One of the biggest political stories of the week that doesn’t involve Donald Trump comes from the Pennsylvania state house of representatives. On Monday, a freshman Republican lawmaker opened the day’s legislative session with a staggeringly divisive prayer.
By nature, invocations at state legislatures are supposed to be calls for unity. But someone must have forgotten to tell Stephanie Borowicz, who represents Lock Haven and some State College suburbs, when she took the lectern on Monday morning. Watch what ensued here.
Borowicz’ prayer was better suited to something you’d see at a Values Voter Summit or similar gatherings, not to a state legislature. While using “Jesus,” “Lord,” and “God” as commas, she railed that “we’ve lost sight of you” and “forgotten you.” She begged forgiveness for forgetting that the Founding Fathers “fasted and prayed for this nation to be founded on your principles,” and that “you are our only hope.”
She also thanked God for Trump “unequivocally” supporting Israel, and reminded the audience that “every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord.” By then, at least one lawmaker, Margo Davidson of the Philadelphia suburbs, had shouted an objection–unheard of for an invocation anywhere in this country. At that point, state house speaker Mike Turzai nudged Borowicz, who took the hint and got off an “amen” before stepping down.
While the tenor of this prayer would have been inappropriate on any occasion, it especially grated on Democrats because this was the same day that Movita Johnson-Harrell was sworn in as the first Muslim woman to serve in the chamber. Johnson-Harrell, a Democrat from West Philadelphia, denounced Borowicz’ prayer as a textbook case of “the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders.”
Erik Love, a professor at Dickinson College and an expert on Islamophobia, agreed, saying that Borowicz was effectively saying that “Pennsylvania is a white, Christian commonwealth”–and Muslim lawmakers aren’t welcome.
Meanwhile, Borowicz didn’t seem to understand what the fuss was all about, judging by this interview with Andrew Dahl of Pennsylvania Legislative Services.
She doubled down in a fuller statement obtained by Matt Maisel of WPMT in York.
Both statements sounded tone-deaf in the extreme. But consider Borowicz’ background. According to an article in The (Lock Haven) Express announcing her candidacy, she is a graduate of Vanguard University, a Pentecostal-oriented university in Orange County. According to her state house biography, she attended a private Christian school near Orlando. Her husband, Jason, is associate pastor at Crossroads Community Church in Jersey Shore, near Williamsport.
From the looks of it, Borowicz has spent most of her life in a Christianist bubble. In that world, anything less than in-your-face Christianity is considered “lukewarm”–and thus puts you at risk for God spitting you out of his mouth, as Revelation 3:16 puts it. Never mind that verse may have been ripped several light years out of context. Looking at the Amplified Bible, when God says he’d rather us be hot or cold, “hot” is said to mean “invigorating, refreshing,” while “cold” is said to mean “healing, therapeutic.”
But at least one prominent evangelical thinks this is a lot of fuss over nothing. Namely, Franklin Graham. He took to Twitter and to Facebook to applaud Borowicz’ prayer.
Um, Franklin? Borowicz’ district may be somewhere around 80 percent Christian, but she were elected to represent all of your constituents, not just the Christian ones. And she doesn’t just serve alongside Christians in Harrisburg. I’m sure that your father would not be so willing to applaud Borowicz. But then again, you share very little with him except a name.
Apparently Borowicz either doesn’t know, doesn’t understand, or refuses to understand that you can respect the faiths of everyone without being lukewarm. The closest thing we’ve seen to a response from her since Tuesday came when she shared Graham’s statement on her Facebook page.
Word to the wise, Stephanie. If it’s “lukewarm” for lawmakers to have respect for the faiths of ALL of their constituents and colleagues, something is very wrong. Until you learn that lesson, you’re not going to get very far in Harrisburg–and you may not even have a job there for long.
Fortunately, it looks like Turzai and the state house leadership realized they screwed up and screwed up royally. On Tuesday, they allowed Jason Dawkins, a Democrat from Philadelphia and a Muslim, to open the session with a prayer. Watch here.
The difference in tone compared to Monday’s session could not have been more different. Pay attention, Stephanie. This is how you give an invocation.
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