The Establishment Clause and the concept of separation was not just an idea supported by the 18th Century politicians that wrote the documents that govern are nation. Many church leaders of that time also wanted the government out of the religion business. They had just removed themselves from a nation with an official church. These religious leaders (mostly Protestant Christian denominations) feared the establishment of a “Church of America” that would make all other denominations second class citizens. The fact that it also protected non-Christian religions didn’t seem to bother them at the time.

    • jon

      As a non-believer, I’ve no issue with a “prayer” however invoking any deity should be off limits.

      “Jesus is lord” off limits.
      “Allah Akbar” not ok.

      but “Make this a session of great value.” I’m fine with that… I mean I’d presume it was directed at those involved in the session rather than their imaginary friend, and maybe it’d be good for these supposed leaders to hear that this stuff is in their hands rather than hearing that all of their actions are controlled by almighty Thor.
      And if your God is omnipotent she’d know who you were talking to.

      I can probably be ok letting it be ended with an amen too… though being that this is america, it’d be nice if they spoke English and ended it with a “so be it” or even a “truth!” (followed by a mic drop.) rather than mispronouncing Hebrew… but English is all about mispronouncing other languages and calling it our own so it’s hard to judge.

  • Chris Nelson

    I think you may have linked to her personal Facebook page instead of to her “official” PA State Rep page: https://www.facebook.com/RepBorowicz/

  • AmiSchwab

    separation of church and state. full stop.

    • BJ

      “Separation of church and state” doesn’t exist. It is paraphrased from Thomas Jefferson.

      Constitution has “no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States” as part of Article 6

      First amendment to the US Constitution states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

      So a legislative body can do something that like a prayer as long as it isn’t doing the above.

      Oh and the 14th amendment makes this work at the state level as well.

      • Well privacy isn’t in the Constitution per se, but you have a right to it.

        I would argue that the separation of church and state is in the Constitution because Justice Hugo Black put it there in Engel v. Vitale — the school prayer case — when he wrote “the State’s use of the Regents’ prayer in its public school system breaches the constitutional wall of separation between Church and State.

        • BJ

          True. Privacy isn’t called out.

          Just like the Church and State there is enough language in the Bill of Rights protecting specific parts of privacy. The privacy of beliefs (1st Amendment), privacy of the home ie can’t house soldiers (3rd Amendment), privacy of people and their possessions against unreasonable searches (4th Amendment), and then the 5th Amendment covers self-incrimination, which protects the privacy of personal information in criminal court. And then the 9th Amendment has words stating that the “enumeration of certain rights” in the Bill of Rights “shall not be construed to deny or disparage other rights retained by the people.”

  • AL287

    These days what is ethical and moral is up for debate.

    We have a president at the helm of state who wouldn’t know the meaning of those two words if they hit him in the head with a sledge hammer.

    He goes to religious services for the optics not the fellowship.

    Trump is the poster child for everything that is wrong with America today. We’ve become a greedy, selfish, corrupt country.

    Our motto is “Every man for himself.”

    Sad. Really sad.