Politicians and candidates are all-too-often derided for making accidental — and silly — public pronunciations and gaffes. But it’s not a frequent occurrence for a leader to make headlines for what he or she refrains from saying. However, this is the case surrounding Pennsylvania State Representative Babette Josephs (D-Philadelphia), whose stance on the Pledge of Allegiance is creating controversy.
As WHTM-TV reports, Josephs refused to lead fellow politicians in the Pledge on Wednesday. Her reasoning? We’ll let her tell you in her own words: “Based on my First Amendment rights and based on the fact that I really think it’s a prayer. I don’t pray in public.”
She made the aforementioned statement in front of lawmakers after Republican Chairman Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) asked her if she would lead the group in the recitation. The odd moment, which WHTM-TV plainly describes as “awkward,” was quickly remedied when Metcalfe called on another member to recite the Pledge.
After the scenario played out, Josephs attempted to further explain her reasoning for not uttering the so-called prayer. The politician referenced the decision, in 1954, by Congress to add the words “under God” to the national declaration and said that the action — which was taken when she was just 14-years-old — makes the Pledge a prayer.
“How many years ago was 1954? I have not said the Pledge of Allegiance since and I will not say it into the future unless they take those words out and make it less of a prayer,” she said.
In commenting about the situation, Metcalfe later said that it is Josephs’ right to decline saying the pledge. However, he called the inaction “shocking” and wrong.
He also said that he doesn’t believe that most Americans would willingly elect someone who holds Josephs’ views and that he doesn’t believe she should hold office based upon her position on the issue. It seems Metcalfe may get his wish, seeing as Joseph lost her April primary and will, thus, soon be exiting office.
It’s important to note that Metcalfe has received some criticism for asking Josephs to say the Pledge, as he already knew where she stood on the proclamation. Despite admitting that he was aware, he defended the action and said that he has always asked members to say the pledge at meetings.
“The man’s inscrutable to me,” Josephs said of Metcalfe when asked about the incident. “I don’t know what he’s so angry about. I don’t know why he’s so angry at me. I don’t get the whole thing. Ask him!”
Josephs made headlines earlier this year for publicly wondering if women who had co-sponsored a mandatory ultrasound bill in Pennsylvania were simply “men with breasts.”
Watch the awkward moment unfold, below: