PENN­SYL­VA­NIA LAW­MAKER’S PRAYER LEADS TO OB­JEC­TIONS

The Tribune (SLO) - - Insight - BY MARK SCOLFORO

HAR­RIS­BURG, PA.

The first fe­male Mus­lim mem­ber of the Penn­syl­va­nia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives said Tues­day she was of­fended by a col­league’s de­ci­sion to open a vot­ing ses­sion with a prayer a day ear­lier that “at the name of Je­sus ev­ery knee will bow.”

Demo­cratic Rep. Movita John­son-Har­rell of Philadel­phia said she felt the re­marks by Rep. Stephanie Borow­icz shortly be­fore John­son-Har­rell took the oath of of­fice on Mon­day used her re­li­gion against her.

“I thought that for the most part, the en­tire in­vo­ca­tion was of­fen­sive,” John­son-Har­rell told re­porters, not­ing that her own re­li­gion re­spects Je­sus. “But to use Je­sus as a weapon is not OK.”

Borow­icz, a Repub­li­can and as­so­ciate pas­tor’s wife who was elected to rep­re­sent a ru­ral cen­tral Penn­syl­va­nia dis­trict in Novem­ber, also thanked Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump dur­ing the Mon­day in­vo­ca­tion for stand­ing be­hind Is­rael.

John­son-Har­rell said she re­spects ev­ery­one’s right to praise the pres­i­dent, but “we can­not weaponize what’s go­ing on with Is­rael and Pales­tine.”

Prayer should not be among the things that Repub­li­cans and Democrats fight about, she said.

“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 said. “And not only that, it was made dur­ing my swear­ing in.”

John­son-Har­rell won a spe­cial elec­tion ear­lier this month to fill a seat va­cated by the res­ig­na­tion of Demo­cratic Rep. Vanessa Low­ery Brown, who had been re-elected in Novem­ber af­ter be­ing con­victed of bribery.

Her swear­ing-in drew 55 guests, a ma­jor­ity of them Mus­lim. A Mus­lim prayer was said from the House dais dur­ing the cer­e­mony.

Borow­icz de­fended her re­marks Mon­day, say­ing, “I pray ev­ery day. I prayed.” She did not im­me­di­ately re­turn a mes­sage seek­ing a re­sponse to John­son-Har­rell’s com­ments Tues­day.

“At the name of Je­sus ev­ery knee will bow and ev­ery tongue will con­fess, Je­sus, that you are Lord,” Borow­icz said on Mon­day.

Her floor re­marks drew a re­buke from Demo­cratic Leader Frank Der­mody of Al­legheny County, who called Borow­icz’s in­vo­ca­tion “be­neath the dig­nity of this House” and asked that a group be set up to re­view the pro­ce­dure.

Demo­cratic Gov. Tom Wolf said Tues­day he was “hor­ri­fied” by Borow­icz’s in­vo­ca­tion and apol­o­gized to John­son-Har­rell on be­half of all Penn­syl­va­ni­ans.

“I was hor­ri­fied. I grew up in Penn­syl­va­nia. 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,” said Wolf, a Methodist.

ABBY DREY AP

Fresh­man Repub­li­can state Rep. Stephanie Borow­icz, shown March 7, said an open­ing prayer Mon­day in the Penn­syl­va­nia House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives that drew com­plaints.

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