Minn. assemblywoman disgracefully misuses office

1AbigailWhelanThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is condemning a Minnesota state representative's outrageous misuse of her official position in preaching from the House floor.

During a May 23 debate over whether or not to pass an amendment to an omnibus tax bill, state Rep. Abigail Whelan chose to deliver an impromptu sermon:

"I have an eternal perspective and I want to share that with you and with the people listening at home ... There is actual joy to be found in Jesus Christ. Jesus loves you all. If you would like to get to know him, [if] you're listening at home, [or] here in this room, please email me, call me. Would love to talk to you about Jesus. He is the hope of this state and of this country."

FFRF asserts that in these comments, Whelan shamelessly abused the power of her office.

"These proselytizing remarks were completely inappropriate and an egregious violation of the spirit of the constitutional principle of separation between state and church," FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to Whelan. "The Supreme Court has held that public officials may not seek to advance or promote religion." 

While Whelan is free to practice and promote her personal religious beliefs on her own time, it is inappropriate to do so through the special platform she has been afforded, FFRF emphasizes. For Whelan to use state resources to promote her personal religious beliefs on the House floor and suggest that people should convert is completely inappropriate.

Besides, Whelan is not truly representing her constituents when she makes such a blatantly sectarian appeal. More than 23 percent of Americans identify as nonreligious. That 8-point increase since 2007 and 15-point jump since 1990 makes the "Nones" the fastest growing identification in America. Nearly 30 percent of Americans are non-Christians, either practicing a minority religion or no religion at all.

Whelan took an oath to uphold our country's godless and entirely secular Constitution, FFRF reminds her. Her statement to turn everything over to a deity seems to be an admission of professional failure. FFRF's advice to pious politicians everywhere is to "get off your knees and get to work."

FFRF requests that Whelan commit in writing to uphold her constitutional duty not to promote her personal religion while acting in her official capacity.

"While Rep. Whelan is free to say as many foolish things as she likes from the Assembly floor, she should be prepared to hear criticism," says Barker.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nationwide nonprofit organization that works to protect the constitutional principle of separation of church and state. It represents more than 29,000 nonreligious members nationally and has chapters all over the country, including almost 600 members and two chapters in Minnesota.

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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