A Pennsylvania state legislator has garnered controversy for delivering an opening prayer that critics labeled "Islamophobic" for its multiple mentions of Jesus and support for Israel.
State Representative Stephanie Borowicz delivered a nearly two-minute long prayer to open up a legislative session Monday, wherein she mentioned Jesus by name several times, thanked God for President Donald Trump’s support for Israel, and quoted from the Bible.
“God forgive us,” prayed Borowicz. “Jesus, we’ve lost sight of You. We’ve forgotten You, God in our country. And we’re asking You to forgive us, Jesus … Jesus, You are our only hope.”
Borowicz posted the prayer on her Facebook page where it has gotten nearly a thousand “angry” reactions, a near equal number of likes, and 886 “loves.” It also has over 5,600 comments from opponents and supporters.
The invocation received criticism from many, including Movita Johnson-Harrell, who later that day became the first Muslim woman sworn in as a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
In an interview with Pennlive.com on Tuesday, Johnson-Harrell labeled Borowicz’s prayer a “political radical statement masked as a prayer.”
“I think it was offensive to me and my family and my visitors that came down here for a joyous day,” said Johnson-Harrell, adding that "everyone was offended" in the religiously diverse group she brought to watch her swearing-in.
On Tuesday, Muslim lawmaker, Rep. Jason Dawkins, D-Philadelphia, opened the session by reading from the Quran. But "his invocation was followed by applause," CBN News reported.
Bishop Dwayne Royster, a Philadelphia native who serves as national political director for the progressive group Faith in Action, denounced Borowicz's prayer mentioning Jesus and Israel as “a display of weaponized faith at its worst.”
“Rep. Borowicz chose to use exclusive, incendiary language about faith and draw into the prayer a call to support Israel,” said Royster in a statement on Thursday.
“Faith is a means by which people should experience liberation and freedom. This prayer was sent as a message of hate and to intimidate the new representative,” he further claimed.
The Rev. Franklin Graham, on the other hand, expressed his support for Borowicz in a post to his Facebook page on Thursday, declaring “God bless her for her boldness and standing by her convictions.”
“She doesn’t need to apologize. We don’t change who we are or what we believe because someone who is present may believe differently than we believe,” wrote Graham.
“I know Stephanie Borowicz would appreciate your prayers and encouragement. I always appreciate anyone who has the guts to stand up for Jesus.”
Republican Rep. Daryl Metcalf also defended Borowicz, explaining that he believed “she was walking in the footsteps of our forefathers who would've prayed a prayer very similar.”
“That the newest member, who is a Muslim, would attack her and say that that was an example of Islamophobia, should be offensive to every Pennsylvanian,” Metcalf told ABC News.
The lawmaker who control the daily invocation process, House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, "lost a federal court decision last summer that halted his policy of preventing nonbelievers from making the invocations. Turzai is appealing that ruling and currently has the invocations performed by state representatives themselves," CBN News reported.
In response to those attacking her prayer, Borowicz said: "If a lawmaker who is a Christian can no longer stand in a General Assembly in America ... and pray to Jesus without ridicule, then we are no longer free."