Pennsylvania state Democrats branded as "offensive" a Republican’s decision Monday to open a voting session with a prayer and a thank-you to President Trump for supporting Israel, with some Dems claiming to be “horrified” by the remarks and accusing the female lawmaker of Islamophobia.
State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, a Republican and associate pastor’s wife who was elected to the state House in November, was accused of bigotry after she invoked the name of Jesus at least 13 times just before the Legislature swore in its first Muslim woman at the Statehouse in Harrisburg.
“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,” Borowicz said added. She then praised President Trump for his support of Israel.
“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,” Borowicz said.
Democrats slammed her for the prayer. Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, the Muslim lawmaker who was sworn in at the Statehouse, accused Borowicz of using her religion against her.
“I thought that for the most part, the entire invocation was offensive,” she told reporters. “But to use Jesus as a weapon is not OK.”
“We cannot weaponize what’s going on with Israel and Palestine,” she continued, noting that everyone is free to praise the president.
“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 added. “And not only that, it was made during my swearing in.”
“I thought that for the most part, the entire invocation was offensive ... We cannot weaponize what’s going on with Israel and Palestine.”
Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Tuesday that he issued an apology to Johnson-Harrell.
“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."
Democratic state Leader Frank Dermody said Borowicz’s speech was “beneath the dignity of this House” and suggested setting up a group to review the procedure.
But the Republican state representative defended her prayer Monday, saying that, “I pray every day. I prayed.”
State Rep. Jason Dawkins, another Muslim lawmaker, opened the session Tuesday by reading from the Quran, prompting applause in the chamber.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.