A “transforming revival” workshop hosted by a fundamentalist Christian group was moved out of the main chamber of the Kansas House of Representatives after Americans United questioned the propriety of holding such an event in the Capitol.
The three-day workshop’s organizer, Dave DePue, works for a group called Capitol Commission, a Raleigh, N.C., non-profit that places clergy in statehouses to advise lawmakers. Although the group is closely aligned with fundamentalist views, DePue claimed that the workshop didn’t have a political agenda and insisted it was merely intended to help church leaders learn how to bolster work in their communities.
“I wouldn’t last a day up here if I got political,” DePue said. “The whole purpose is to help families, churches and communities.”
But Americans United had concerns about the mid-August event and raised questions about it. AU and local news media noted that the workshop organizers described it as a “beginner’s course” for evangelical Christians seeking to lead spiritual revivals in their communities. In addition, DePue told the Associated Press that Gov. Sam Brownback was scheduled to greet the workshop participants.
The Kansas workshop was to feature a program put together by a Lynnwood, Wash.-based outfit called the Sentinel Group. Sentinel calls itself an agency that helps “the Church pray knowledgeably for end-time global evangelism” and says it works toward “genuine revival and societal transformation.”
House Majority Leader Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe) had requested use of the space for the organization. Siegfreid has a history of mixing religion and politics. Earlier this year, he tried unsuccessfully to put aside a designated space in the statehouse for prayer. The Kansas legislature sometimes allows private groups to use the chamber if at least one lawmaker requests it.
Americans United Executive Director Barry W. Lynn expressed shock when informed of the details of the workshop.
“This is almost like turning the seat of government over temporarily to a religious group,” he told the Associated Press. “It’s startling to me to even hear about it.”
After the story ran, DePue announced that he was moving the workshop to another location. He insisted that AU’s protest had nothing to do with the move and said he needed a venue that offered more space.
DePue said he expected a crowd of more than 100 and arranged for the event to take place at the Topeka Performing Arts Center.