We got several inquiries about the person who gave the invocation at the annual ceremony lighting the Capitol holiday display last Saturday. Typical was this comment on our open line:

For anyone who couldn’t make it to the Capitol lighting ceremony tonight, the music, lights, & fireworks were wonderful! Judge Reinhold was the MC & did a good job too! The not-so-great part was Sec. Of State Martin having an evangelical-type preacher there who gave an opening prayer. It had to have lasted 5 minutes or more & was really a sermon. Wow, nothing like cramming your own brand of religion down everyone’s throats at the state Capitol.:(

Although I am a Christian, I am what might be considered “liberal” in this red state of ours—I actually believe in the separation of church & state. I can’t speak for the others in attendance tonight, but I can say I was not the only person who was done with Bro. Pastor’s prayer after the first minute. Everywhere I looked, people were talking quietly amongst themselves. He may have not converted many souls tonight…Our state has got to do better next time with who we elect.

The secretary of state’s office, which said it had heard no complaints about the prayer, said the invocation was done by Jason Palermo, “minister for the Capitol Commission.” That is not a public agency but a nonprofit dedicated to encouraging religion in public life. It held regular pizza-and-prayer meetings at the Capitol during the legislative session.

Palermo has been working as state minister for the Capitol Commission for six years, according to his profile on Linked In. His objective:

Leading in a Christian ministry that exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ within the political arena, in America and around the world. 

Working with, elected and appointed political leaders, lobbyists and support staff, who share the vision of reaching men and women within the political arena, with the life-transforming gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Much as that might be appreciated, several who went for the holiday parade, light show and fireworks said they’d have appreciated a mite less gospel.

You might recall the secretary of state’s office said it was a mistake when their Capitol Facebook page described the building as a “religious center.” It was fitting for a bit Saturday night. The legislative sessions open with daily prayers, too.