Illustrating why prayer has no business in government functions, Christian lawmakers in Iowa staged a boycott while others turned their back on a Wiccan priestess as she made history by delivering the first-ever Wiccan prayer at the Iowa State House.
Yesterday, Deborah Maynard, a Unitarian Universalist and the leader of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, gave the morning invocation at the Iowa State House at the invitation of Iowa State Rep. Liz Bennett.
The following is a transcript of Maynard’s invocation:
“We call this morning to god, goddess, universe, that which is greater than ourselves to be with us here today. By the earth that is in our bones and centers us, may all here remember our roots and those we are here to represent. By the fire that gives us light and passion, may all here remain passionate about the work that must be done for the people of Iowa. By the air that gives us breath and logic, may all here find thoughtful solutions to the problems that are presented. By the water that flows through our blood and stirs our emotions, may all here draw an emotional intelligence which helps us see the inherent worth and dignity of every person. We call this morning to spirit ever present, to help us respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Be with us and this legislative body and guide them to seek justice, equity and compassion in the work that is before them today. Blessed be, Aho and Amen.”
Despite the benign nature of the invocation, many conservative Christian lawmakers were disturbed and offended by Maynard’s pagan prayer to “god, goddess, universe, that which is greater than ourselves.”
Some lawmakers, like Iowa Rep. Rob Taylor, appeared at the invocation only to turn their backs on Maynard in protest, while more than a third of the House members staged a boycott and refused to attend the non-Christian, Wiccan prayer.
Another report indicates at least half the 100 lawmakers refused to attend the non-Christian prayer.
In response the Wiccan prayer, the Christian conservative group the Family Leader organized an alternate prayer service in the Capitol.
Rep. Rob Taylor, who chose to attend the invocation but turn his back in protest, said he asked himself: “What would Jesus do?”
Apparently Taylor believes Jesus would show contempt and disrespect for the Wiccan priestess.
In a statement, Interfaith Executive Director Connie Ryan Terrell said:
“It is disingenuous for some legislators and conservative religious groups to create a public outcry against a minority religion when they often cry wolf about their own religious rights being under assault.”
The hypocrisy and double-standard coming from conservative Christian lawmakers is not surprising. While they are always the first to scream about imaginary persecution, they are always willing to show disrespect and contempt for the non-Christian beliefs of others.
The incident only serves to demonstrate that conservative Christians are all for free speech and free religion, as long as it is Christian speech and Christian religion.
Ultimately, the sorry spectacle is yet another argument why sectarian prayers have no place in official government functions.