Church-State Separation Groups Take Issue With Iowa Governor’s Bible Reading Proclamation

Born again Bible pdDES MOINES, Iowa — Three church-state separation groups are expressing objection to a proclamation issued by the governor of Iowa that urges residents to participate in a statewide Bible reading marathon.

In April, Gov. Terry Branstad signed a proclamation at the state capitol urging participation in a 99 county Bible reading marathon scheduled for June 30 through July 3. The Iowa Prayer Caucus, the National Governor’s Prayer Team and the United States Prayer Council organized the event.

“Whereas all Scripture is essential to prepare us to be the people God wants us to be and to accomplish the purpose for which he created us,” the proclamation reads in part, “and whereas, America, being founded upon biblical principles and Judeo-Christian ethics, as taught in the Bible, paid tribute to the Bible for its important influence upon the development of our nation by many of our great national leaders such as President Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson…”

“Now therefore, I, Terry E. Branstad, governor of the state of Iowa do hereby encourage all Iowans to join in this historic Iowa 99 county Bible reading marathon to take place June 30 through July 3, 2016 in front of all 99 courthouses and furthermore, encourage individuals and families in Iowa to read through the Bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes,” it says.

But the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa (ACLU), Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, and the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) are now expressing objection to the proclamation and assert that Branstad’s actions were unconstitutional.

“The governor’s proclamation is frankly outrageous and embarrassing, and inconsistent with our core American and Iowan principles of inclusion and respect of all its people of all faiths, as well as those who are not religious,” asserted Rita Bettis of the ACLU.

“Can you imagine the uproar if the governor used state resources to encourage people to go to a ‘God is Dead’ rally or a vigil to review how divisive religion is? Everyone can see how inappropriate that would be. This is exactly the same type of violation,” Annie Laurie Gaylor of FFRF also told reporters.

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However, others state that Branstad’s proclamation is perfectly legal as it mirrors similar declarations made by the nation’s founding fathers.

“Gov. Branstad’s proclamation echoes Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion at the very Constitutional Convention itself that an appeal to God needed to be made for His intervention and that each day of the Convention must begin in prayer,” wrote Greg Baker of the Family Leader in a recent commentary on the matter.

“Or when President Abraham Lincoln in his Second Inaugural address boldly proclaimed that God was judging America for its sins and in order for the Civil War to end, America need to repent. President Lincoln issued numerous proclamations, calling America to days of fasting, prayer, and repentance,” he outlined.

Nathan Oppman, also with the Family Leader, also pointed to similar historical facts.

“In 1774 Congress informally employed the services of the rector of Christ Church in Philadelphia, Jacob Duché, and on July 9, 1776, he was formally elected as the first Congressional chaplain,” he said. “After Duché defected, Congress elected two chaplains from different denominations: William White and George Duffield.”

“This dual nomination demonstrated Congress’ concern that they not favor particular denominations. This practice was formally adopted in 1789 under a joint resolution after the Constitution was approved,” Oppman explained.

“Throughout the Revolutionary period, Congress issued annual proclamations of fasting and thanksgiving, including encouragement to ‘confess and bewail our manifold sins and transgressions, and by a sincere repentance and amendment of life, appease [God’s] righteous displeasure, and through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, obtain his pardon and forgiveness,'” he also noted.

Oppman said this indicated that “not only was Congress comfortable supporting religion, but they were comfortable supporting the Christian religion in particular” and even directly mentioned Jesus and the Holy Spirit.

“Moreover, in Iowa, governors have long issued religious proclamations. Gov. Kirkwood in 1876 called on Iowans to observe a day of Thanksgiving and specifically referenced Christianity. Gov. Sherman again called for a day of Thanksgiving in 1881,” he explained.

Baker said that the concept of separation of Church and State has been distorted.

“We seem to think it means that pastors cannot speak about government in the church and that the government cannot mention God,” he stated. “The phrase and principle, however, was originally stated and applied to protect Americans and the Church from a national church being founded, much like those in Europe, such as the Church of England. In America, we did not want to require everyone to attend one national church led by the government. Rather, we believed the two should be separate institutions.”

“Not only is Governor Branstad’s proclamation clearly constitutional, but we should thank him for being humble enough to look to a higher power—and not just any higher power, but our Lord Jesus Christ and His word,” Baker said.

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  • The Last Trump

    “However, others state that Branstad’s proclamation is perfectly legal as it mirrors similar declarations made by the nation’s founding fathers”

    Exactly. Case closed. Moving on.

    “Not only is Governor Branstad’s proclamation clearly constitutional, but we should thank him for being humble enough to look to a higher power—and not just any higher power, but our Lord Jesus Christ and His word,” Baker said.

    AMEN and AMEN!!

    • Ambulance Chaser

      So, your definition of “constitutional” is “what the founding fathers would have done?”

      You do know that the Constitution has been amended several times since Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Franklin went to their graves, right?

      • Amos Moses

        So what? Which amendment do think alters what they put in place ….. other than how we elect senators ……………..

        • Ambulance Chaser

          The 14th, which incorporates the protections of the Bill of Rights to the states.

          Yes, I know, you don’t agree with that. But it doesn’t matter whether you like it or not, because the Supreme Court’s rulings are law. Yours are not.

  • Quantz

    Right after Congress passed the “no establishment” Amendment, George Washington immediately urged all Americans to “united in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions.” I guess our Founders weren’t on the same page as the religion-bashers of 2016.

