The Rev. Cynthia Hale delivers the invocation at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on July 25, 2016. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Who boos an opening prayer? The Berniacs of 2016, that’s who

PHILADELPHIA (RNS) They booed the invocation.

Sure, that may not sound like a surprising sin in a sports arena in a town that is so infamous for its unruly fans -- they once threw snowballs at Santa Claus -- that the city set up a special court inside Veterans Stadium to deal with transgressors.

But it happened during a prayer, at the start of a political convention orchestrated to crown Hillary Clinton as the nominee of the Democratic Party, the first woman ever to head a national ticket and one with a golden opportunity to become the first woman president in the nation’s history.

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And this was the Democratic Party, which is trying to attract faith-based voters, a party that just four years earlier got hammered for initially dropping any mention of God from the party platform.

READ: Can Hillary Clinton finally close the ‘God gap’?

And yet, on Monday afternoon (July 25), many of the fiercest supporters of Clinton's primary rival, Bernie Sanders, booed the opening prayer. And then they chanted Sanders' name despite his plea that they not protest or stage a walkout “or similar displays.”

Granted, the dissident delegates -- the “Bernie-or-bust” crowd of die-hard Sanders devotees -- were not targeting God, per se. They only started booing when the Rev. Cynthia Hale, founder of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Ga., mentioned Clinton’s name.


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Initially there were cheers, but then the chorus of jeers grew louder, and then dominated. Hale paused, and seemed to try to redirect the negativity with a quiet “Hallelujah.” But the booing continued and then morphed into chants of “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!”

Hale smiled tightly, pushed on, and wrapped it up with a firm “Amen.”

The moment was the first of what threatened to become a wild ride as the next few speakers, and, behind the scenes, panicky party leaders, sought to rescue the convention from a potential opening night disaster. They rejiggered the speaking lineup to highlight Sanders even though he, too, had been booed earlier in the day by his own delegates when he urged them to support Clinton.

During the primary fight with Clinton, Sanders had roused a devoted band of followers with a message of economic populism delivered with the ferocity of a biblical prophet. Was he now without honor even in his own party?

Yet, as the evening wore on, efforts to rally the troops behind Clinton began to work.

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Perhaps it was fatigue, perhaps fear of feeding the candidacy of Republican nominee Donald Trump, who surged into a polling lead following last week’s even more fractious GOP convention in Cleveland.

A young immigrant girl came onstage to tell her story of being reunited with her family, and there was a mother whose children got wrapped up in drugs testifying to the devastation of opioids. Singer Demi Lovato spoke about her struggle with mental illness -- then belted out her hit song “Confident.”

That’s tough material to boo, even for the Berniacs, and after those speeches even enthusiastic mentions of Clinton’s name failed to rouse many vocal protests. Some Sanders supporters even taped their mouths shut in protest at their fate.

The comedian Sarah Silverman, a Bernie supporter, came out with the former comedian -- and current Minnesota senator -- Al Franken, a Hillary backer, and delivered one of the most powerful speeches of the night, which no one saw coming.

A few remaining Bernie boo birds started in on her, but that was a mistake: “To the Bernie-or-bust people, you’re being ridiculous," she said in a casual smackdown.

Silverman and Franken then introduced the legendary singer Paul Simon, who performed -- of course -- “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”

After that, Michelle Obama delivered what many believe was a speech for the ages in endorsing Clinton.

“Laughter and music helped turn this night from the angry and the petulant into the collegial and enthusiastic,” as PBS pundit Mark Shields put it.

That might have been a bit optimistic. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren -- the other progressive hero of this campaign -- again struggled with a few Sanders holdouts during her speech.

They were, to their credit, scripturally literate in their critiques, though with an almost fundamentalist fervor: "You sold your birthright for a bowl of porridge!" one yelled at Warren.

Those protests waned when Sanders himself finally took the stage. It was late, and well past prime time when he spoke, and he delivered a stem-winder of a stump speech. Yet his disciples were in tears.

“It's a religious experience for these folks. It's like watching a Pentecostal church service,” conservative commentator David French tweeted in perhaps the pithiest, and most on point, observation of the long and dramatic night.

But Sanders delivered for Clinton, clearly and convincingly. Will it be enough to bring the faithful on board? Will they lead the party into schism and pave a path to the White House for Trump? Or will they be reduced to a bunch of dead-enders who boo when they get a chance, but with decreasing return on their investment?

READ: Will Bernie Sanders’ defeat also end America’s latest Great Awakening?

