Members of the Iowa House of Representatives are accustomed to hearing an invocation at the close of their opening ceremony, but yesterday’s prayer was distinctly different and caused several members to skip the event in protest.
“We call this morning to God, Goddess, Universe, that which is greater than ourselves to be here with us today,” said Wiccan priestess Deborah Maynard. “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.”
The prayer marked the first time a Wiccan prayer had been conducted from the floor of a US legislature.
Many Christian lawmakers refused to attend, while some simply turned their backs on the priestess during the prayer.
State Rep. Rob Taylor (R), who turned his back, said he asked himself what Jesus would do. He decided that Jesus would “be in the presence of a prayer, but peacefully protest.” Taylor also added, that while he protested the prayer, Maynard was within her rights to do it. “Everyone has the right to come into our chamber – it is the people’s chamber – and pray and she did and this was the way for me to peacefully protest.”
State Rep. Liz Bennett (D) told the media she didn’t know when she invited Maynard to speak that it would cause such controversy.
“I am honestly surprised that this has become a bit of a media frenzy. We do have a prayer every day in front of the body and different representatives invite different constituents from their districts, difference types of pastors from dominations. So, I am a little bit surprised that it has become as controversial as it has,” said Bennett.
Outside the capitol, a group of Christians organized prayers in protest.
“We feel that this is completely out of sync with the traditions of our state and our nation to seek guidance from the occult. We believe it is just not a good idea,” said their Pastor Demastus told the Des Moines Register.
“Blessed Be, Aho, and Amen,” Maynard concluded, using a combination of a Pagan greeting, a Native American term for thanks, and the Christian “Amen.”