Topeka A guest chaplain upset some Kansas House members Thursday with a prayer remembering millions of children that he said were "legally exterminated" by abortion and decrying a national "culture of death."
The Rev. Brian Schieber, pastor at Most Pure Heart of Mary Catholic Church, gave his prayer on the 36th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion across the nation.
"We remember the over 53 million beautiful, innocent unborn children who have been legally exterminated in our land," he said in his prayer. "By Your grace, guide us to transform this culture of death into a culture of life and a civilization of love."
Legislators who support abortion rights complained afterward, saying the prayer opening the 125-member House's daily session is supposed to be nonpolitical.
"Prayers ought to be more ecumenical," said Rep. Tom Sawyer, a Wichita Democrat. "It's supposed to be a prayer that all 125 people will feel comfortable praying."
But not all legislators were upset.
"It's always like music when you hear the truth," said Sen. Mary Pilcher Cook, an anti-abortion Republican from Shawnee who was in the House gallery.
Schieber acknowledged he wasn't surprised that his prayer caused a stir among some House members. He said he wasn't judging or condemning policy makers but hoping to "stir hearts to conversion."
"The Gospel should rattle us out of our complacency," he said. "We're not supposed to preach what people want to hear. We're supposed to preach the fullness of the Word."
The House's chaplain, the Rev. Eunice Brubaker, associate pastor of the Fairlawn Nazarene Church in Topeka, invited Schieber to give the prayer because she had a scheduling conflict.
Schieber said initially he resisted then, "I thought, 'This may be a very providential moment that God has given me.'"
But Rep. Mike Slattery, a Mission Democrat, said Schieber could have communicated a similar message without being as "startling."
"That prayer was a little more abrasive than necessary," he said.
House Speaker Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Republican who opposes abortion, said he didn't know beforehand what Schieber's message would be.
O'Neal said guest pastors usually receive a letter with some guidance but that Schieber apparently didn't because he was invited on short notice. O'Neal said he would review that guidance.
"It was a prayer that caused some concern, and I'm sorry about that," O'Neal said.
Schieber's prayer recalled another given to the House in January 1996 by a guest chaplain, the Rev. Joe Wright, now retired as senior pastor at Wichita's Central Christian Church.
Wright asked God to forgive Kansas for a list of sins that included abortion and endorsing "perversion" as "an alternative lifestyle." His prayer is still circulating over the Internet.
Each year, the Roe anniversary draws hundreds of people to the Statehouse and events staged near it.
Hundreds of abortion opponents packed a noon Mass at the Assumption Catholic Church, across the street from the Capitol, which Schieber helped celebrate. A dozen abortion rights supporters were briefly outside, holding signs, drawing a few honks of support from passing motorists.