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.