Americans United has already raised some concerns about Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s seeming disregard for church-state separation. He is a steady ally of the Religious Right, having been the only governor to attend Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s Christians-only prayer rally in Texas last summer. He also frequently pushes “faith-based” programs and has signed bills restricting abortion rights. If he gets his way, it will even be legal in Kansas to discriminate against LGBT persons – as long as you do it in the name of religion.
Brownback gave his blessing recently to a three-day “transforming revival” workshop that was to be held in August in the main chamber of the Kansas House of Representatives. It was ultimately moved to another venue thanks to scrutiny from Americans United and the news media.
Now a recent report by the Topeka Capital-Journal has shed some additional light on just how integrated conservative Christianity is into day-to-day governmental operations in Kansas. The newspaper found that all members of the legislature and employees working for the governor in the statehouse are invited to a weekly prayer breakfast and a noon Bible study, which is held in one of Brownback’s offices.
Dave DePue of Capitol Commission, a group that seeks to place pastors in every statehouse to give “advice” to lawmakers (and which was heavily involved in the “transforming revival” workshop stunt), told the Capital-Journal that Brownback's staff asked for a group prayer for the journalists who report about Brownback.
The Capital-Journal reported that a coalition of churches formed a committee last year that meets for prayer and music at the statehouse one Saturday per month. A push is also under way to construct a chapel in the statehouse, and a group of lawmakers and volunteers has organized into teams “invoking cumulative power of prayer,” the newspaper said.
Is DePue even a little concerned about the message of religious favoritism being sent to the public? Not in the least.
“It’s a civil society, and everybody in society has a voice whether one of the groups likes it or not,” DePue said, according to the Capital-Journal.
Keep in mind this is all going on in a state that recently banned shariah law from its courts even though there was a complete absence of any credible threat from the Islamic legal code. It’s no surprise, then, that Muslims wouldn’t be given a red-carpet welcome at the Kansas statehouse.
According to the Capital-Journal, DePue said Muslims should make no assumptions about being hosted in the statehouse.
“They can apply,” he told the newspaper. “The main concern would be security. Probably that would be a valid reason. With security, if they felt it was an insecure situation, they would be told no.”
When you add all of this up, it sends a very clear message: non-Christians keep out.
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn told the Capital-Journal that overtly Christian messages in a governmental setting make second-class citizens of those who don’t follow the majority faith.
“It creates tremendous problems,” Lynn said, “for people of religious minority groups or nonbelievers.”
It certainly does create problems, and at this rate, it’s only a matter of time before the Kansas statehouse is indistinguishable from a church.