“Holy Spirit” may not guide policy, FFRF tells Tenn. mayor


Personal religious beliefs cannot be the basis for decisions regarding public health policy, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has warned a Tennessee official.

According to local news reports, Lincoln County Mayor Bill Newman recently recognized that requiring county residents to wear masks in public places would save lives, but declined to issue such a mandate, in part because he had not received instruction from the “Holy Spirit” to do so. Newman reportedly “take[s] big decisions to God for guidance.”

FFRF has sent a letter of complaint pointing out the inappropriateness of such considerations in government decision-making and urging the mayor to leave religion out of official deliberations relating to his secular duties.

“You took an oath of office to uphold the U.S. Constitution, a wholly secular document that specifically excludes religion from government,” FFRF Co-Presidents Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker write to Newman. “You betray this oath when you condition decisions of your secular office on your personal religious beliefs or what you perceive to be the will of your deity.”

Elected officials have been given significant trust by the residents they serve, including those residents who do not share their personal religious viewpoints. Thirty-five percent of Americans are non-Christians, and this includes the more than one in four Americans who now identify as religiously unaffiliated. It is unacceptable and un-American for public officials to perform only those parts of their job that they believe have the rubber stamp of their personal deity, as is requiring permission from the “Holy Spirit.”

“Government decisions — especially decisions that will save citizens’ lives or risk condemning them to a breathless, wheezing death — should be based on science, reason and data,” Gaylor and Barker add. “If you are unable to meet these basic standards, you appear unfit to serve as an executive public official in our secular democracy.”

FFRF’s message to pious politicians is: Get off your knees and get to work.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a national nonprofit organization with more than 33,000 members and several chapters across the country, including over 400 members and a chapter in Tennessee. Its purposes are to protect the constitutional principle of separation between state and church, and to educate the public on matters relating to nontheism.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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