Frankly, in our opinion it’s much ado about nothing.
“It” is the complaint from the nonprofit Freedom from Religion Foundation, of Madison, Wis., about a Sept. 22 appearance Gov. Kevin Stitt plans to make at Guts Church in Tulsa.
Richard Jayne, a staff attorney with Freedom from Religion Foundation, said the Republican governor’s planned appearance raises serious constitutional concerns. He said it marks the second time in nine months the national nonprofit has warned Stitt against using his secular job to promote religion. The group, which has more than 30,000 nonreligious members, focuses on upholding the constitutional separation between church and state.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president of the group, also weighed in: “We are telling Gov. Stitt, as we tell all pious politicians: ‘Get off your knees and get to work. It’s not OK in Oklahoma or any other state for public officials to misuse their office to promote religion.”
So far, we haven’t seen any evidence from anyone, including Freedom from Religion Foundation, that Stitt is using his office to promote religion.
He’s going to Tulsa, his hometown, to speak at a church. He’s not hosting an event on state-owned property, he’s not bringing all members of his administration to the event. He’s going as Kevin Stitt, Oklahoman, who also happens to be governor.
We agree with Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter. He said Tuesday there are no constitutional issues with a governor addressing a church group and talking about his religious beliefs.
“Just because you’re elected to public office doesn’t mean that you forfeit your rights to practice your religious beliefs under the First Amendment,” he said. “I think that’s nonsense.”
Stitt — as do all public officials in the state and across the country — has a private life. Part of Stitt’s private life includes his religious beliefs and his church attendance.
There’s nothing to this issue.