US state representative prays for Jesus' forgiveness as Muslim lawmaker is sworn-in
A Pennsylvania lawmaker delivered an unsettling Christian prayer to a state house this week while a Muslim representative was being sworn-in, leaving attendees unsettled by the "fire and brimstone Evangelical prayer", US media have reported.
State Representative Stephanie Borowicz mentioned the name Jesus 13 times during the speech – and the "Lord" and God six times - with one attendee telling The Washington Post her prayer "epitomise[d] religious intolerance".
Borowicz said during her address: "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."
The Republican lawmaker then recited a passage from the bible where Christians are instructed to "turn from their wicked ways". She ended the speech by praising President Donald Trump's backing for Israel.
The ceremonial prayer appeared aimed at Rep. Movita Johnson-Harrell, who was being sworn in as the Pennsylvania State House's first Muslim woman.
Johnson-Harrell condemned the address, saying it made her feel uncomfortable, along with her 55 guests - 32 of whom were Muslim.
"It blatantly represented the Islamophobia that exists among some leaders - leaders that are supposed to represent the people," she told The Pennsylvania Capital-Star.
"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."
Democrat, Rep. Frank Dermody, also slammed the "divisive" speech.
"Never have we started out with a prayer that divides us. Prayer should never divide us. It should bring us together," he said, chiding Borowicz.
Borowicz refused to acknowledge the hurt she had caused, saying, "that's how I pray every day. … I don't apologise ever for praying", she said.
Pennsylvania State House's customary opening prayer has been viewed by some in recent years as an affront to the separation of state and religion in the US.
The US founding fathers went to great lengths to ensure the separation of state and church when the country's constitution was written.
In recent years a blind eye has been turned to the use of prayer in public institutions.
But few of the speeches at Pennsylvania are divisive and intended to respect all religious beliefs.
President Donald Trump has come under fire after being accused of promoting anti-Muslim sentiments.
This week, Trump said he recognised Israel's claims over the Golan Heights - Syrian land illegally occupied by Israel since the 1967 war - which is seen as a bid to appeal to his Evangelical base.