RICHMOND, Va. — One of the nation’s most conspicuous professing atheist activist organizations has sent a letter to the speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates to request that he stop using the government email system to invite his colleagues to his weekly Bible study in the Pocahontas Building.
The Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) sent a letter on Tuesday to Speaker Kirk Cox to ask that he stop promoting his “personal faith” to others in his capacity as speaker.
“We understand that your chief of staff, at your apparent direction, emailed every person within the General Assembly’s email system to invite them to the Bible study,” the group wrote. “It is inappropriate for any elected official to promote a Bible study to all employees of the legislature using their official government email. The email invite is particularly problematic and coercive given your unique leadership position.”
It further asserted that the Bible study could make those who work for the government feel like outsiders if they are not Christians.
“[I]t is doubtless that many ‘members, staff, lobbyists, and friends of the General Assembly’ belong to [a] variety of faith or no faiths at all,” FFRF stated. “These minority religions and nonreligious persons should not feel pressured to attend a religious event in their place of business to remain insiders.”
The Church-State separation group claimed that lawmakers are free to practice their religion in their own time, but cannot do so while acting in the capacity of a government official.
“Given your role as an employer and a government official, it is only appropriate that you stop using legislative email and calendar systems to recruit Bible study participants,” it wrote. “Any religious groups should be clearly separate from official government business.”
“The speaker should stop attempting to impose his religion on the entire House. Cox is free to say his prayers—in his own house,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor also said in a statement.
It is not yet known if Cox intends to respond.
As previously reported, while some state that God and government must remain separated, others note that the nation was founded by those who believed that America could not expect to be blessed if it failed to acknowledge and honor Almighty God.
Dr. Benjamin Rush was a signer of the Declaration of Independence and vice-president of the Bible Society of Philadelphia. In 1806, he said, “The only means of establishing and perpetuating our republican forms of government is the universal education of our youth in the principles of Christianity by means of the Bible.”
He also wrote in a letter to John Adams in 1807, “By renouncing the Bible, philosophers swing from their moorings upon all moral subjects. Our Saviour in speaking of it calls it ‘Truth,’ in the abstract. It is the only correct map of the human heart that ever has been published. It contains a faithful representation of all its follies, vices & crimes. All systems of religion, morals, and government not founded upon it, must perish, and how consoling the thought!—It will not only survive the wreck of those systems, but the world itself. ‘The gates of Hell shall not prevail against it.’” (Read here from the National Archives.)
Joseph Coerten Hornblower, a member of the Continental Congress and chief justice of the New Jersey Supreme Court, was co-founder of the American Bible Society—an organization that provided Bibles to both the Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Jay, who later became president of Hornblower’s American Bible Society, also once said in 1816 in a letter to John Murray, “Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”