Two Maine lawmakers are facing possible censure after one said the deadliest mass shooting in the state, in Lewiston in October, was a sign of retribution from God over the passage of a law expanding abortion access by the Democratic-led state Legislature and other “immoral laws.”

During a floor debate Wednesday, state Republican state Rep. Michael Lemelin said God “draws a line in the sand, and when we crossed that line there’s consequences.”

“Meditate on this, Madam Speaker,” Lemelin said, addressing House Speaker Rachel Talbot Ross, a Democrat. “When (L.D.) 1619 passed and went into law on Oct. 25, you told God life doesn’t matter.”

Lemelin then drew parallels between a state law expanding abortion access and the Lewiston mass shooting.

“Keep in mind that the law came into effect on Oct. 25. God heard you and the horrible events on Oct. 25 happened,” he said.

Republican state Rep. Shelley Rudnicki later endorsed Lemelin’s remarks.

“I just want to stand and say that I agree with Rep. Lemelin and everything he said,” Rudnicki said on the chamber floor.

Law enforcement officials gather near their vehicles
Law enforcement officers in Lewiston, Maine, in the aftermath of a mass shooting in 2023.Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images file

But Lemelin’s remarks drew condemnation from state lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Assistant House Majority Leader Kristen Cloutier, a Democrat, said in a statement that both Lemelin and Rudnicki demonstrated a “stunning lack of respect, deeply troubling absence of empathy and infuriating disregard for the victims, their families and everyone in our community whose hearts remain shattered by this horrific act of senseless violence.”

State Rep. Rachel Henderson was among several Republicans who blasted Lemelin’s remarks, decrying them as “reprehensible” in an impassioned floor speech. 

“Nowhere in the Bible do I see where the word of God is to be used as a weapon against people, or where we are told to speak on behalf of God to express his wrath to the people,” Henderson said. “The statements made today, I will not speak to the character or the motives, but those statements were reprehensible and ones that I do not support, and I do not get behind.”

“Although it’s not my place, I apologize to every member who was here and heard that and took offense,” she added. “I’m proud of where I stand. I’m proud of the positions that I take, but tonight I am not proud to be a Republican. I am not proud to have an ‘R’ in front of my name.”

Lemelin, Rudnicki and Ross did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Eighteen people were killed on Oct. 25 when a 40-year-old Army Reservist opened fire at a bowling alley and a bar in Lewiston. The gunman was found dead by suicide after a two-day search. 

The Maine House is set to hold a vote on censuring Lemelin and Rudnicki for their comments.

In letters to Lemelin and Rudnicki on Thursday, provided to NBC News by the House speaker’s office, Ross said the House would hold a vote on censuring them for comments that were “extremely offensive and intentionally harmful” to the victims of the shooting and their families.

“The behavior and your agreement with this language violated the order of decorum of the House Chamber,” Ross wrote. “Your actions are deserving of the most serious consequences this body can deliver.” 

Ross also said the two Republican lawmakers must issue formal apologies, reading them on the House floor and delivering them in writing to members of House leadership, or they’d be denied the ability to vote or speak on the floor.

“You must accept sole and full responsibility for the incident and publicly apologize to your constituents, the victims and families of the Lewiston tragedy, the greater Lewiston community, the House of Representatives, and the People of Maine,” she wrote.

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