The House Republican spin-machine was whirling away this morning, as a couple of lawmakers tried to justify their absences at Monday’s daily opening prayer, which happened to be given by a Muslim cleric.
Former teacher and Rep. Lois McMahan, R-Olalla, said she chose to remain outside the House chamber during Olympia Imam Mohamad Joban’s prayer “for personal reasons.”
She said she didn’t intend the action to offend anyone, but it certainly did.
After Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter Angela Galloway wrote about the absence of McMahan and Rep. Gary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee, McMahan said she viewed stepping off the House floor as an act of patriotism. “Even though the mainstream Islamic religion doesn’t profess to hate America, nontheless it spawns the groups that hate America,” she said. Condotta told the paper “Let’s just say I wasn’t particularly interested.”
Wednesday morning, McMahan released the following statement following the opening session of the state House of Representatives:
“It has come to my attention that comments that I made Monday afternoon have caused misunderstanding and offenses. I had acted Monday morning out of personal preference and spoke without consulting anyone else. Nothing I said in any way reflects the feelings or opinions of any other lawmaker as far as I know.
“I want to make it clear that it was not my intention to offend anyone by my actions or words. Specifically, I want to state that it was not my intention to slight or show any ill-will toward Imam Mohamad Joban or any other American member of the Islamic faith, whose members I’m sure enjoy the freedom and opportunity of this country as much as I do.
“As I pointed out in the statement that I released to the media yesterday, this nation was founded on the principle of the individual’s right to religious freedom. I have great respect for those who hold religious beliefs, whether they resemble or are vastly different from my own.
“In fact, I would die for the right of any American to believe as he or she chooses. It is my personal belief that God gave this individual right and extends it to everyone. It has never been my intention to show disrespect for anyone else because of their deeply held religious beliefs and thereby cause an offense. In fact, I have made it a lifelong goal to live as much as possible without causing offense to others.
“I apologize for offenses given and would like to ask forgiveness of any whom I have offended. It was never my intention for such offenses to occur in the first place.
“I understand that Imam Joban has extended an invitation to me to visit the local Islamic center where he presides. If in fact this is true, I intend to accept his gracious invitation. At that time I will personally deliver to him my apology for any offense he may have experienced.”
Late Tuesday, House Minority Leader Cathy McMorris, R-Colville, felt compelled to issue her own public statement, saying House Republicans welcome “the peaceful believers of Washington’s Islamic faith community.”
“In every instance, our colleagues and guests who participate in this custom (the daily legislative prayer) are deserving of our respect,” McMorris said.
Joban, who prayed for peace and tranquility, is slated to return to the House for another prayer Friday.