Ohio House Speaker Cuts Off Prayer For Wrong Reason

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screencap of Pastor B.J. Van Aman, Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, and Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville with head bowed in prayer
Pastor B.J. Van Aman of the Pickerington Baptist Temple, Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, and Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville with head bowed in prayer in the Ohio House of Representatives on Tuesday January 26, 2016

Ohio House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger (R) cut off the opening prayer, in the Ohio House of Representatives, Tuesday, after it went past 5 minutes in length. In reviewing the rules for a prayer opening the legislature, it’s clear the prayer should have been stopped much sooner for violating court advised guidelines and not just for length.

When the prayer delivered by Pastor B.J. Van Aman of the Pickerington Baptist Temple ventured past five minutes in length, House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger, R-Clarksville, took what could be an unprecedented step of politely cutting him off.

Lawmakers are welcome to invite religious leaders from their district to deliver an opening prayer to the House, as Rep. Tim Schaffer, R-Lancaster, did on Tuesday. Most prayers don’t go longer than 60 or 90 seconds, often delivering messages of inspiration and asking for wisdom and guidance.

House guidelines are largely based on a 1983 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring opening prayers to be nondenominational, nonsectarian and nonproselytizing.

The prayer on Tuesday mentioned “Though the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ,” and went on to describe Jesus, whose “name is above every name,” and at his name “every knee shall bow.” It also described Jesus as the “author and finisher of our faith.”

‘I didn’t mean to be rude,’ Ohio House speaker says after cutting off long prayer (link includes a video)

Opening prayers are suppose to be nondenominational, nonsectarian, and nonproselytizing. How was Pastor Van Aman giving basically a sermon and saying everyone should bow to Jesus NOT any of those things?

Speaker Rosenberger should have stopped the prayer for violating the guidelines and not just for length.


*Update*

A commenter on the Dispatch website reminded me that legislative bodies can’t police the content of the prayers given before them after the Town of Greece v. Galloway decision. So I modify my complaint that the pastor violated the guidelines of that decision because it was a sermon and proselytized. So it still needed to be ended and not just for length.


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