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.
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.)
— Senator Gary Farmer (@FarmerForFLSen) April 26, 2021
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 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.
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.