I usually don’t pay much attention to the invocations given before legislative floor sessions. From what I’ve observed, they invite a number of leaders across denominations to deliver an invocation each day as the lawmakers gavel in for floor work. I’ve seen everyone from Lutherans and Catholics to Native American leaders give the invocation.
Yesterday a Muslim leader – Doctor Nadim Koleilat from the Bismarck Muslim Community Center in Bismarck – delivered the invocation in the Senate. He was supposed to deliver it in the House as well, but according to that chamber’s journal Pastor Rich Wyatt from the Living Hope Church of the Nazarene in Bismarck delivered it (he’d also delivered the invocation the day before).
I can’t speak to why Dr. Koleilat canceled his invocation, but according to Facebook at least some Republicans weren’t happy with the idea:
That posting is from the District 24 Republicans page, and it has since been taken down. District 24 is the Valley City area. Rep. Dwight Kiefert, a Republican, and Rep. Naomi Muscha, a Democrat, represent the district in the House.
Senator Larry Robinson represents the district in the Senate.
It’s unclear who wrote the post. The “WJ” at the end of the posting may be somebody’s initials, but I can’t figure out who.
Regardless, not a very nice sentiment. It’s understandable that there is tension between the Muslim community and American population at large given the struggles we’ve had with Islamic extremism, but I’m not sure exclusion is the proper reaction.
In fact, I’m very sure it is not.
UPDATE: This may be who “WJ” is. It seems maybe Dr. Koleilat canceled his House appearance due to push back from some Republicans.
Meanwhile, a member of the Senate chamber suggests via email that the House actively prevented Dr. Koleilat from delivering an invocation there.
“The House should not have kicked out the Muslim, but I was a little put off that the ministerial group saw fit to have a Muslim give a prayer on Ash Wednesday,” the Senator writes. “With that said I did not feel that it is offensive as I can simply follow my own prayer. I think as long as the prayer is respectful to the senate and state and does not attempt to create offense we should not turn people away from this chamber.”