Newly inaugurated Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has not even been in office one week — and yet has already violated the Constitution he took an oath to uphold.
Multiple concerned Oklahomans alerted the Freedom From Religion Foundation that the day after his inauguration, Stitt and his wife attended an Inaugural prayer service at the First Baptist Church of Moore. During the service, he reportedly declared his mission as a governor to be a religious mission, to “join in with what God is doing in Oklahoma.”
“He is about to unleash Oklahoma. … We’re going to engage the nonprofits and the churches to really heal and solve some of these social issues, county by county, that the government can’t do, no law can do, but our Heavenly Father can do,” Stitt said at the event.
Then, Oklahoma First Lady Sarah Stitt followed with similarly troublesome statements, telling Christians to use their position in elected office to convert people to Christianity: “We are God’s kingdom here on Earth. It is our call to go out into our state and save people and bring people to Him.”
FFRF Director of Strategic Response Andrew Seidel has sent a letter to the governor, outlining several constitutional concerns with the event and reminding him of his obligation as an elected official to remain neutral on matters of religion.
“Please understand that you were not elected to be a preacher, but a governor,” Seidel writes. “Your wife also seriously misunderstands both the office of governor — a secular office which ‘has no particle of spiritual jurisdiction,’ to borrow from Alexander Hamilton — and the constitutional limits of that office.”
The Supreme Court has said time and again that the First Amendment “mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.” Specifically, FFRF reminds, this clear preference for religion may not be propagated in an official government event, with the governor acting in his official capacity.
Of course you are free to attend church, preach at your church, and even teach Sunday school,” Seidel notes. “But you cannot preach in church as Governor Stitt, you must do so as Mr. Stitt, private citizen. In your personal capacity you can freely exercise your religion as you see fit. In your official capacity as an officer of the government, you are bound by the Establishment Clause and cannot abuse that office to promote your personal religious choices.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members across the country and in every state, including Oklahoma. FFRF’s purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between church and state, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.