FFRF asks Ark. governor to silence his public piety

1HutchinsonThe Freedom From Religion Foundation is requesting that the Arkansas governor stop using official social media accounts to promote his personal religious beliefs.

Every Sunday, Gov. Asa Hutchinson posts on his Facebook account (AsaForArkansas) or tweets on his Twitter account (@AsaHutchinson) an image with a bible verse. Both accounts are official government accounts and, in a letter sent to the governor, FFRF notes that it is not for the government in our secular republic to promote one religious book over others or to promote religion over nonreligion. That is a violation of the Establishment Clause.

“Government officials cannot appear to endorse Christianity,” writes FFRF Constitutional Attorney Andrew Seidel to the governor. “In this instance, by tying your government office title to two social media pages, you have intimately entwined your official position with the messages you send on those platforms, creating the appearance of official endorsement.”

It the letter, Seidel goes on to list the specific religious messages and bible verses that the posts communicate to citizens of Arkansas.

Facebook and Twitter accounts of people who assume government office can become accounts that speak for the government. Hutchinson’s accounts have mostly been used to transmit official statements, and citizens cannot be expected to discern the difference between an official government statement and a private statement.

“In the case of the AsaForArkansas Facebook page and @AsaHutchinson Twitter account, the bible posts appear to be tied to your identity as a government actor and were facilitated by the apparent authority of that office,” writes Seidel.

For instance, FFRF points out, on the profile picture of Hutchinson’s Facebook page is his official portrait: a headshot with the Arkansas state flag in the background. The page also lists the official Governor of Arkansas website under contact info and categorizes itself as representing a “Government Official.” Furthermore, the official Governor of Arkansas website links to those Facebook and Twitter accounts. Hutchinson’s tweets are even embedded on the government websites. Any reasonable observer would consider every post on those accounts to be done with the official authorization of the government.

FFRF recommends a simple solution to Hutchinson: Stop posting and tweeting bible verses or any other religious endorsements and to delete those previously disseminated.

“If the governor cannot refrain from using his Facebook and Twitter to promote his personal religion, then he must create other, personal social media accounts for his personal piety,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “The public promotion of Christianity violates the Constitution and must end.”

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 30,000 members across the country, including in Arkansas. It works to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

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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FFRF is a member of the Secular Coalition for America

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