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Patrick’s Personal Privilege

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As I reported in an earlier post, Sen. Dan Patrick this morning boycotted a prayer delivered by a Dallas Imam after spending the morning warning other senators that the Imam espoused dangerous views. At the end of today’s session, invoking his right as a senator to deliver a personal privilege speech, Patrick illuminated his views on the Imam’s prayer. Bottom line: he’s in favor of freedom of religion.

“We had an extraordinary moment today. It made me proud. It made me realize that we are not fighting (in Iraq) for Christians and Jews, but for every American,” Patrick said.

However, he lamented that while Muslims are allowed to pray in public in the United States, our system “doesn’t allow a Christian to take a Bible to school.”

(Did I miss something? Has some superintendent been searching backpacks and confiscating the King James version? Sheesh, I gotta agree with Patrick here…You’d think we’d be happy the kids were reading something better-written than text messages from their peers.)

“I’m proud of my faith as a Christian. I’m proud of being an American,” Patrick concluded. “Thank God for America.”

After Patrick’s speech, Sen. Steve Ogden, who was in the chair, recognized Sen. John Whitmire for a “highly privileged motion” — the signal for Whitmire to request adjournment.

“How about sine die?” Whitmire wisecracked.

“That’s too much privilege,” Ogden responded.

Did the kum-by-ya sentiment of Patrick’s remarks mollify his fellow senators, who had been peeved by his private protestations against the Imam? I got my answer as members filed off the floor, and one veteran muttered angrily, “[email protected]&* showboater!!”

Patrick then clarified for reporters why he was not present for the prayer. “It is important that we are tolerant as a people, but that doesn’t mean we have to endorse all faiths and that was my decision,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want my attendence on the floor seen as an endorsement.

He did acknowledge that he showed members a 2005 Dallas Morning News column criticizing the Imam for permitting the distribution of extremist literature at his mosque, though the News noted at the time that the Imam disavowed the views expressed. “I just wanted to be sure everyone was aware,” Patrick said.

Other senators confirmed that Patrick had planned to vocally protest the Imam’s presence, but was counseled against it by colleagues.

After hearing Patrick’s post-session explanation, reporters cornered Sen. Florence Shapiro, who had invited the Imam, a constituent, to the Senate. Did Patrick’s remarks about tolerance on the floor correspond to the sentiments expressed before Wednesday’s session to other senators? “No,” she said.

As she turned to walk away, Shapiro, who is Jewish, smiled and said, “Happy Easter, everybody!”

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