It’s not clear how many of those remaining in the Wells Fargo Center after Sanders' speech were paying attention when Rabbi Julie Schonfeld delivered the closing benediction, but no one booed, which counts as progress.

Then again, Schonfeld, a leader in the Conservative Jewish movement, never mentioned Clinton. And she delivered what was the most biblically profound meditation of the day-old convention -- with perhaps a sidelong dig at Trump, who party leaders hope will emerge as the one true opponent by week’s end:

“In a season so filled with chatter of ‘Who is Great’ and ‘What is Great’ and ‘What Shall Be Great,’
Let us remember Scripture’s clear, simple explanation of greatness:
God is the great, the mighty and the awesome,
For God defends the cause of the widow and the orphan,
And loves the stranger residing among you.
This is God’s greatness and this is the greatness the American people must strive to imitate.”


  1. Wow, 1st one here. Not in favor of booing someone giving an invocation, that is another sign of the diminishing civility in our culture. The reference to last week’s “even more fractious GOP convention” is a bit premature, as the Dems are only in their 1st day. Let’s see what lies ahead.

  2. This article is ridiculous hyperbole. There’s a lot to be critical of the Bernie Bros for but them booing isn’t one of them. The article itself says the booing had nothing to do with the prayer, yet that doesn’t stop the author from trying to paint the Bernie Bros as somehow anti-Christian, or this was some sort of attack on Christianity. Also the author needs to check their facts before they spread that bogus claim about the Democrats booing God which never happened I’m supporting Clinton myself but can we at least base our arguments against the Bernie Bros on facts and reality instead of clickbait headlines to generate false controversy? I expected better out of RNS.

  3. It is disappointing that they booed during the invocation, but not critical to the convention as it goes on. It appears that nearly every Democrat and many Republicans understand how critical it is to avoid a Trump win. That would devastate the US.

  4. “the first woman ever to head a national ticket”

    Wrong. So very wrong. Just because this is the first one Blue Tribe has ever run, doesn’t mean it is the FIRST.

    “a golden opportunity to become the first woman president in the nation’s history.”

    For the sake of women everywhere, I sincerely hope the historically remembered “first woman president” isn’t this corporate-bought travesty.

  5. Last year the DEMOCRATS “booed” to have “God” removed from the platform but the leader was able to keep “Him” in. I am so glad I left this party years ago!

  6. The article correctly stated that the 2012 Democratic platform initially had no mention of God. In a voice vote during the convention, the chair ruled that the ayes had it for inserting “God-given” into the platform. It was this questionable ruling that delegates did, in fact, boo. But as Snopes notes, they did not boo God.
    The article’s headline is a reasonable interpretation of what happened. The minister was giving a prayer for Hillary Clinton and they booed. A slightly more charitable explanation is that they only booed the mention of her name, and not the extension of prayers for her, but that’s truly hair splitting.

  7. The die hard Bernie supporters did not boo God but they have shown serious disrespect for the process, many of the speakers and even for their own candidate. They are throwing a tantrum because they did not get their way despite many of their wishes were included in the platform.
    They claim to support Bernie because he is honest. They then disrespect him when he says that Hillary must be elected because Trump would be dangerous (an opinion shared by many Republican security experts).

  8. Everyone knows that the Berniacs booed Hillary, and that last year, the Democrats Booed God, because God through the words of Jesus, opposes many of the things that the Democrats support as naturally belonging to their values especially on the sanctity of life- who can forget these Democrat declarations……

    President Obama voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act four times, horrifyingly voting against protecting babies who survived abortion and voting in favour of leaving them to die. A vote against this legislation was a vote for infanticide. [Source]

    HILLARY……… who Thinks Children Should Have No Rights Before Birth………
    In a political interview, Baier asked Hillary Clinton, “Do you think a child should have any legal rights or protections before (s/he’s) born? … Do you think there should not be any restrictions on any abortions at any stage in a pregnancy?”
    Baier, noting that Clinton didn’t answer his question about when the baby is worth protecting, pressed a little further. “Just to be clear, there’s no( Rights or protections) — without any exceptions?”……….“No,” Clinton stated.

    Tim Kaine…… supports the current policy of abortion on demand,” said Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life. “Like Hillary Clinton, Sen. Kaine is so extreme on abortion he opposes even the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, legislation to protect unborn children from abortion after 20 weeks, when they are capable of feeling excruciating pain during dismemberment or other late abortion methods.”

    As a U.S. senator, Kaine has voted against the pro-life position every chance he got. Sen. Kaine voted to allow government funding of abortion providers, and he voted against legislation to require an abortionist to notify at least one parent before performing an abortion on a minor girl from another state.

    Kaine took his most extreme pro-abortion action yet with his recent co-sponsorship of the so-called “Women’s Health Protection Act” (S.217), known to pro-lifers as the “Abortion Without Limits Until Birth Act.” This bill would nullify nearly all existing state and federal limitations on regulation of abortion, and prohibit states from enacting meaningful pro-life laws in the future. This revamped version of the long-stalled “Freedom of Choice Act” is a priority of the pro-abortion forces in Washington, D.C.

    “Sen. Kaine is good at hiding behind his Catholic background – but no one should be fooled,” Tobias said. “His record, and his openly declared legislative goals, are as pro-abortion as they come.”

    Out of 101 votes on a wide range of pro-life issues, as scored by the National Right to Life Committee, Sanders has a six percent pro-life voting record. The only times Sanders has ever voted pro-life were times when he supported a ban on human cloning. Otherwise, on issues from abortion funding to banning partial-birth abortions and pro-abortion Obamacare to pushing abortion on an international scale, Sanders has been a staunch abortion activist

    Leader of House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi called the battle to keep late-term abortions legal sacred ground.

  9. A prayer is speech – not any better or worse. Sacred in the minds of the believers but not necessarily to everyone else.

  10. we all know that most Dems are atheistic and the lives of babies in the womb are not really high on their list of priorities
    But all Christians knows the truth of the evil of abortion, and I cannot understand how a True follower of Jesus could give their ascent to someone who promises that she will not allow pre-born babies to have ANY rights or protections-WITHOUT EXCEPTION !!

    Colours Nailed unambiguously to the mast !!

    Saint Paul says that the only way that a believer can call evil good, is to kill the conscience,

    will your conscience allow you to give your affirmative to anyone who sanctions such badness

  11. “we all know that most Dems are atheistic and the lives of babies in the womb are not really high on their list of priorities” Not true. This is what the Devil wants us to believe, but it is not true at all. I am not a Democrat, and I do not defend them out of any sense of party loyalty. I only am saying what is true, and that is the Republicans are not interested in outlawing abortions either. They had their chance for six years when they had the presidency, both houses of congress, and the supreme court. They could have outlawed abortion but they did not because they wanted to keep it as a political wedge issue, a way to divide America. The Democrats may be bad, but at least they are not as hypocritical as the Republicans.

  12. There shouldn’t even BE opening prayers at government meetings, or political gatherings. Especially government meetings. The Offices of House and Senate Chaplain are clearly unconstitutional, as even James Madison pointed out. Even military chaplains should be entirely funded as missionaries by the religious organizations they represent, rather than taxpayers paying clergy directly. Taxpayer money should NEVER be handed over to clerics for performing religious rites. Ever. There’s no excuse for any such fund-transfers. There was more ‘god-talk’ at the DNC than there was at the RNC. Not that anyone would notice except those who see all such god-talk as inherently divisive and obnoxious.

  13. On Tuesday night, the DNC trotted the CEO of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards, up to the podium to deliver a 15-minute sales pitch for abortion. The next night, after the sales pitch, the president of the National Abortion Rights Action League strode confidently onto the stage to give a sort of client testimonial. Not only does she run the abortion industry’s propaganda machine, but she is, as she happily professed, a satisfied abortion customer. She bragged about her abortion, explaining that she had to kill her child because he would have been too inconvenient at the time. -THE AUDIENCE ROARED WITH THEIR APPLAUSE

  14. “Sales pitch for abortion” is not only misleading but language with a propaganda twist. Pro-choice does not imply promoting abortion but promoting the right of a woman to decide on whether to accept the health risks, discomfort, pain, and economic consequences of childbirth. No one other than the woman herself has a right to make such a decision based on her circumstances.
    Your post is loaded with propagandist language based on your particular world view in an attempt to force your beliefs on others. Your beliefs are far from universal (in fact are not supported by a majority of the public or the developed world).

  15. “attempting to force your beliefs on others. Your beliefs are far from universal (in fact are not supported by a majority of the public or the developed world)”

    not attempting to force the words of Jesus on anyone, -just state them as he passed them to us in Holy Scripture ( even if they are not supported by a majority of the public or the developed world).

    the bible does recognise baby in the womb as a child….“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the BABY leaped in her womb;Luke 1 v 41….

    ………We must also remember that Jesus loves us infinitely more than we could ever know and there is nothing we have done that is beyond his mercy and forgiveness, His love and mercy is held from no-one

  16. What prayer? That wasn’t a prayer! It was in infomercial.

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