Foot-washing ceremony a no-no for state officials

FFRF is objecting to top Indiana state officials taking part in a Christian foot-washing ceremony in their official capacities.

Employees from Gov. Mike Pence’s office, as well as Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann and her staff, sponsored and participated in a “foot-washing” ritual during office hours at the Shepherd Community Center in Indianapolis. Pence made an appearance at the center, too, shortly after the ceremony was completed. The rite was deeply religious.

Sonna Dumas, director of the school associated with Shepherd, “a faith-based ministry,” commented to the Indianapolis Star that “the teachers told students about the biblical origins of the tradition in preparation for the event.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that government offices may not appear to endorse religion, FFRF reminds the governor. The governor’s office may not spend taxpayer money on religious ceremonies, including paying employees to participate. The office’s endorsement of religion — and of Christianity in particular — turns non-Christian and nonreligious Indianans into outsiders in their own community.

As it is inappropriate and unconstitutional for government officials to sponsor and participate in religious rites, FFRF is seeking assurances from the governor that his office will not engage in this again.

Freedom From Religion Foundation