Government endorses illegal use of pulpit

Kentucky pastor asks God to trim budget

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is troubled over an illegal blending of religion and politics by Buck Run Baptist Church Pastor Hershael York prior to Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's Jan. 17 budget address.

FFRF is a national state/church watchdog with 17,000 members nationwide, including many members in Kentucky.

York's overtly Christian prayer began with, "Heavenly Father, I ask you to..." and ended "In the name of God the Father, and of his Son, Jesus, and of the Blessed Holy Spirit we pray, Amen."

This clear constitutional violation, along with dissatisfied Kentucky citizens, prompted FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor to write an advisory letter to Beshear: "Government officials represent more than just Christians; they represent all their constituents including atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Hindus and other minority religious views. Your active participation in Christian prayer in your official capacity unabashedly promotes that religion over other religions and over nonreligion."

The prayer also took advantage of the political nature of the event. Several references were made to York's position on the expanded gaming amendment that was to come before the legislature. York insinuated God's wish was to have government officials vote against such legislation.

York urged officials to listen to God as they contemplate the gaming amendment. "May they never resort to leveraging vice and avarice to pay our bills. Help us to admit that we cannot truly love our neighbor as ourselves and then scheme to get his money by enticing him with vain hope."

During the prayer, York used spiritual blackmail to sway officials: "And may the decisions that they make and the judgments they render be consistent with Your eternal character and truth."

It is unconstitutional for a pastor to be nudging elected officials to vote in a particular manner. York's mixture of prayer and politics is illegal and offensive to the nonreligious and members of other religious groups.

FFRF requests that Gov. Beshear "take immediate action to prevent future constitutional violations." 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wis., a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, is the nation's largest association of freethinkers (atheists, agnostics), and has been working since 1978 to keep religion and government separate.

FFRF is a non-profit, educational organization. All dues and donations are deductible for income-tax purposes.

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