‘I stand by it. I won’t apologize:’ Pennsylvania lawmaker at center of controversial prayer says in Christian radio interview

    Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, R-Clinton, delivers a prayer on the floor of the Pa. state House on 3/25/2019 (Screen Capture).

    State Rep. Stephanie Borowicz, the freshman Republican from Clinton County who sparked a social media backlash and garnered national headlines for her controversial invocation at the start of Monday’s voting session in the state House, isn’t backing down.

    In a broadcast interview with The American Pastors Network on Thursday, Borowicz acknowledged that there was “definitely some pushback to my prayer,” which made repeated references to Jesus, Israel and President Donald Trump and other political figures. But, she said, she sees no reason to apologize.

    “But again, I stand by it. I don’t apologize. And it was a privilege,” Borowicz said, according to multiple news outlets.

    Borowicz’s prayer came on the same day that the Republican-controlled chamber was set to swear-in freshman Democratic Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, of Philadelphia, who is the chamber’s only Muslim woman. In a statement released to the Capital-Star, Johnson-Harrell called it instance of blatant “Islamophobia.”

    The invocation sparked renewed debate about the propriety of prayer in the 203-member chamber. Democratic Whip Jordan Harris, of Philadelphia, said Borowicz’s prayer “weaponized” religion.

    On Tuesday, the office of Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny, whose office organizes the invocation, released video of a Muslim cleric who was also invited to give a blessing. The blessing was given after Borowicz’s prayer, and before Johnson-Harrell was administered the oath of office.

    Turzai’s spokeswoman, Christine Goldbeck, said in statement that the Muslim imam, Muhammad Chowdury, was “was an invited guest of [Johnson-Harrell], whom the Speaker invited to pray.”

    On Thursday, another Philadelphia Democrat, Rep. Kevin Boyle, rolled out a non-binding resolution calling on his colleagues to “craft a prayer that is respectful of all religious beliefs.

    Speaking to the Capital-Star on Tuesday, Johnson-Harrell said Borowicz should face censure for her remarks. Democratic and Republican leaders in the chamber discounted that possibility, however.

    On Friday, state Rep. Chris Rabb, a Philadelphia Democrat, said he planned to introduce a resolution amending the House’s internal operating rules to “create a motion to censure.”

    Right now, A censure typically involves a majority of lawmakers voting to approve a resolution to formally condemn an action. The resolution doesn’t necessarily carry any consequences for the lawmaker who is being censured, but represents a public reprimand of their conduct.

    John L. Micek
    John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's Editor-in-Chief. He's been covering Pennsylvania politics for more than 20 years and most recently served as Opinion Editor at PennLive/The Patriot-News in Harrisburg, Pa. Micek's commentary is syndicated to more than 800 newspapers nationwide by Cagle Syndicate. And he's a regular contributor to a host of broadcast outlets in Pennsylvania and abroad.

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