Jun 22, 2011

What’s the best way to solve a city’s piling debt? According to Harrisburg, Pa., Mayor Linda Thompson, it’s organizing a prayer and fasting campaign.

“Things that are above and beyond my control; I need God,” Thompson told WHTM TV, the region’s ABC affiliate. “I depend on Him for guidance. Spiritual guidance. That’s why it’s really no struggle for me to join this fast and prayer.”

Harrisburg is definitely in need of some sort of miracle, that’s for sure. By the end of the year, the city will end with a $3.5 million deficit, and by 2015, the deficit is projected to be $10.4 million. Residents are also facing a 20 percent increase in property taxes and a 40 percent increase in water bills under Thompson’s proposed budget.

In this difficult time, I’m sure the people of Harrisburg want answers and solutions from their elected officials. And Thompson offers up prayer and fasting?

It doesn’t come as a surprise. Since the day Thompson set foot in office, she has been crossing the church-state line, and many members of her staff have thrown in the towel because of it.

In February, Stover Clark, a man who used to write grants for the city, resigned. He said he could no longer tolerate Thompson’s evangelism during office hours. He told a local news station that he felt uncomfortable in the work environment because Thompson was insistent on bringing her religious practices to work, including opening every staff meeting with prayer and telling him she would pray for him because he refused to accept Jesus as his savior.

Clark wasn’t the only one who left the office for this reason. Even until now, Thompson’s employees continue to depart, despite a tough job market.

It’s not only Thompson’s staff that seems fed up with her, though. The people of Harrisburg have had enough, too. Back in February, droves of residents rallied outside the mayor’s office and called for her resignation.

One protester held up the sign, “God told me the mayor is insane.” But Thompson, watching from the window, indicated she had no intention of leaving her position and gave the crowd a thumbs-down sign.

To be honest, if I were Thompson, I wouldn’t want to leave such a cushy job, either. She has it pretty good. Earlier this year, The Patriot-News reported that taxpayers footed a bill of more than $35,000 to renovate her office space.

While some of it may have been necessary – the previous mayor had smoked cigars in the office for 28 years – some of the purchases were certainly questionable.

Namely, the $18,185 she spent on office furniture. My favorite purchase, however, is the $194.85 for a new computer mouse. (It apparently also included a tray, which obviously makes it reasonably priced.)

But budget issues aside, Thompson needs to come into conformity with the Constitution.

While the mayor has every right to pray on her own time, as a government official, it’s her duty to respect the constitutional rights of her staff and her constituents and not impose her beliefs on others. It’s past time for her to take a hint.