  • Judy Zwyghuizen

    Good for him sometime’s this is what it take’s to keep good Citizen’s from any Violence!

  • james blue

    I do not need nor desire Caesar’s approval of my faith. I do not need or desire Caesar to call me to the bible or to prayer.

  • Grace Kim Kwon

    In today’s white men’s nations, separation of church and state = separation of truth and man + separation of conscience and man + separation of morality and man. The Western culture has no moral standard apart from Christianity. Secularism is all about infanticide and sexual depravity; there is nothing neutral or fair in the secularism of the 21st century. When will the Westerners admit it? Poor Western ancestors. The Founding Fathers meant only that no one denomination would dominate others and the separation was nothing about Americans abandoning of Christianity. No man can live apart from his conscience. USA has been bonded by the same noble Protestant Judeo-Christian values; if the nation loses the common bond( Judeo-Christian ethics) among the people, she cannot stand. Money and greed are not a good binder because men are not animals after all. USA needs Christianity to have life and to be decent. (John ch. 1)

    • Amos Moses

      “The Western culture has no moral standard apart from Christianity.”

      All culture is that way ……….. not just “Western” ………..

      • Grace Kim Kwon

        Yes, true. But most of Non-Western cultures got Christianity as a considerable size only a few hundred years ago or a few decades except for Russia. Non-Westerners don’t attack the ancestors. The Westerners must not, either, especially if the ancestors are morally better. The people of the past did not kill millions of babies for selling body parts or force people to endorse sexual immorality like today’s moderners do. Today’s rich nations’ secular generation is the worst regarding morality among mankind in all of history.

        • Amos Moses

          ” especially if the ancestors are morally better.”

          While i agree with the idea of respect for ones elders ……. that is scriptural ….. scripture says ………. none is good (or better) no not one ………. so the idea that they are morally better is a false one ….. according to scripture …..

          But like i said ….. i like what you write …..

          • Grace Kim Kwon

            Thank you. I really hated it whenever any secular Westerners talk as if they are smarter than the Holy Bible. I felt like saying, “Down with your ancient Greek porns and your sick inclination to depravity.”

  • Josey

    What are they so afraid of? He only suggests reading the Bible, it is not a forced decree, for that would be unconstitutional but what he’s doing isn’t unconstitutional. Read if you choose or not, simple as that. I like this man, God bless him!

    • Amos Moses

      For those who see government as their god …………… it is hard for them to see it as anything but a decree ……….

  • The Skeptical Chymist

    Whether the governor’s proclamation is unconstitutional or not, it should be unwelcome in a country that proclaims religious freedom, free of government endorsement of a particular religion or lack of religion. The governor is responsible to ALL the people in his state, not just those who share his religion.

  • I propose that citizens do as decreed, and by so doing discover how immoral, archaic, and appalling much of the Bible is. Maybe most people in Iowa don’t know it encourages women to marry their rapists, infants to be killed, visitors to rape one’s daughters, slavery, penury, and several other repugnant things. Also, I throw down the gauntlet to any person, anywhere, to point out one single UNIQUE “moral truth” that comes from the Bible that is not, in fact, simply a ritual or more but an honest-to-gosh statement about morality (e.g. disqualified are “do not eat pork”, “make no graven image”, “keep the Sabbath holy”).

    • Amos Moses

      “I propose that citizens do as decreed, and by so doing discover how immoral, archaic, and appalling much of the Bible is.”

      i can see that ……….. but only if you have no understanding of what you are reading …… and it would appear by your statement …….. you do not …. you want to read it with your flesh in mind ……….. and it corrupts your understanding …………..

      • I’m sorry Amos, but what part of my “understanding” should I use such that I can recognize slavery, rape, infanticide, and misogyny as acceptable and good?

        • Amos Moses

          That part right there ………… you do not understand what you are talking about ………. and your reading of it is corrupted ……….. because you are using your mind of the flesh to read it …. and not reading it with a mind to understand Christ ……. you have no interest in understanding Christ ….. and so your understanding is corrupted …

          It is apparent you have not read it …… if Christ wanted it to be a white-washed sanitized version of history ….. then it would be so …. BUT NO …. it has all the warts and scars and sins LAID BARE ….. and you would not be able to say one thing about it if it were different ………..if it were white-washed ……….

          So …………. what you seem wont to point out ………… ADDS CREDIBILITY to the story of CHRISTS FAMILY …. because that is what those things are about …. almost EVERY PERSON in the bible are part of the generations … the family …. leading to Christ …………… His earthly ancestors ….. and YES …. they were a MESS ………………. So What? ….. Whose family is not …..

  • Guzzman

    Greg Baker wrote, “Gov. Branstad’s proclamation echoes Benjamin Franklin’s suggestion at the very Constitutional Convention itself that an appeal to God needed to be made for His intervention…”

    That is bogus history. The Convention made a deliberate decision NOT to begin its proceedings with official public prayers. At one point when the Convention seemed hopelessly deadlocked, Benjamin Franklin offered an eloquent motion noting the omission of prayers and recommending that they be instituted.

    David Barton and other discredited pseudo-historians have assumed or deceitfully insinuated that Franklin’s motion was well received and that the initiation of prayers in the Convention was the moment of breakthrough, resulting in a miraculous, God-blessed Constitution. In fact, a debate broke out over Franklin’s motion and it was never voted upon.

    Franklin wrote that the Convention “except for three or four persons, thought prayers unnecessary.”