Gov. Reynolds engaged in unconstitutional fundraising, FFRF charges

Gade SkidmoreThe Iowa governor has transgressed the Constitution by recently raising funds for a Christian school, charges the Freedom From Religion Foundation.

On Saturday, April 10, Gov. Kim Reynolds helped a faith-based school raise money by allowing it to auction off a dinner with her at the governor’s mansion, as an Iowa resident initially informed the national state/church watchdog. The winning bid was an astounding $30,100, reports an Iowa-based community news portal. Des Moines Christian School’s self-described mission is to nurture graduates who are “servant-hearted leaders” and “passionate apprentices of Christ,” and donors to the gala were told their contributions represent an investment in the school’s effort to “impact the world for Christ!”

The evangelical mission of Des Moines Christian School makes it a poor choice for endorsement by a government official, FFRF contends. Reynolds has misused her public position and publicly funded residence in order to raise funds for a Christian school that will use the funds to “impact the world for Christ!”

“Our Constitution’s Establishment Clause — which protects Americans’ religious freedom by ensuring the continued separation of religion and government — dictates that the government cannot in any way endorse religion,” FFRF Staff Attorney Chris Line writes to the governor. “As the Supreme Court has put it, ‘the First Amendment mandates governmental neutrality between religion and religion, and between religion and nonreligion.’”

As importantly, nonreligious Americans make up the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population by religious identification — 35 percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than one in four Americans who now identify as religiously unaffiliated. When Reynolds uses her public office to raise funds to advance Christianity, it “sends the ancillary message to . . . nonadherents ‘that they are outsiders, not full members of the political community, and an accompanying message to adherents that they are insiders, favored members of the political community,’” to quote the highest court in the land.

FFRF is requesting assurances from the governor’s office that Reynolds will not use her position as governor, or any government resources, to financially support or endorse organizations with religious missions ever again.

“The governor seems to have a very poor understanding of constitutional principles,” says FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “And she seems to have given up even the pretense of representing all Iowans.” Gaylor adds that Reynolds may personally donate toward religious causes but may not use her executive office to further sectarian religious fundraising.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 35,000 members across the country, including hundreds of members in Iowa. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism. Image via CC BY-SA 3.0 By Gage Skidmore.

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.

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