I read the recent BBC story, “Inside the White House Bible Study group,” profiling your ministry with great interest. As you may know, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which works to keep state and church separate, requested records from every executive branch department involved in this bible study because it is a serious state-church issue. Perhaps you heard about it on Fox News.
You made some interesting admissions during the BBC interview, including: “Drollinger believes the Bible teaches the separation of church and state.” If only. You continued, “I believe in institutional separation, but not influential separation.”
I’ll take you at your word for a moment and assume that you want institutional separation. Right now, you’re hosting bible studies in the White House or in offices of other heads of the U.S. executive branch, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives office buildings, and in many state capitol offices. That is not institutional separation; it is a religious infection in the heart of our republic.
Capitol Ministries has an office suite in “The Executive Building,” according to Google. So you and Capitol Ministries conduct your religious teaching, ceremonies and study on government property. It’s hard to imagine less institutional separation.
If you are serious about state-church separation — and I encourage you wholeheartedly in that pursuit — you should move off government property. To honor the constitutional separation, you need to open a church or host a bible study in your office suite and let government officials come to you. If you really believe what you are selling, an if-you-build-it-they-will-come attitude will suffice.
Location is everything in real estate, but it’s only part of the problem here. You are conducting these bible studies on government property, but also on the taxpayer’s dime. These take place during the workday, even though it would be easy enough to schedule them on the weekend or after work hours. Executive branch, Senate and House staff are in the buildings when the studies are taking place. They may be called upon to help in the bible studies. Or perhaps they’re sending out emails or coordinating security, building entry, attendance or coffee and food. They might even feel coerced or pressured by having a religious ministry at their place of work, a government office.
We don’t know. That’s why FFRF has requested records from all the departments involved in the bible study. We requested them last summer and that’s when I went on Fox News to explain the problems.
Read the full story at the Friendly Atheist Blog