EDITORIAL: A prayer that Pennsylvania politician will see error of her ways
Prayer, in the right hands, can be a beautiful thing.
It can offer comfort in times of despair.
It can give us a chance to remember our many blessings.
It can bring us together in a loving community of faith.
In the wrong hands, however, prayer can also be used in a more destructive, divisive manner.
Instead of encouraging comfort, it can be used to promote discontent.
Instead of remembering our blessings, it can be used to remind us of our misfortunes.
Instead of advancing our faith community, it can be used to emphasize our differences.
Unfortunately, a Pennsylvania politician chose the latter path recently when she recited the opening prayer in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Controversial invocation: State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz decided to politicize what should be a completely noncontroversial invocation.
The freshman Republican from Clinton County began the day’s session by thanking Jesus for the honor and President Donald Trump for standing “behind Israel unequivocally.”
“At the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord,” she said.
Her remarks, which made 13 references to “Jesus,” occurred shortly before the swearing-in of state Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, D-Philadelphia, the first woman Muslim to serve in the chamber.
Imagine, for a moment, that Johnson-Harrell made the same invocation, but substituted “Allah” for “Jesus”?
What kind of firestorm would that have created?
Coming under criticism: Borowicz, who is an associate pastor for a Christian church in Jersey Shore, justifiably came under criticism for her remarks.
Gov. Tom Wolf said he was “horrified” by Borowicz’s prayer.
Democratic Leader Frank Dermody of Allegheny County called Borowicz’s inflammatory invocation “beneath the dignity of this House.”
Dermody said Borowicz’s invocation stood out during his 28 years in the House.
“Never have we started out with a prayer that divides us,” Dermody said on the floor afterward. “Prayer should never divide us; it should be inspirational.”
Unfortunately, Dermody’s Republican counterpart, Majority Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster County, would not directly criticize Borowicz.
“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.
No apology: Borowicz, meanwhile, insisted she did nothing wrong.
“Absolutely not,” she said. “I pray every day. I prayed.”
Asked if she intended to heed Democratic calls to apologize, she said, “Oh no, I don’t apologize ever for praying.”
Not surprisingly, Johnson-Harrell saw it quite differently.
Call for censure: The new Muslim lawmaker rightfully called for Borowicz to be censured for blatant “Islamaphobia.”
“I do not have a problem with religion. I do not have a problem with choice. I do not have a problem with Jesus. I have a problem with using religion as a weapon,” Johnson-Harrell said.
For centuries, however, religion has all too often been used as a weapon. It has been used to divide, rather than unite.
The unfortunate remarks made by Borowicz are just another reminder of that sad history.
There’s just one thing left to do.
We can all pray that Borowicz will see the error of her ways.