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Todd Akin Has Ruffled Feathers Before, but With Prayer

Long-time Congressional observers could not recall any examples similar to Akin's. But while prayer in public institutions - especially to a particular deity - can be an explosive issue, none of Akin's subcommittee colleagues complained. One called the practice the chairman's prerogative.

"I respect how the chair wants to conduct his subcommittee," subcommittee member James Langevin (D-R.I.) said this spring.

But some other lawmakers and advocates for separation of church and state called the practice a bad idea.

"Any prayer that starts an official public meeting that pertains to any one particular religion is probably not in good judgment," Armed Services Committee member Robert Andrews (D-N.J.), said in April, suggesting that a moment of silence would be more appropriate.

As a subcommittee chairman, Akin, whose subcommittee oversees many of the military's most expensive weapons programs, has some measure of power over other members of the panel, Lynn argued. That, in turn, could silence their public opposition to his prayer.

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