Iowa governor needs to revoke bible proclamation

The governor of Iowa needs to rescind a recent bible-reading proclamation or face legal action from the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

Gov. Terry Branstad recently issued an official decree "encouraging all Iowans" to participate in the 99 County Bible Reading Marathon, to take place in front of all 99 Iowa courthouses starting the end of this month. The proclamation also "encourages individuals and families in Iowa to read through the bible on a daily basis until the Lord comes." 

The proclamation is problematic on a lot of different levels, FFRF points out.

"By issuing this intensely religious proclamation and encouraging bible-reading, you send a message that Iowa prefers religion over nonreligion, and the Christian religion over any other religion," FFRF Staff Attorney Andrew Seidel writes to Gov. Terry Branstad. "The separation between state and church is among the most fundamental principles of our system of government. Our founders valued this principle, and your proclamation betrays their sacrifice."

The decree is filled with troubling explicitly theological declarations, such as that the "bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God, showing the way to salvation, truth and life" and that it is "God's revealed will for mankind." FFRF asserts that such statements violate the government's most sacred obligation—to let citizens worship without fear or coercion. It is therefore an abuse of the governor's office and power.

The proclamation also contains a number of errors. It attributes to Andrew Jackson a quote that quite certainly does not exist. It makes the founding fathers seem like devout Christians, counter to the historical record. And it declares the bible a panacea for our social ills, which is contrary to all real-world evidence.

FFRF is calling for the governor to rescind the unconstitutional proclamation. If Branstad does not, the organization plans to file a legal challenge.

"It's beyond the civil powers of a governor to use his office to promote belief in a god, to single out one religion's so-called holy book, to participate in a marathon bible reading—much less to encourage citizens to read it daily 'until the Lord comes,'" says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. "Imagine the outcry if the governor signed a proclamation to encourage daily reading of the Koran—or Richard Dawkins' 'The God Delusion.' Encouraging reading of the Christian bible is equally inappropriate."

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is dedicated to the separation of state and church, with 23,800 nonreligious members nationwide, including almost 200 in Iowa.

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.

FFRF has received a 4 star rating from Charity Navigator

FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

FFRF privacy statement