Pray to play politics in Kentucky

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a second letter of complain Feb. 29 contesting Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear's use of public resources to promote the March 6 Governor's Prayer Breakfast at the Frankfort Convention Center.

FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor's letter follows up her earlier one Feb. 23.

FFRF is a nonprofit educational organization advocating for state-church separation and has more than 17,000 members across the country, including members in Kentucky.

Gaylor's first letter noted numerous constitutional violations: "This event is clearly an official government event. It is consistently referred to as the 'Governor’s Prayer Breakfast.' It is touted on the governor’s official website, the state seal appears on the Web page and the reservation form, and your invitation is as 'the governor.' Nowhere is there a suggestion that the event is private; it is explicitly official. This is an unconstitutional endorsement of religion by the government, and it must cease."

The follow-up letter reiterates the original concerns and brings another violation to light, an email (see Feb. 29 complaint letter) that Beshear, a Democrat and a member of the Disciples of Christ, sent Feb. 15 from his state email address to urge all state employees to attend the breakfast.

According to official state policy on executive branch Internet and email use, “Internet and E-mail resources, services and accounts are the property of the Commonwealth of Kentucky. These resources are to be used for state business purposes in serving the interests of state government.”

The policy also prohibits "soliciting money for religious or political causes, advocating religious or political opinions and endorsing political candidates.”

Both letters state it's unconstitutional for a governor to officially endorse a religions event. "If you wish to attend religious ceremonies, it is necessary to do so in your personal capacity and to leave the title, prestige and power of your political office at the door. It is equally unconstitutional to use government resources, such as the website, official state email and the state seal to endorse religious rituals and solicit attendance by state employees."

Gaylor urged cancellation of the event and its removal from the state website. "We would also ask you to send an email apology to all state employees who were pressured by their government to take part in a religious ritual and avoid this improper use of government resources in the future.

"Although you claim that the prayer breakfast 'is a long standing tradition in Kentucky dating back to 1965,' we would urge you to uphold the Establishment Clause of our First Amendment, dating back to 1791," Gaylor added.

FFRF is also considering filing an ethics complaint.

FFRF filed an ethics complaint on March 2, view the document here

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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