The Freedom From Religion Foundation is urging South Dakota to rescind permission to print the official state seal on bibles.
Many South Dakota state legislators recently received bibles emblazoned with the seal of the state of South Dakota on the cover. These bibles were apparently produced by Capitol Commission, a North Carolina-based Christian ministry that “is committed to making disciples of Jesus Christ in the capitol communities of the world.” According to Jarvis Wipf, Capitol Commission’s “state minister” for South Dakota, the ministry received permission to use the seal from former South Dakota Secretary of State Shantel Krebs.
It is well-settled law that government offices may not endorse religion, FFRF reminds South Dakota Secretary of State Steve Barnett.
“Giving permission for the state seal to be printed on bible covers sends a clear message that the state of South Dakota endorses the messages in the bible,” writes FFRF Legal Fellow Colin McNamara. “Endorsement can scarcely be more clearly shown than through an official state seal, which serves no purpose other than conveying state authority and endorsement. Guarding against this appearance of endorsement is precisely the purpose of regulating the seal’s use.”
FFRF is requesting that the state revoke permission to use its official seal on any religious texts or iconography. Additionally, FFRF is requesting public records relating to the granting of permission for Capitol Commission to use the state seal on the bible.
Just over one in five adults in South Dakota is non-Christian. The secretary of state’s office must decide if it will allow the state’s prestige to be appropriated by a single religion, thereby casting more than 20 percent of the citizens it serves as “outsiders, not full members of the political community,” to quote the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The bible calls for killing nonbelievers, apostates, gays, 'stubborn sons' and women who transgress biblical double standards,” FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor notes. “The South Dakota government has no place in endorsing these messages, let alone literally stamping their seal of approval on them.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 31,000 members across the country, including in South Dakota. 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.