TX: PATRICK BOYCOTTS PRAYER, PRAISES RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
Republican Sen. Dan Patrick on Wednesday boycotted the first prayer delivered in the Texas Senate by a Muslim cleric, and then praised religious tolerance and freedom of speech in an address at the end of the day's session.
"I think that it's important that we are tolerant as a people of all faiths, but that doesn't mean we have to endorse all faiths, and that was my decision," he said later.
"I surely believe that everyone should have the right to speak, but I didn't want my attendance on the floor to appear that I was endorsing that."
Patrick, a conservative radio talk show host from Houston and self-professed Christian, said he wasn't the only senator to miss the invocation - in English and song - by the Imam Yusuf Kavakci of the Dallas Central Mosque.
But he was the only senator known to have passed out to other senators copies of a two-year-old newspaper editorial criticizing Kavakci for publicly praising two radical Islamists.
Patrick's political ally, Harris County Republican Chairman Jared Woodfill, had sharply criticized the fact that the Muslim prayer was scheduled during the week before Easter.
The timing was coincidental, said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who sponsored the cleric's appearance at the Capitol on the Texas Muslims Legislative Day.
Shapiro is Jewish, and this also is Passover, a major Jewish holiday.
Shapiro praised Kavakci's "extensive interfaith experience" and said he represents a "substantial constituency of Texans who deserve to be represented."