PLBC condemns divisive invocation given in the House Chamber

Members of the Pennsylvania Legislative Black Caucus today condemned a divisive opening prayer delivered Monday in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. 

Here’s a selection of quotes.

Rep. Stephen Kinsey, PLBC Chairman, 201st Legislative District:
    “On a day that should have been celebrated, we found ourselves confused and mortified. The swearing-in of Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell as the first Muslim woman to ever serve in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives was overshadowed by the outrageous remarks made by the Republican member. This is disgusting behavior. I choose to celebrate the diversity of our caucus, and welcome Representative Johnson-Harrell with open, loving arms. I believe our Democratic Leader Frank Dermody said it best, ‘It was beneath the dignity of the House.’ There is no room for hate.”

Rep. Donna Bullock, PLBC Vice Chairwoman, 195th Legislative District:
   “It is unfortunate that prayer was used to intimidate and divide. As our state legislature becomes more diverse, as we elect more women, more people of color, and people of different faiths and experiences, our ability to work together for all Pennsylvanians will be tested. I pray that my colleagues come to understand that Pennsylvania's diversity is our strength, not the enemy.” 

Rep. Summer Lee, PLBC Treasurer, 34th Legislative District: 
   ”We want to foremost, recognize and celebrate the historic victory and swearing-in of Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell, the first Muslim woman elected to this body. It is disappointing and shameful, that instead of a warm and respectful welcome, she and her guests were met by an invocation that was offensive, Islamophobic, and distasteful to say the least. The spirit of the ‘prayer’ given by the Republican representative was to intimidate, separate, and disrespect. It was an affront to Representative Johnson-Harrell, members of the Muslim community, and the members of this body. There is no greater offense than to weaponize religion and use it to harm and offend our fellow sister and brother.”

Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, 190th Legislative District:
   "I viewed yesterday's prayer more as a political statement that was Islamophobic, Xenophobic and absolutely degrading to not only me and my guests, but my House members. My presence and my visual in the House sends a message that we have to represent everyone in the commonwealth not just particular groups in the commonwealth but all of the constituents who live here.”

Sen. Art Haywood, Senate District 4:
    “I condemn the religious bigotry of the Republican member and her possible racism. Further, the use of Jesus to promote bigotry is a violation of Christ.”

Sen. Vincent Hughes, Senate District 7:
   "The actions were an attack on the Islamic faith and an attack on Pennsylvania itself. Our commonwealth was founded on the idea of religious freedom and was created to be a safe place for people to practice their chosen faith unhindered. Yesterday's official action attacked the very notion of Pennsylvania's well-documented and mostly proud history. Needless to say, an apology is in order. It must be specific to Representative Johnson-Harrell and to her Islamic faith, but it also must be a broad apology, and one that encompasses Pennsylvania's important history of willing acceptance and embrace of all faiths.”

Rep. Brian Kirkland, 159th Legislative District:     
   “The prayer given yesterday morning by a newly-elected GOP member was distasteful, disrespectful, and highly insensitive. As a Christian, I was appalled by the so called ‘prayer’ and embarrassed for the guests who had to witness such a divisive choice of words. We congratulate Representative Johnson-Harrell as she made history by being the first Muslim woman elected in the General Assembly.”

Rep. Danilo Burgos, 197th Legislative District:
    “Our great commonwealth was founded on religious beliefs to respect each other not impose our personal beliefs on each other. We must always respect neighbors.”

Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, 181st Legislative District:
    “Yesterday’s display was a disgrace to this body. It was unacceptable for my friend Representative Johnson-Harrell, and I stand with my colleagues in demanding an apology from the member involved.”

Rep. James R. Roebuck, 188th Legislative District: 
   "The actions of my colleague were totally inappropriate and we should all respect each other’s religious belief; that is the standard to which we should be held.”

Rep. Chris Rabb, 200th Legislative District: 
   “The Republican member’s alleged prayer was an affront to the legacy of William Penn and our commonwealth’s highest ideals that always transcend religious zealotry.”

Rep. Isabella Fitzgerald, 203rdLegislative District: 
   “What was supposed to be a momentous and historic moment for Representative Movita Johnson-Harrell and for the House of Representatives was marred by the inappropriate and condemning remarks. We are supposed to be welcoming to all people and religions, yet the Opening Prayer offered by the Republican member was the complete opposite. It is unfortunate that we still live in a world when people think such remarks are appropriate. However, efforts at dividing us are unacceptable and do not work.”

Rep. Jason Dawkins, Philadelphia House Delegation Chairman, 179th Legislative District:
   “It’s clear to me that this was meant as an attack. A clear demonstration of religious bigotry, trying to inspire fear in our colleagues regarding the newest member of our Democratic Caucus. We are supposed to be leaders and demonstrate civility. Words matter. In her lack of preparation, or in preparing these remarks, the Republican representative chose her words and her actions for a reason. Her opening prayer was uninspiring and tasteless.”

Rep. Joanna McClinton, Democratic Caucus Chair, 191st Legislative District

“In what was supposed to be a joyous HISTORIC moment - it became very apparent that the Pa. House opening prayer became an opportunity to SEGREGATE, ISOLATE, DIVIDE AND CONDEMN! As a Christian, I’m just curious to know how this is done 'in Jesus’ name?' In a time when Muslims are literally under attack across the globe, I was very disappointed and totally outraged. Going forward I’m praying and fighting to ensure that future prayers uphold the DIGNITY of the institution of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, INSPIRE, MOTIVATE AND UNIFY us! We can and must do better!”

Kinsey also sent a letter on behalf of the PLBC to House Speaker Mike Turzai condemning the comments.