Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, issued the following statement today in response to a recent furor in Florida over the prayer offered in the Legislature for the protection of the unborn. Fr. Pavone said that the issue is important, as it has implications for clergy across the country as they address the abortion issue, particularly in an election season. He said that his organization will keep this and similar incidents in the spotlight as they seek to encourage and strengthen clergy of all denominations in their witness to the sanctity of life. The statement follows:
A controversy was stirred in the Florida State House last Thursday when a Baptist minister opened the session with a prayer that the legislators would have "the desire to protect the unborn."
Some felt this prayer was wrong, viewing it as a political statement or a sectarian statement.
The desire to protect the unborn is the desire to save innocent human beings from violence. Would those who objected to this prayer also object to prayers for peace on earth and safety in the streets? The goal is the same in all three cases; what differs is the type of threat to human beings, and the ages of the victims.
What also differs is that the word "abortion" has lost all its meaning to many people - legislators included - so that they no longer perceive the violence of this act.
Nor is the prayer to protect the unborn a "sectarian" statement. The Declaration of Independence provides a solid foundation for every lawmaker in America to strive to protect the right to life. That document, in fact, states that governments are instituted precisely to secure that right.
Another point at issue here is the freedom of the clergy to proclaim the Word of God. Belief in God cannot be separated from respect for life. This incident in Florida highlights a challenge for the entire nation: If you abandon the inherent right to life of every human being, you have abandoned God. Don't be surprised, then, that if you try to keep God in public life in other ways, your policies regarding the protection of life will be challenged.
The analyses of those who object to that prayer are totally off the mark. Furthermore, the prayer should have been said and it should be repeated in State houses all over the nation.
Original News Story:
Florida Prayer Angers Pro-Abortion Legislators
Tallahassee - A Baptist minister’s prayer asking lawmakers to "protect the unborn" kicked off a controversy in the opening minutes of the opening session of the Florida state House on Thursday.
The prayer by the Rev. Daryl Orman, minister at the First Baptist Church of Stuart, angered many pro-abortion state representatives and prompted Republican House Speaker John Thrasher’s chief of staff to remind House members that prayers with political or sectarian messages are unacceptable.
"I ask you Lord if you would just instill in their hearts the desire to protect the unborn, those babies being carried by women all over the state of Florida."
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Jewish Democrat from Davie who supports abortion, was so upset that she asked the lawmaker who brought Orman to the Capitol, newly elected Rep. Arthur Argenio, R-Stuart, to apologize.
Argenio eventually did apologize, but only after House Republican Leader Jerry Maygarden of Pensacola asked him to.
Argenio called Orman’s prayer appropriate and said it wouldn’t bother him if a preacher prayed for abortion rights on the House floor. "I would probably just shrug my shoulders and say to myself, ‘I don’t think God’s going to answer that one,’ " Argenio said.
The issue of clergy making political statements in prayers that could offend people got so hot three years ago that Florida House leaders imposed a policy for prayer that opens a session.
"Religious sectarianism at public events is not only a breach of etiquette, but represents an insensitivity to the faith of others," the policy states.
The episode prompted Thrasher’s chief of staff, Steve MacNamara, to send all House members a message: "It is a privilege to open each session with prayer. With that privilege comes the responsibility to adhere to the standards we have adopted."
"This was to virtually a captive audience, and this was not the right place to go on about babies being carried by their mothers," said Rep. Sally Heyman, D-North Miami Beach.
The episode came just two hours before the House would pause to memorialize former Rep. Elaine Gordon of North Miami, a staunch abortion proponent who died of cancer in February.
Orman was unapologetic. "I think the thought police need to give up and recognize that this is the United States of America," he said afterward. "When we talk to the Lord, we should be allowed to do it as freely as our forefathers did 200 years ago."
Orman said he ignored the guidelines. "I received a copy of the guidelines, and to be truthful, I didn’t read them because I pray extemporaneously," he said. "When I speak to the Lord, I want to speak unfettered."