A Jewish lawmaker in Florida approached the Speaker of the House this week on behalf of other Jewish legislators who state that they are offended and insulted by the practice of praying in the name of Jesus during House sessions.
Jim Waldman of Coconut Creek contacted Speaker Will Weatherford to explain why what he called “the J.C. moment” presents a problem.
“This year more so than others, every time the prayer comes up, it’s in Jesus’ name,” he said. “This is my seventh year talking about it, and it’s getting to be too much. It would be nice to have an inclusive prayer.”
Waldman noted that some Jewish representatives will not enter the room until the invocation is finished so that they do not have to hear the name of Jesus.
“Some lawmakers don’t go until after the prayer,” he explained. “I go in because I want to be prepared and ready to go. But I stand there and all I do is wait there for what we politely call, ‘The JC moment.’ All the members know, they look at me and say, ‘Got JC’d again.’”
Waldman stated that Representative Kevin Rader, whose wife serves as a rabbi, is among those that steer clear of the prayers because of references to the triune Godhead.
“There’s just statements about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” he explained. “It’s just not non-denominational. I don’t care that it’s optional. That shouldn’t be the litmus test. It should be inclusive. And it’s not inclusive.”
Weatherford replied by remarking that a variety of clergy members present prayers in the House, and some are Jewish.
“Prayers are all chosen by the members, and so every member, Republican and Democrat, has an opportunity to pick a person to come on their behalf,” he stated. “We had a rabbi last week who didn’t pray in Jesus’ name. …We don’t choose the prayers for them. And we also make the prayers optional. We don’t actually put people on the boards to record their presence until after the prayers. You and I have talked about it; I hear your concern but I can’t tell someone how to pray.”
“Well, you can actually,” Waldman responded. “It’s supposed to be non-denominational. I mean, that’s the law actually, it’s supposed to be non-denominational, not proselytizing, and it’s just not been. This year, in my opinion, it’s been worse than any of the years I’ve been here. The chaplain, who of course did it himself, is supposed to give them a form that says it’s supposed to be non-denominational. For Jewish members, it’s an insult.”
Weatherford stated that he would consider the complaint.
The Palm Beach Post notes that over 15 years ago, contention arose over a prayer delivered by Campus Crusade for Christ President Bill Bright, who prayed against abortion and divorce during his invocation, and referred to Jesus Christ as “the true God, the only God.” Jewish lawmakers and those of other faiths called the prayer “insensitive.”
However, it was found that during other prayers that year that included the name of Jesus, no complaints were lodged.