Questions are being raised about activity by fundamentalist Christian groups in Kansas in the wake of charges that the organizations are too closely aligned with the state government.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is a conservative Roman Catholic, but he’s closely aligned with several fundamentalist Protestant groups. He was the only governor to attend Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s August 2011 Christians-only prayer rally in Texas.
Brownback frequently pushes “faith-based” programs and has signed bills restricting abortion rights. He has also called for giving residents a legal right to discriminate against gay people – as long as it’s done in the name of religion.
Recently, eyebrows were raised after Brownback gave his blessing to a three-day “transforming revival” workshop that was to be held in August in the main chamber of the Kansas House of Representatives. The event was ultimately moved to another venue thanks to scrutiny from Americans United and the news media.
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 event), 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 the “cumulative power of prayer,” the newspaper said.
DePue dismissed the criticism and said his actions are appropriate.
“It’s a civil society, and everybody in society has a voice whether one of the groups likes it or not,” DePue told the Capital-Journal.
But apparently, the “civil society” DePue favors does not extend to all religious groups. The state recently banned sharia from its courts, even though there was a complete absence of any credible threat from the Islamic legal code.
According to the Capital-Journal, DePue said Muslims should make no assumptions about holding events 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.”
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.”