PITTSBURGH — State House officials say they have been inundated with protests about a policy that barred a clergyman from using the word "Jesus" in a prayer that was to open one of the lawmakers' daily sessions.
The Rev. Gerry Stoltzfoos, of the Freedom Valley Worship Center in Gettysburg, had planned to end his recent prayer with "In Jesus' name, Amen." Under the policy then in effect, he was asked by House Speaker Keith McCall's office to submit the planned prayer in writing and to make sure it was nondenominational.
"They said my prayer was rejected because it contained an offensive word. Just once, in closing, I mentioned Jesus," he said. "I thought they were kidding. I had carefully crafted the prayer not to be offensive in any way."
He said he decided not to say the prayer at all rather than omit the name. The incident has sparked a controversy on the Internet including an online petition and denunciations of McCall.
Paul Parcells, McCall's chief of staff, said the situation has been blown out of proportion.
"We've had threats phoned in and a ton of angry e-mail," said Parcells, who called McCall "a devout Catholic" but said "he doesn't wear his religion on his sleeve."
Guest chaplains are sent a letter asking them to use "an interfaith, non-denominational prayer" and to refrain from expressing views on legislative, political or governmental issues. House officials say use of "God" or "Father" is permissible, but they do not want mentions of specific religious figures such as Jesus, Muhammad, or Buddha.
I don't understand what the confusion is here - the rules say no specific religious figures. It doesn't matter if the guy mentioned Jesus 'just once', just once breaks the rules. Rules which pre-existed the invitation to this man to speak.
Is there really this level of expected entitlement going on with religious groups to the point where only invoking a specific religion's deity once isn't seen as, well, invoking a specific deity? Just don't say Jesus. There. Super easy. No one is excluded and you still get to perpetuate your snake-oil brand of spiritualism. We all KNOW you mean the christian god when you say god anyway, you don't NEED to break the rules (or make fun of the rules or pretend you don't understand the rules in order to gain attention).
But he's not the issue here, the issues lies with the sentence which partially states, "...inundated with protests about a policy that barred a clergyman..." Really? Because it seems pretty cut and dry to me - guy receives an invitation to be a guest chaplain and he's told to keep it cool, no specifics, God and Father are OK but don't get too detailed with the deities. Then guy ignores that, and tries to slip in Jesus at the buzzer, as if just saying Jesus once at the end shouldn't be considered breaking the 'no specifics' rule.
'No specifics' is pretty clear. No Muhammad, no Buddha, no Jesus, no exclusionary speech. Well, unless you're one of those freaks who just doesn't believe in ANYTHING. :)