Morning prayer sparks pushback from Senate Democratic Leader
Farmer sent a letter to Richard Corcoran. Image via Colin Hackley

"We confess that we have rewarded laziness and called it welfare."

As is the norm, the Senate opened Monday morning with a prayer — but, what is usually a faint, reflective moment led by a faith leader instead turned into a more heated political discourse, garnering pushback by Senate Democrats.

The prayer, led by Quincy Bishop Tyrone Smith of Life Changing Faith Church, quickly turned into a reflection of issues facing the Legislature. Faith leaders giving prayer are often invited by Senators, with Sen. Loranne Ausley, a Tallahassee Democrat, sponsoring Smith.

Florida Politics reached out to Ausley’s office, but did not receive a response by the time of publishing.

“Father, in Jesus’ name we pray, now unto you, the only omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God of all creation, we come before the throne of grace and mercy,” Smith began the prayer.

But, then things took a turn.

“Forgive us for our allowances of unrighteous acts,” Smith said. “We confess that we have rewarded laziness and called it welfare. We have allowed the willful murder of the unborn and called it pro-choice. We have allowed the demoralization of various sects of society and called it independence.”

The prayer continued in a nod to elections.

“Let us be reminded, while in elected position that promotion comes not from the north, south, east or west, from power PACs, special interest groups or hedge fund holders, not from the downtrodden left out or from the looked over, but promotion and all spiritual blessings come from you.”

Senate Democratic Leader Gary Farmer immediately spoke out following the prayer.

“Horribly offensive prayer this morning in the Florida Senate. Fortunately we are still a country & state governed by the Constitution & not extreme religious views. (Prayer also said that people on welfare are lazy…not worthy of someone who professes to be a person of God.),” Farmer wrote.

While opening prayer is typically a noncontroversial agenda item the Legislature prepares each day, this year the chambers have had their fair share of bills that some argue blur the lines between church and state.

The House, in a 78-37 vote, passed a bill (HB 1027) allowing opening prayer ahead of high school sports championship events.

The bill, sponsored by Deltona Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby, would afford a speaker two minutes for public remarks over a loudspeaker before a high school championship game.

Both the House and Senate have also passed legislation that would mandate a moment of silence for school students.

Last week, the Senate passed the House version of the measure, which already cleared the lower chamber, in a 32-6 vote.

The bill (HB 529), sponsored by Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy Fine, would require teachers to hold a one- to two-minute moment of silence each day during first period class in public schools. The bill would prohibit teachers from making suggestions about the moment of silence. Rather, it encourages teachers to discuss the moment with parents or guardians as to how the student can best utilize the moment.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


  • Florida Voice for the Unborn

    April 27, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    Bishop Tyrone D. Smith of Life Changing Faith Church in Quincy gave a terrific opening prayer yesterday morning on the floor of the Florida Senate. Since the supposedly GOP-controlled, pro-life Senate majority has done next to nothing for the unborn – yet again – this Legislative Session, both Democrats and Republicans need to repent – and fast!

    “We confess…we have allowed the willful murder of the unborn and called it pro-choice.” Indeed!

    While it was truly astounding that pro-abort Senator Loranne Ausley (D—Leon & Panhandle Counties) invited Bishop Smith to give yesterday’s morning’s prayer, only a real nasty anti-Christian bigot like liberal looney-tune Senate Democratic Minority Leader Gary Farmer (D—Broward County) would object to Bishop Smith’s beautiful prayer to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ!

    Florida Voice for the Unborn is a Tallahassee-based grassroots lobbying group that only focuses on pro-life issues impacting the unborn. It is strictly independent, and its work is guided by faith in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Florida Voice for the Unborn supports all peaceful efforts by elected officials and others to end abortion and save lives. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Parler @UnbornVoiceFL – and visit our website.

    • TheCamel

      April 28, 2021 at 8:42 am

      That comment proves you to be the Florida voice for religious bigotry. Political harangues disguised as prayer have no place in the legislature. Btw, Jesus repeatedly commanded you to be charitable to the poor and hospitable to strangers, so that line about welfare was decidedly unChristian. Jesus never mentioned abortion so your obsession with the unborn is not based on your faith, only your biases.

      • Ron Ogden

        April 29, 2021 at 11:30 am

        Charity to the poor is what people give voluntarily, not what the government extracts from them at threat of penalty. I repeat: Christian charity is voluntary. As far as abortion, the call of Christ is to love our brothers and sisters, not kill them in the womb where there screams of agony go unheard.

  • James R. Miles

    May 2, 2021 at 9:34 am

    I firmly believe in a woman’s right to choose. After all, it is their body. If men got pregnant this would Not be an issue!! Personal choice is just not a part of the right-wing GOP fascist mantra! Roe V Wade was decided more than 50 years ago!!

Comments are closed.


Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn