It doesn't matter what they pray for, or even who they pray to, but an Alabama delegate insists they must start the session with a prayer. Otherwise, technically speaking, the day's business won't count. Some would disagree with Perry Hooper Jr.'s analysis of a rule mandating a prayer and the pledge of allegiance before all official meetings at the Republican National Convention.
But Hooper ought to know. He wrote the rule. "It was just something I philosophically thought would be appropriate," said Hooper, who is a state representative. "I believe in the power of prayer."
Hooper introduced the mandate four years ago as a member of the rules committee. The committee concurred on a voice vote, and a nearly identical measure was approved again for this year's convention. In practice, it doesn't change much. Republicans have long started most of their meetings the way Hooper prefers. On Tuesday, a rabbi did the honors for the main session. On Wednesday, it was retired quarterback Steve Young.
"He codified what was already in practice," said Tom Yu, spokesman for the Republican National Committee. Hooper said Thursday his intent was to require prayer in front of state caucus gatherings as well. Alabama has led off with one at every meeting this week, but other states pray only before a meal - a fact that surprised and disappointed Hooper and other Alabamans.
"You really shouldn't have to have a rule to do it," said Alabama GOP Chairman Winton Blount. "You ought to just do it. We always have and always will."
It's not the first time Hooper has tried to mandate meditation. Two years ago, he proposed requiring teachers in every public school classroom in Alabama to start each school day with a period of quiet reflection of no more than a minute.
That law and others allowing voluntary prayers at school functions were approved by the state legislature. Some parts are still under review by the courts.