Think “It Can’t Happen Here”? It Does.

According to recent media reports, a former Kansas state employee has filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit, alleging that the employee’s dismissal was founded on her refusal to attend bible and prayer services in Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office.

The defendants have admitted that regular evangelical church services were held in Secretary of State Kobach’s office–led by a “voluntary minister” with something called the “Capitol Commission,” a ministry focused solely on evangelizing Kansas’ government leaders.

I guess they missed that whole “no religious test for public office” part of the U.S. Constitution.

Coming on the heels of Kentucky’s Kim Davis (“I won’t do my job unless I can impose my religious views on others”) controversy, the news from Kansas has prompted a number of Hoosiers to shake their heads and make sympathetic noises–tsk-tsking not just about Kentucky and Kansas but also about presumed behaviors in other “backward” Bible Belt states.

As if it weren’t happening right here in Indiana.

I have former students working in the Pence Administration, and their stories are consistent and every bit as disturbing as those coming out of Kansas. These students report (nervously, after extracting sworn promises not to identify them or their agencies) receiving persistent email “invitations” to attend prayer meetings in the Governor’s office, being required to hire otherwise unqualified personnel who “go to the right church,” being criticized for the absence of bibles on their desks…and dealing with superiors who have no experience with or interest in governance and even less tolerance for public servants unwilling to approach their positions as “ministries.”

Several of those former students have left government, and they aren’t alone. (Although our crack media has failed to note or report on the matter, I’m told the turnover of agency executives during the Pence Administration has far exceeded the usual rate.)

If we still had reporters, an investigation of this Administration’s preoccupation with religion and its imposition of constitutionally forbidden religious tests would make interesting reading.


  1. Ah, the rise of Fundamentalism! If Scopes had just not taught that evil idea about evolution, none of this would be happening. Right???

    (Surely, somebody will have standing for a lawsuit about this, won’t they?)

  2. This is information about Pence that needs to be made public; it is a situation that needs investigating before they can hide their Bibles and destroy the invitations to prayer meetings. The polling place in my neighborhood growing up was in a church; the polling place where I voted when I first moved back from Florida and the polling place in my current neighborhood is in a church. Prior to moving to Florida; it was in a neighborhood school. Not sure what any of that says; hadn’t given it thought before…maybe I should, maybe we all should.

    Mayor Hudnut was a former minister but religion was never an issue during his election campaigns or his 16 year administration of this city.

  3. Did you listen to Reverend Governor Mike Huckabee, R-Arkansas at the Republican debates?
    Could it be an anal problem with people named “Mike”?

  4. I tend to pause on stories like this and make sure that what’s being prosecuted is not religion but theocracy. We as liberal Democrats need to make sure that our words and deeds can’t be legitimately understood to be anti religion IMO.

    Religion is a real comfort for many people and the church a moral guide for their behavior at a level quite beyond the law, well into culture. We all benefit. And I’ll bet religion that has a positive impact on society is by far in the majority of church goers. Good for them and us.

    However there is a downside too. Because Faith is beyond proof and the Faithful are dealing with powerful forces that are opinions they can, at least some of them, be more easily swayed by predators taking advantage of Faith.

    Like Kim Davis as an example. We will probably never know the degree to which she’s a victim vs a perpetrator but in either case she is not American in support of our Constitution and government.

    Everybody’s Faith is welcome on these shores with the proviso that it operates outside of government. Voluntary prayer and prayer services are welcome on non government time. The only difference between that and the practice of legitimate businesses is that in government it’s required by our by-laws of government, in business by policy typically.

    Understanding that is civic literacy as Sheila posted yesterday. Legitimate churches understand and accept, even support that, but not all churches are legitimate.

  5. If the local media is too timid to look into this stuff, how about sending what you know to a national media group? Sounds like a good 60 Minutes story. Surely SOME media group would find this interesting. Maybe Freedom from Religion foundation could take the lead. This nonsense needs to STOP. When I see the photo of the RFRA Signing, it makes my hair stand on end. YIKES.

  6. Faith has absolutely no place in any government office because after the elections are over and the officeholders seated the organization operates as a top-down hierarchy (as a business does). Unless you are the governor you, as a state employee, exist essentially as a subject in a dictatorship, and if the power structure above you imposes religious standards, you must comply or lose your job. This same sort of thing, by the way, is cited as one of the reasons that the post-invasion governance of Iraq failed so miserably — the focus by the Bush administration was on religious conformity, not competence.

    I would not agree with Pete that we can easily dismiss the damage even casual religion can do to any organization. At its very base religion is the choice to accept the irrational over the rational, and if we elect leaders who are so inclined, then the outcomes will be perverse.

