Americans United for Separation of Church and State today urged the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State to investigate constitutional violations of church-state separation committed by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the State Department in relation to Pompeo’s proselytizing “Being a Christian Leader” speech.
On Oct. 11, 2019, Pompeo spoke in his official government capacity to the American Association of Christian Counselors about how he uses his Christian faith to propel his decisions as secretary of state. This speech, teeming with biblical quotations and endorsements of Christian beliefs, was promoted on the State Department’s official channels, including through a prominent display on the department’s homepage. The department continues to display both text and video of the speech on its official government website.
“Secretary Pompeo cannot use his official position and government resources to proselytize and impose his faith on the rest of us – those are fundamental violations of the separation of religion and government,” said Rachel Laser, president and CEO of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
“In America we are governed by our shared secular values, not by the privileged religious views of government officials. That means government cannot favor one religion over others or religion over nonreligion. Americans United will hold this administration accountable for undermining the constitutional principle of religious freedom for all. We urge that these violations be addressed immediately.”
Americans United’s letter to State Department Inspector General Steve Linick detailed the ways in which the actions of Pompeo and the Department of State violated the Constitution’s promise of religious freedom, including:
- While Secretary Pompeo is free to believe what he chooses about religion and to engage in religious activities in his personal capacity, in this matter he was acting in his official role as Secretary of State to promote his religious beliefs. Government officials cannot present or endorse religious messages in the course of their duties, whether to employees or to members of the public.
- The Department of State’s promotion of Pompeo’s speech and the event at which it was delivered are also violations because government must maintain neutrality and cannot act or communicate in ways that endorse religion.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.