Pa. Senate Allows Jesus Prayer

A month after his prayer was rejected by the state House, the Rev. Gerry Stoltzfoos was allowed to pray in Jesus' name before the Pennsylvania Senate on Wednesday.

"I am painfully aware that there are many here today, who have embraced beliefs systems other than mine," Stoltzfoos, lead pastor at Freedom Valley Worship Center near Gettysburg, prayed. "I am not here to say that everyone ought to believe as I do. But I can only pray to my God. If you believe in some other power, I invite you to address yours as I address mine.

"For those of us who are Christians, we pray in Jesus' name."

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Last month, Stoltzfoos was invited by state House officials to open their session with a prayer. He was first asked to submit his prayer in writing to ensure it was "nondenominational." But because the prayer ended in "Jesus' name," it was rejected.

"I was incredibly surprised," Stoltzfoos told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette earlier this month. "I thought they were kidding. I had carefully crafted the prayer not to be offensive in any way."

Rather than omit the name Jesus, the pastor chose not to say a prayer at all.

The state House's move to reject Stoltzfoos' prayer sparked a media storm and outrage in some conservative circles.

House officials have been cautious with prayers ever since a clergyman recited a prayer earlier this year that offended numerous legislators. Part of that prayer included: "We have ridiculed the absolute truth of your Word and called it pluralism; we have worshipped other gods and called it multiculturalism ... we have killed our unborn and called it choice."

Guest chaplains are asked to use "an interfaith, nondenominational prayer" and refrain from expressing views on issues in the prayer.

Stoltzfoos says the House has changed their policy and will no longer be asking pastors to submit their prayers for review.

On the heels of the House prayer controversy, Stoltzfoos was invited to pray in the Senate chamber where he was able to reference Jesus.

"We want diversity, but we don't want to regulate speech," Drew Crompton, legal counsel to Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati, told the local Post-Gazette.

Stoltzfoos, who has received unexpected national attention, says he doesn't need everyone to agree with him in his prayer but believes he should be allowed constitutionally to pray using Jesus' name.

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