  7. My bad! I had forgotten that innocent until proven guilty does not apply to those too “stupid” to renounce religion. All we have so far is an ex-employee in Kansas who has filed suit and a few (several?) former students thus far reluctant to come forward to defend their principles.

  8. This insistence on bible adherence was happening when he was in Congress, why would it be any different when he became governor? The state GOP knew how he operated going in and accepted these practices as fine.

  9. Has the evangelization at the Air Force Academy stopped? Also, this Friday is International Blasphemy Rights Day, Sept. 30. Won’t read or see or hear about it in the MSM, or any media. But now Sheila’s readers have.

  10. Your interpretation of Religion seem to exclude you from certain Constitutional duties spelled out in your oath of office. Separation of Church and State is considered optional for religious believers and must be imposed on subordinates who would do better in life and jobs if only they found your God.

  11. Heathenish;

    How can you disagree with things you don’t understand. The verge between theocracy and religion is as vast as your mind can perceive.

    We have to grasp the fact that our religions have been utilized as a tool of submission and control. Not just Xianity, but all religions. (The bible then the gun) Yet, this is not true religion. When it turns to control, it becomes Theocracy.

    This is what Pete is talking about.

  12. This is getting so old.

    It’s so suspicious to see a non-Christian bemoaning Christians acting like Christians in government, while ignoring that far more important areas of government are heavily controlled by certain religions.

    Look at Jewish representation in the Federal Reserve.

    The last three Fed chairs have been Jewish.

    The Vice Chairman of the Fed, Stanley Fischer, ran the Bank of Israel for nine years.

    Of the five(5) Federal Reserve Board governors, three(3) are Jewish. This is a numerical representation of 60%. Of the twelve(12) Federal Reserve District Bank presidents, five(5) are Jewish. This is a numerical representation of 42%. People of the Jewish faith are approximately 2% of the U.S. population.* Therefore Jewish people are over-represented among the Federal Reserve Board governors by a factor of 30 times(3,000 percent), and over-represented among the Federal Reserve District Banks presidents by a factor of 21 times(2,100 percent).

    But it’s only the Christians who bring their religion into government.


  13. Picture the hooded bigot, standing in the path of freedom, Bible in one hand, gun in the other, proclaiming his right to protect his god given freedoms! That is his religion.

    Picture the nuns herding Jewish children down the long paths to the ovens. That was their religion.

    Imagine the Spanish, ripping bodies apart for some supposed heresies.

    Imagine the cronies around the fires of Salem as they burned their neighbors.

    Remember the grinning children crowded around the limp bodies swinging from the limbs in Marion Indiana.

    Theses people were all following religion.

    Religion is your daily life. What you do is what you believe.

  14. Gopper – you just can’t seem to stop exposing your intellectual inferiority. You still choose to ignore that church and state are to be separate. Your stats are completely useless unless you can find proof that the Federal Reserve members you mentioned have actually been proven to be shoving their religion down the throats of their employees.

  15. Someday those former students of yours will take stock of their lives and careers and find that the things that they did not do are the things they regret. Standing up to corrupted power is difficult for sure, but to remain silent brings more difficulties to one’s life than can be imagined. The price for being a good person in this society is high and often paid for in money. The price for going along with what is wrong is high too. It is paid for with your soul.

  16. Irvin, “my bad” means I was unaware or forgot that as long as it was religion that is the subject of investigation, then accusations are sufficient for conviction.

  17. Ken, I assume that you read Sheila’s blog.

    “employee has filed a federal wrongful termination lawsuit”

    “The defendants have admitted that regular evangelical church services were held in Secretary of State Kobach’s office”

    My experience is that if someone was using corporate facilities for religious services that by most corporate policy would be grounds for dismissal.

    The suit alleges much worse. Someone was dismissed for refusing to participate.

    Now it’s true that a judge/jury will have to determine if the preponderance of evidence supports the termination allegation and what the financial damages were.

    However the people of Kansas own the means of production of the Sec State office and it was admitted that those facilities were being used unconstitutionally.

    What more do you want?

  18. Look no further than the Pullman strikes to see what is happening. From the ‘social engineering’ of Pullman and his planned communities to the Calvinistic (mis) beliefs of Betsy DeVos in her determination to put education firmly on the Path of Cotton Mather, it is also a great way to keep the current government destabilized. We fight the religious wars while the oligarchs consolidate their financial overlordship–all with the willing support of GOOper Pyle.

  19. Few subjects can veil nuance as quickly as religion. It doesn’t matter if you are or are not a person of faith AND hold a position of public employment as long as you are qualified and competently performing the duties of the job. What DOES matter is if persons in public positions of authority use their public position to impose their belief or non-belief on others.

