Ohio House Speaker Cuts Off Pastor for Praying Too Long

(Photo: Screen Grab)Pastor B.J. Van Aman of the Pickerington Baptist Temple prays in the Ohio House on Tuesday January 26, 2016.

It was just too much prayer for the speaker.

Republican Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger said he felt "terrible" after he was forced to abruptly end the opening prayer of a pastor for the House which had gone on for more than five minutes, making several references to Jesus and His blood.

And as reactions erupt over what appears to be an unprecedented move toward a member of the clergy, the speaker said he felt Pastor B.J. Van Aman of the Pickerington Baptist Temple had to be stopped.

"I didn't mean to be rude and I feel terrible," Rosenberger told The Columbus Dispatch. "It's just that I felt that I gave it its due diligence. When I thought it was enough I didn't know really how best to do it, so I just said 'amen' and here we go."

According to the Dispatch lawmakers are allowed invite religious leaders from their district to deliver an opening prayer to the House but most don't go longer than 60 or 90 seconds and they often deliver messages of inspiration and ask for wisdom and guidance. They are also expected to be nondenominational, nonsectarian and nonproselytizing.

In his prayer on Tuesday, Pastor Aman who was a guest of Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, mentioned "Through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ," and went on to describe Jesus, whose "name is above every name," and at his name "every knee shall bow." He further described Jesus as the "author and finisher of our faith" said the Dispatch.

Aman begins praying in a video recording of the incident, at about the 1:45-second mark and would have continued praying had he not been stopped by Rosenberger near the 7-minute mark.

Rosenberger first looked concerned during the prayer when he peeked at the praying pastor at about the 3-minute mark. Shortly after that he opened his eyes and began looking around uncomfortably.

Eventually after seeing no end in sight to the prayer, Rosenberger interjected an abrupt "amen" bringing the pastor's prayer to an end.

"I am speaker, so whether it's floor action or the pastor giving the prayer, I feel I make the determination when we need to move it on," Rosenberger told the Dispatch.

Rep. Mike Curtin, D-Marble Cliff, called the move "entirely appropriate" while others said Aman's prayer had amounted to a "sermon."

Curtin further charged that, "The opening prayer should reflect that diversity. It should reflect the Constitutional acknowledgement of there not being a state religion."

Mentioning Jesus he said, broke those rules.

"I don't think any members take objection to a Christian clergyman or woman making reference to Jesus Christ. But what we've had lately in this chamber for a period of years now is a heavy, almost Christian proselytizing as the opening prayer, which in my view is inappropriate," Curtin said noting that it "doesn't have a place in the public body."

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