On Friday, Gov. Rick Scott proclaimed a statewide day of prayer in the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict.
On Sunday morning, the Rev.Gerald Kisner obliged.
Just not with the prayer Scott might have expected.
“I am praying for our governor,” said Kisner to the early morning congregation at Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church in West Palm Beach.
Prayers for Scott were needed, Kisner said, because: “The governor has abandoned his moral authority. He should have said, ‘We will pray not only for Trayvon Martin but for legislative changes to unfair and unjust laws.’”
In Tallahassee, Scott shows no signs of relenting on his position: There will be no special session to address the state’s “stand your ground” law.
The 2005 law, which allows a person in a public place to use deadly force if he fears for his life, played a key role in the Trayvon Martin case.
Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, who contended he acted in self-defense after the unarmed teenager attacked him. Jurors agreed, and returned a not guilty verdict on charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Although not specifically used by Zimmerman’s defense attorneys, the judge’s instructions to the jury did reference the law. And last week, one of the six jurors called for change.
“My prayers are with all those who have the influence and power to modify the laws that left me with no verdict option other than ‘not guilty’ in order to remain within the instructions,” the unidentified juror wrote in a statement.
Since then, everyone from the president to Attorney General Eric Holder has weighed in on the case; Holder castigating laws that he said “senselessly expand the concept of self-defense and sow dangerous conflict in our neighborhoods.”
State lawmakers have urged the Legislature to reconsider bills that would modify stand your ground. There’s been talk of a nationwide boycott of the state until that happens.
And last Tuesday, protesters set up camp outside the governor’s office, demanding a special session to debate — and repeal — the law.
Shortly after speaking with the group, Scott held fast on his refusal to do so, but also issued a proclamation: Sunday would be a “Statewide Day of Prayer for Unity in Florida.”
At St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in West Palm Beach, one of the area’s larger African-American churches, the governor’s message came late. “We already held a day of prayer last Sunday,” said the Rev. Canon Winston Joseph, one day after the verdict triggered widespread outrage. Nor were prayers just for Martin.
“Difficult as it was for us as a basically African-American congregation, we prayed for both families,” he said, including the Zimmermans. “Very hard,” Joseph said of his congregation’s embrace of those prayers.
A few blocks up the street, the Rev. Kisner exhorted the Tabernacle Missionary congregation to consider the Sermon on the Mount: Blessed are the peacemakers.
Urging parishioners not to get caught up in the “hype and madness” surrounding Martin’s death, Kisner said they should be prepared for the months-long process, often grueling and rarely publicized, of changing laws. Otherwise, he asked, “Do you know what’s going to happen 12 months from now?
In Tallahassee Sunday morning, protester Phillip Agnew said three ministers showed up to hold services for the 28 mostly young people still sitting tight on the Capitol floor. “It was the first time I have been to church in a long time,” admitted Agnew, executive director of civil rights advocacy group Dream Defenders.
Like the West Palm Beach congregants, they prayed for peace. And while the governor wasn’t specifically named, said Agnew, “We prayed for all Floridians. I think he was probably covered by that umbrella.”