    For many years there have been voluntary prayer breakfasts, devotions, and Bible study in the State House before work or during lunch hours for those who wish to attend on their own time and according to their own belief. No problem. BUT if your boss is putting pressure on employees to attend any of these, or to only employ persons from certain churches or religions, or to have visible signs of faith on one’s desk, or to buy fund-raising tickets or items for a religious institution or event, then the boss is unconstitutionally coercive.

    The Indiana State House has a meditation room where anyone can go to pray or just sit in silence to get away from the noise and distractions of the day. It is used by state employees and public officials of all faiths including Muslims who bring their prayer rugs to pray in the room which does not display religious symbols of any faith. If a non-religious book club or other group wants to use the room, they can do so as well.

    In my lifetime, virtually all of our Governors have been people of faith, but if they use their position in subtle or not-so-subtle ways to impose their religion on others, they are out of line and should know better.

  20. To the person who was calling attention to Jews in holding top positions in finance. As far as I know, they are not requiring those under them to attend Temple, or have prayer meetings in the office. Don’t know what your problem is with Jews, but their faith does not proselytize like evangelical Christians do.

  21. Thank you, Theresa, it is a difficult and scary position to know things that should be made public but…it can be done. Takes time and stealth and putting trust in those you talk to. Time is running out before Pence’s campaign for reelection begins; these things must be made known. Try John Gregg; he should have campaign workers who can help, sometimes help comes from surprising places. They will regret doing nothing but will never regret doing right…no matter the outcome.

  22. It’s not that I don’t believe it is not happening here, but it is hard to believe this has not become public, particularly if the behaviors are as blatant as described. Either there is an incredibly effective plan for secrecy or the media is simply not interested in this information. Clearly there needs to be an investigation regarding this matter.

  23. Earl “religion” is many things. It’s all that you mentioned and much more. For many it’s necessary reassurance that life will be tolerable. For many it’s the arbiter of moral standards. For many it’s love personified. For others it’s a culture based on what has worked in the past.

    For some it’s a group ripe for selling to. Or a potential army of extremists.

    It seems to me that using all encompassing words like “religion” or “religious” for something that can be beneficial or benign or toxic for civilization can be very misleading.

    It’s better to use more specific descriptions of the sub-group that you have in mind.

  24. Gopper, being Jew or Christian or Muslim is not a problem. Theocracy is. That’s why the founders made it unconstitutional.

  25. I learned first hand and the hard way that Thomas Wolfe was correct when he wrote “You Can’t Go Home Again.”

    In the early 2000’s, I found myself, through a set of not so unusual circumstances, living in my small hometown in the rural South. Looking to make myself useful, I applied for a job opening at the local high school for a hard-to-fill position in a very specific category of Special Education for which I was fully licensed, certified, and experienced. Kentucky school law prohibits the hiring of an uncertified person for any open position if a fully certified teacher is available and has completed the application process. As a result, I was hired without my knowing the School Board actually had its eye on a local man, an evangelical part-time store-front preacher, who had been promised he’d receive an emergency teaching license from the State if the job had not been filled by the first day of school. And, I wondered all year why my hometown folks seemed unhappy to have me onboard.

    Preacher man was hired the following year for another vacant Special Education position under an emergency license, and he subsequently was asked to provide a Professional Development course for others in our department where he spoke about and displayed the gym bags and t-shirts his students were decorating in his classroom, a high school classroom of students who were scheduled to follow the course of study to receive a KY high school diploma. He described his work with the students as his ministry. I spoke up and said my work with my students is my profession.

    Two weeks later, all hell broke loose and I was summoned to the Central Office for unprofessional behavior, for dismissing the man’s faith. I survived with no written blemish on my record.

  26. In a just world a bible displayed on a workplace desktop would be seen as just as hostile as a pin-up girl calendar, and be just as unwelcome.

  27. “What DOES matter is if persons in public positions of authority use their public position to impose their belief or non-belief on others.”

    That’s important, sure, but if you’ve ever worked for a Jewish company or a company in which Jews have a lot of power, you’ll know they don’t proselytize. They have no desire to convert a Goy.

    “Converts are hard for Israel like thorns.” (Yevamot 47b)

    In some Jewish and Christian outfits, Religion isn’t about conversion; it’s used in the office to determine “who is, and who isn’t.” Christians watch who isn’t praying before they eat their BigMac, and Jews look to see who’s ordering ham on rye or not taking Yom Kippur off.

  28. “He described his work with the students as his ministry. I spoke up and said my work with my students is my profession.”

    Yeah, you’re the problem. What you said was rude, insulting, inaccurate, confrontation, unprofessional, and generally the type of thing that someone who doesn’t belong or “get it” would say. You were looking to pick a fight, and you should have been called on it, if for no other reason than grandstanding about a false dichotomy.

