Republican Representative Stephanie Borowicz of the Pennsylvania state legislature addressed her colleagues from the podium shortly before the swearing in of Democratic Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell. Borowicz was to deliver the invocation.
Johnson-Harrell is Muslim and was to become the first Muslim woman in the Pennsylvania House once sworn in.
Why does her religion matter?
Borowicz stated before the state legislature:
“God forgive us—Jesus—we’ve lost sight of you, we’ve forgotten you, God, in our country, and we’re asking you to forgive us.”
Borowicz ended her address with:
“I claim all these things in the powerful, mighty name of Jesus, the one who, at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess, Jesus, that you are Lord, in Jesus’ name.”
Jesus was uttered 13 times, Lord and God six times each during her less than 1.5 minute remarks before the legislature. She also mentioned President Donald Trump and Israel.
Observers stated other House members appeared visibly uncomfortable as Borowicz spoke. At least one person shouted an objection, prompting her fellow Republican, House Speaker Mike Turzai, to prompt her to wrap up her remarks.
Watch Borowicz’s invocation here:
State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz prayed for Trump and insisted everyone bow to Jesus just before Pennsylvania’s first Black Muslim woman Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell was sworn in pic.twitter.com/ryS2lIn4pk
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) March 27, 2019
If you missed it, first-year Rep Stephanie Borowicz gave an opening prayer for this morning’s session that a number of lawmakers have found offensive. Minority leader Frank Dermody just denounced it on the floor—something I haven’t seen before.
— Katie Meyer (@katieemeyer4) March 25, 2019
In response, Johnson-Harrell said:
“It blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders—leaders that are supposed to represent the people.”
“I came to the Capitol to help build bipartisanship and collaborations regardless of race or religion to enhance the quality of life for everyone in the Commonwealth.”
After the invocation, the Republican members of the House walked out, skipping the swearing in ceremony.
Representative Jordan Harris, the Democratic Minority Whip, condemned his colleague’s remarks as an attempt to “weaponize religion.” Harris called Borowicz’s address before the legislature “deeply disrespectful” and “meant to intimidate” Johnson-Harrell and her family.
Watch his response here:
Prayer should never be weaponized, especially on a celebratory day for @RepMovita as she’s sworn in as the 1st Muslim woman to serve in the #PAHouse. This prayer was deeply disrespectful and meant to intimidate Movita & her family. We won’t stay silent on what matters! #LoveWins pic.twitter.com/V7vIepG2Da
— Jordan A. Harris (@RepHarris) March 26, 2019
People agreed fully with Harris’ take on the incident.
Rep Borowicz mention:
Jesus – 13x's
God – 6x's
Lord – 4 x's
& prayers for Trump and Israel multiple times. pic.twitter.com/IkOGeiLtAu
— Sean Kitchen 🍞 🌹 (@RCPress_Sean) March 25, 2019
The best thing about today was that right after Rep Borowicz was ranting about Jesus, she voted to take cash assistance away from the poor people, aka, the people Jesus hung with.
— Sean Kitchen ⇙ ⇙ ⇙ (@RCPress_Sean) March 25, 2019
Once again, @RepMetcalfe showed his true colors; walking out on the Commonwealth’s first Muslim American’s swearing in ceremony. He stayed during a highly xenophobic painted “prayer” (filled with numerous religious intolerance) by Rep. Borowicz, then left. Shame!
— Daniel Smith, Jr (@danielforpa) March 26, 2019
The words were spoken by Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, but the underlying Islamophobia is common within the Republican establishment–from President Trump down.
— PA Democratic Party (@PADems) March 26, 2019
At a minimum, most people found the remarks insensitive.
While some concurred that the choice of words was deliberately Islamaphobic as well as targeting Jews, atheists and other non-Christians.
Twitter user @MtthewRubiin gave an impassioned plea for solidarity and expressed disgust over GOP behavior.
Pennsylvania suffered an anti-Semitic hate crime in October when a gunman murdered 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue. The shooter identified as a White nationalist.