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Senate President Scolds Pastor

Rosalind Helderman

Some prayer controversy occurred today in the Maryland Senate.

Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) chastised the pastor of a Bowie church this morning for including too much Jesus in a prayer that opened the day's proceedings. That pastor is now speaking out, saying he was confused and disappointed by the criticism.

Both the House and Senate open each day with a prayer. In the House, delegates take turns doing the honors. Senators invite clergy from their districts to offer words. The prayers are generally ecumenical, occasionally mentioning God, rarely mentioning Jesus. Guidelines advise those who offer the prayer to try to be sensitive to the many faiths of the elected leaders who take part.

Today, Pastor Mark Lehmann, a guest of Sen. Douglas J.J. Peters (D-Prince George's), led senators in a lengthy prayer. He quoted King David, he referenced the apostle James, he expressed thanks that senators could put "trust in the hands of a changeless God" in changing times.

He concluded, "We humbly ask these things in the name of the name that is above all names, the matchless name of Jesus our Savior. It is in His name that we pray."

As he descended from the rostrum, Miller piped up. He asked that Lehman's remarks not be journalized--that is, saved for posterity. Then, with annoyance, he asked the secretary of the senate, "Do we see these things ahead of time? Do we?"

Lehmann says, yes, in fact. This is the third time he has prayed in the Maryland senate and, knowing this very issue might come up, he submitted his remarks at 9:30 a.m. and was sure to stick to his prepared text.

"I told them up front that I have to do that--that's how I pray," he said. "To me, to deny Jesus is to deny my faith."

Lehmann said waiting in the Senate lounge before coming to the floor to offer the prayer, he noted a painting featuring a large cross and the words, "the founding of the Maryland."

"To me, if there were ever a time in our state history when we needed help from above, it's now," he said.

Lehmann said he is unlikely to pray with the Maryland General Assembly again.

UPDATE: Lehmann wrote us this morning with a clarification. He'd be happy to lead the Maryland senate in prayer again, if he's allowed to do so in Jesus' name.


By Rosalind Helderman  |  March 25, 2009; 4:51 PM ET
Categories:  General Assembly , Rosalind Helderman  
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Yet another argument for the separation of church and state. Does it seem weird to anyone else to have a legislator dictating the terms of a prayer? Do away with the opening prayer, and the controversy goes away.

Posted by: jongrantham | March 25, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of Jesus. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. So, thanks for doing the right thing. And Lehman should go to the Assembly again if given the opportunity. Everyone needs to hear what this man has have to say, whether they know it or not.

Posted by: DoTheRightThing | March 25, 2009 6:36 PM | Report abuse

"Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you because of Jesus."

Um, hyperbole much?

Being asked to try to be a bit more inclusive when giving a state-sanctioned prayer before a government body elected by ALL the people is hardly 'persecution'.

Why is it that so many Christians these days claim 'persecution' at the drop of a hat. Christianity is by FAR the dominant religion in the US. Your claims of persecution are ridiculous.

Posted by: HillMan | March 25, 2009 7:00 PM | Report abuse

It's ironic that the day Maryland celebrates its founding on the principles of religious expression and toleration, it's government curses the name and purpose of it's very existence.

I can only imagine what Cecilius Calvert would have thought of Mr. Miller's comments.

To Hillman's comments I agree. It's not Lehman who's losing out. It's Maryland.

great story Ms. Helderman, thanks for keeping us informed!

Posted by: trolly_time | March 25, 2009 11:13 PM | Report abuse

"Then, with annoyance, he asked the secretary of the senate, 'Do we see these things ahead of time? Do we?'

Lehmann says, yes, in fact."
Hahaha. Nice, Miller. What a jerk.

Posted by: billyc123 | March 26, 2009 1:23 PM | Report abuse

I know this Pastor and he is one great man who is a terrific leader and man of integrity. This senator owes him and the constituency of Maryland an apology for the embarrassment that he caused. If the senate asks a Christian to pray they should at least understand that this person will pray according to his faith. If he asks a Muslim to pray it should be understood in the same manner. How foolish for us as a people to think that we can be a people of many faiths but demand that those faiths be compromised in the name of tolerance. What we should be tolerated is the fact that people of different faiths will follow their faiths without our forcing them to change.

Thank you Pastor Lehmann for showing your integrity once again and doing exactly what you were asked to do: Pray as you know how according to your faith.

Posted by: paultrementozzi | March 26, 2009 2:04 PM | Report abuse

God bless Pastor Lehman for being a man of faith. He followed the proper procedures and was invited to pray at the Senate chamber. This sounds like a personal issue on Miller's end since the prayer was submitted in advance. Miller needs to apologize to Pastor Lehman, and to state constituents for his stupidity. Pray for the Maryland Senate and for the entire state of Maryland. I'm pleased to see Pastor Lehman's willingness to return to pray in the Maryland Senate again.

Posted by: charlene007 | March 26, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

Isn't it funny that when a Christian pastor is invited to pray, people are offended that he prays with the authority of Jesus Christ? I think that tells you a lot about how we as Christians have misrepresented our faith to the nations and have hidden our Light from the world. We have compromised on so many fronts (especially publicly) that people are disappointed when we don't! I am so proud of Pastor Mark. Every time I have heard him pray, he prays with sincerity and conviction. His integrity is underscored by the fact that he submitted the entirety of his prayer in advance, as wasn't a "bait and switch" and there were no hidden motives. It is no fault of his own that Miller chose not to review. I dare say, God allowed this "oversight" to transpire so that He would be glorified in the prayer and yes, even in the aftermath.

Posted by: Shelly524 | March 27, 2009 9:54 AM | Report abuse

God Bless you Pastor Mark. You remind me of Apostle Paul who said "I am not ashamed Of the Gospel of Christ"

Posted by: pathmo | March 27, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

This Miller character needs to be invited to our next Doughnut a few questions of my own I'd love to ask.

Posted by: jigtorious | March 27, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

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