- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, Missouri Democrat, defended Tuesday his decision to end the opening House prayer with “a-woman,” calling it a “lighthearted pun” and a reference to the record number of women in Congress.

Mr. Cleaver, whose unconventional closing touched off an uproar over political correctness run amok, said that he was giving a tip of the hat to the 144 women who will serve in the new Congress as well as the first full-time female House chaplain, Rear Admiral Margaret Grun Kibben.

“The ‘a-woman’ was how the prayer ended, trying to recognize the record number of women now in Congress and a female chaplain, so I said ‘a-woman,’ and felt good,” Mr. Cleaver told Fox’s Neil Cavuto.

The congressman, a United Methodist pastor, told the Kansas City Star he was making a “lighthearted pun” when he used the made-up word “a-woman” to finish the prayer Sunday on the opening session of the 117th Congress.

His prayer ended: “We ask it in the name of the monotheistic God, Brahma, and ‘god’ known by many names, by many different faiths. Amen and a-woman.”

Multiple Twitter users, including some Republican lawmakers, pointed out that the word “amen” means “so be it” and has nothing to do with the male gender, while Donald Trump Jr. called it “insane.”

Mr. Cleaver swung back at what he called the “orchestrated outrage” on social media, adding that he received a friendly reception from other House members immediately after the prayer.

“Now, this is important. As I left the chamber, Republicans and Democrats were saying, boy, thank you for that prayer, we really need somebody to ask God for unity—I mean, Republicans and Democrats,” Mr. Cleaver said.

He said it was not until after Twitter users picked up on the word that it became a widespread source of indignation as well as jokes.

“Here’s the problem, what I’m thinking about: Nations trip and fall over molehills, not mountains, and as we’re arguing and fighting over democracy right now, we’re at a point where we’re ready to say, here’s something we can fight about, somebody did a prayer and said a-woman, so let’s go fight about it,” Mr. Cleaver said.

At the same time, the “a-woman” episode clearly touched a chord with those frustrated by the muddling of language, not to mention theology, for political ends.

A few days earlier, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled new House rules prohibiting the use of gender-specific words like “he,” “she,” “mother” and “father,” which will be replaced by gender-neutral terms.

“It shows you how out of touch the Democrats in the House are,” Rep. Jim Hagedorn, Minnesota Republican, told Newsmax “They are so fixated on ‘degenderizing’ everything they even take it to prayers, and to a word that has nothing to do with gender.”

The previous record for women serving in Congress was 127 set in 2019, according to the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University.

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