Four House Democrats Continue 'Prayer Shaming' Protest After Orlando Shooting; Leader Nancy Pelosi Now Objects

A man places a candle as a sign of condolence for victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, U.S., in Sao Paulo, Brazil, June 12, 2016. |

Four House Democrats held a "prayer shaming" protest similar to a protest after the San Bernardino shooting by walking out of a moment of silence for the victims of Sunday's massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando.

When Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-Wis., called for a moment of silence in the House chamber on Monday to honor the 49 killed and 53 wounded in Sunday's massacre at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Rep. Jim Himes, D-Conn., led a walkout in protest of the House leadership's unwillingness to advance gun control legislation that would ban anyone on the Terrorist Screening Center's no-fly list from purchasing a gun.

As the Connecticut delegation has heavily advocated for gun control since the the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown in 2012, fellow Connecticut Democrats John Larson and Joe Courtney, along with Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt., also joined Himes in walking out on the moment of silence, Roll Call reports.

Jim Himes
U.S. Representative Jim Himes (D-CT) speaks to the media after attending a closed meeting for members of Congress on the situation in Syria at the U.S. Capitol in Washington September 1, 2013. |

"We meet this tragedy week in and week out with smug, self-empowering moments of silence in the House that do absolutely nothing for anybody," Himes told ThinkProgress. "I'd love to interview one of the parents down in Florida and say: What does 16 seconds of silence in the House of Representatives mean to you?"

On Sunday night, Himes posted a picture on Twitter that criticizes the #PrayForOrlando hashtag. In the picture, the word "pray" is crossed out and is made to read "PolicyChangeForOrlando."

"I will not attend one more 'Moment of Silence' on the Floor," Himes wrote in his tweet. "Our silence does not honor the victims, it mocks them."

As Ryan called for an end to the moment of silence and for voting to begin on a cybersecurity bill, a number of Democratic representatives began chanting "Where's the bill?" along with other chants in reference to the no-fly list gun control legislation.

Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., called for Ryan to recognize him so that he could bring attention to three bills that were filed by Democrats in response to last June's shooting at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, which killed nine worshipping Christians. But after it became apparent that Clyburn did not have a "parliamentary inquiry," Ryan interrupted Clyburn and called for voting to begin on the other legislation.

Although most of the Democratic House members agree that more emphasis needs to be put on gun control, not all of them agreed with the way that Himes and the others walked out during the moment of silence, which was meant to honor those who lost their lives in the senseless act of violence.

According to Roll Call, Clyburn asked Himes and the other House members not to walk out during the moment of silence. Although Himes and the three others did walk out, Clyburn said that others who had planned to walk out did not.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told reporters that she refused to walk out during the moment of silence.

"There were some who did not want to participate and we said, 'No,'" Pelosi said. "We respect and pay our respects to those who lost their lives and families."

This is not the first time that Democrats and liberals have criticized those who pray for victims while not supporting liberal policies.

Last December, following the shooting in San Bernardino, California, that killed 14, Pelosi criticized moments of silence and said that Congress can "no longer remain silent."

"We've had far too many moments of silence on the floor of the House," Pelosi said at the time.

"And while it is right to respectfully acknowledge the losses, we can no longer remain silent. What gives us the right to hold moments of silence when we do nothing to act upon the cause of the grief?"

Additionally after San Bernardino, liberal columnists went after Republican presidential candidates and others for saying that they were keeping the victims of San Bernardino in their prayers.

Following the San Bernardino attack, The New York Daily News published a front-page headline that read: "God Isn't Fixing This." Along with the headline, the front-page included tweets from former presidential candidates like Ted Cruz, Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham that explained that each of them were keeping the victims and their families in their prayers.

"Anger about the shooting was turned not toward the perpetrator or perpetrators, whose identities are still unknown, but at those who offered their prayers," The Atlantic's Emma Green wrote. "There are many assumptions packed into these attacks on prayer: that all religious people, and specifically Christians, are gun supporters, and vice versa. That people who care about gun control can't be religious, and if they are, they should keep quiet in the aftermath of yet another heart-wrenching act of violence."

Follow Samuel Smith on Twitter: @IamSamSmith

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