At the start of every day in the Virginia House of Delegates, an “invocation” – an opening prayer. According to this article, “The practice dates back to Colonial Virginia, and it is common throughout the United States.” Now, personally, I believe there should be strict separation of church and state, and that there shouldn’t be any official prayer at all. But if there *is* going to be an official prayer delivered, my understanding is that there are guidelines, and that said prayer is supposed to be “’ecumenical’ — not tied to a specific faith,” something that makes people “feel energized and rejuvenated” (as Del. Eileen Filler-Corn said at the time), something “inclusive.”
By the way, I’d note that just this morning, there was an article in CNN talking about how “23.1% of Americans now claim no religion,” and how this group has seen a “meteoric rise” in recent decades that will likely make it “the largest group outright in four to six years.” In addition, of course, there are tens of millions of religious people in America who are Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and non-evangelical Christians (that latter group makes up about 23% of the population). And there are, of course, tens of millions of religious people who are liberal, progressive, pro-immigrant, and pro-choice. Which, again, is why the opening prayer in the Virginia House of Delegates – if we’re going to have one at all – should be inclusive, ecumenical, positive…and definitely steer clear of controversial political topics.
A case in point of what an invocation should absolutely, positively *not* be took place on April 3, 2019, during the “reconvene”/”veto session” of the Virginia House of Delegates. See the video, below, as Pastor Randall Snipes of the Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Colonial Beach delivered a fire-breathing, hard-right speech, disguised as a prayer, in which he was the opposite of ecumenical, in which he urged god to “convict us of sin,” said “those who reject you will be sentenced,” and in which he spoke of “the millions and millions of innocent lives that have been murdered for the sake of convenience,” adding, “God we ask you for forgiveness for the bloodshed that is on our hands as a nation.” So yeah, basically, Pastor Snipes – invited by Speaker Kirk Cox, by the way – just called out every pro-choice member of the Virginia House of Delegates for basically having the blood of “millions and millions of innocent lives” on their hands. Charming start to the day, eh? Must have made everyone feel very “energized and rejuvenated,” right?
Anyway, check out the video below, followed by some comments from Del. Mark Levine (D-Alexandria/Arlington), who called this invocation “incredibly offensive,” adding that “no one invited into the House of Delegates should be praying to God that any of us go to hell,” that “I’m sure this guy would be happier living in a theocracy,” and that “his comments were un-American and beneath the dignity of Virginia and the House of Delegates.” What do you think? Personally, I’m with Del. Levine on this one…
UPDATE 2:44 pm – House Democratic Leader Eileen Filler-Corn says, “Very disappointing. Prayers should be inclusive. The invocation on the floor of the House on the day of the reconvened session was divisive and meant to score political points.”
The prayer was incredibly offensive.
This pastor called (at 1:30) for those who reject his particular brand of God to be “sentenced.”
Does he realize that the First Amendment prohibits punishing people for not agreeing with this guy’s particular brand of God?
Or is this guy just asking for heavenly judgment to be rained down on us heretics?
I’m not sure which is worse.
Praying in my presence that I go to prison for worshipping differently from him?
Or praying for God to send me and others like me to hell?
Religion should always be welcome as a shield, but never used as a sword to mistreat others.
No one invited into the House of Delegates should be praying to God that any of us go to hell.
I’m sure this guy would be happier living in a theocracy.
But his comments were un-American and beneath the dignity of Virginia and the House of Delegates.