“We call this morning to God, goddess, universe—that which is greater than ourselves to be here today,” Deborah Maynard, 43, a Unitarian Universalist and the leader of the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans, opened her invocation. “By the earth that is in our bones and centers us, may all here remember our roots and those whom we are here to represent.”
“We call this morning to spirit, which is ever present, to help us respect the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. Be with this legislative body and guide them to seek justice, equity and compassion in the work that is before them today,” she continued. “Blessed be, aho and amen.”
Rep. Liz Bennett (D-Cedar Rapids) had extended the invitation to Maynard, and told the Associated Press that she “met with some people on both sides of the aisle just to let them know that the invocation or the prayer Deb will be offering will be very inclusive.”
But approximately half of lawmakers chose to skip out the invocation because they did not wish to join a witch in prayer, and the Family Leader organized an alternative Christian prayer gathering at the capitol as a counter to Maynard’s presence.
“We feel that this is completely out of sync with the traditions of our state and our nation to seek guidance from the occult,” Michael Demastus, pastor of Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, told reporters. “We believe it is just not a good idea.”
He said that as Maynard spoke, “I was praying for her salvation. I was praying that she would come to know the one true God.”
Reike Plecas of I Believe Radio was also present. He said that he didn’t see the alternative prayer gathering as a protest as much as a joining together to pray for Maynard’s soul.
“As a Christian, I have to stand in faith for her salvation and pray for her. Not pray against her, but pray against principalities and more so for her salvation,” he told the Muscatine Journal. “I personally don’t believe that Christians came here to stand against the Wiccan priestess. I believe that we came here united to stand for her salvation.”
Rep. Rob Taylor (R-West Des Moines) decided not to leave the room, but to turn away during the moment.
“I thought to myself, ‘What would Jesus do?'” he stated. “Jesus would be in the chamber from my perspective. He would passively protest and then He would seek that individual out and have a peaceful conversation with them about why His way was the best way, and so that is what I did today.”
Taylor says that he approached Maynard later and extended an invitation to speak with her about Christ.