    His term “ministry” includes his profession, his service to God and man, his improvement of himself, and every other thing he does that may influence or bear on others. It’s a high calling. You didn’t care about any of that or understanding his terms or the terms in currency in that community. You were looking to take a cheap shot, and you should have been chastised and reprimanded.

    You’re Kyle’s Mom.

  29. Every workplace has a climate and a culture analogous to an iceberg. The climate, like the visible part of an iceberg, is noticed immediately by visitors and the new hires as being an attractive, well-maintained, well-designed facility; whereas, the culture is invisible, is hidden below the surface and is only discovered once a person bumps against it quite by accident. The invisible, the hidden culture can be shocking when discovered.

  30. The link mentioned has nothing to do with Kansas. The article is: Texas lawyer exposes religious hiring test for peace officers: County only wanted Baptist constables. In any case you wonder how many places in the USA have this religious test either overtly or covertly???

    Interesting story concerning football and Russel Wilson QB of the Seahawks –
    The Seahawks were 16-0 down at the half back in January but stormed back to win 28-22 in overtime. At a church in San Diego in July, Wilson claimed that God spoke to him just moments after he tossed the interception in that game, and explained why the interception took place.

    “The play happens, and they pick the ball off. And I take three steps,” Wilson said. “And on the third step God says to me, ‘I’m using you … I want to see how you respond. But most importantly, I want them to see how you respond.’”
    Some how all this God talks to me is actually given credence in the press. We have Ben Carson Republicon Candidate telling the world “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”
    Carson was asked: “So do you believe that Islam is consistent with the constitution?”
    “No,” he said, “I don’t, I do not.” Pander- Pander-Pander.

    Perhaps the NSA can intercept some of these messages from “God” and determine if in fact they are from God, or if the receiver is garbling the message. If the NSA fails, we need some company to start manufacturing tin foil hats in mass to prevent all these errant messages from reaching earth.

  31. “Gopper” can’t be for real. I’ve heard of stupid conservatives but he’s just too dumb to be true. Come on, which one of you is making him up? We talk about religious proselytizing and he counters with “some people are still Jewish?” A five-year-old could do better.

  32. DSB said: “We talk about religious proselytizing and he counters with “some people are still Jewish?” ”


  33. @DSB, you’re not alone in wondering if Gopper truly exists. As he wrote, “…some people are still Jewish” and I’m supposedly Kyle’s mom. Go figure.

  34. BSH said: “As he wrote, “…some people are still Jewish” ”


    Interesting. Making up quotes is quite desperate, but interesting.

  35. @DSB, could be a high school kid based upon my learning from a young adult house guest that “Kyle’s Mom” is a rather coarse, tasteless song from the cartoon show, “South Park”.

  36. “Kyle’s Mom” isn’t a song, but a permanent character.

    The well known song has a longer title.

    Both refer to the common annoyance of her character: an urban East Coast female who moves to Real America and annoys absolutely everybody.

  37. Religious dogma is totally out of place in a state context. Of course it should never be an expectations in one’s job of any sort. As a retired minister and teacher, it has been my experiences that lay led devotionals or meditations are presented by people who know so very little about any thing they broach as a subject. Somehow we allow people to perpetuate a kind of religion that is dull, insipid, and silly. The “evangelical” element is truly horrible about religion that has no intellect or reason.

  38. Pete! I saw no indication where Kansans admitted to church services during work hours which I agree would be inappropriate. If use of government facilities for religious services is, as you suggest, unconstitutional, that is very sad. And a ridiculous misinterpretation of the Constitution. The case is not about the existence of services, it alleges attendance is mandatory, which is inappropriate. Thomas Jefferson’s separation of church and state was reassurance that the government would stay out of religion’s business, not that religion would stay out of government. The founding fathers were believers in God as evidenced by the inclusion in founding documents and prevalence in government buildings as well as beginning of Congress and the Supreme Court with prayer.

  39. @Ken Glass – you’ll rapidly deplete your cache of Constitutionally-originated rights, logic and common sense dealing in this arena. Thanks for thinking!

  40. In the 1940’s, the Indianapolis Public Schools, I’m sure due to local government understanding of the 1st Amendment “separation of church and state”, offered Bible study classes. But…those of us who participated were escorted 5-6 blocks to the Methodist Church to attend during school hours. I don’t remember missing any class time, possibly we gave up recess?

    Working during Mayor Bill Hudnut’s 16 years of administration; there was never a question or requirement regarding religion in any way on any issue. And he was a former Presbyterian minister who has the love and respect 23 years after leaving the Mayor’s Office that he had during his tenure. He did not abuse his position of power to force personal beliefs on this city and county yet he moved always forward during those 16 years. If nothing else…remember he is the Mayor who brought the Colts to Indianapolis, that should endear him to football fans if nothing else does:) Probably some personal motivation there but also moving us forward; I doubt he could foresee that it could/would lead regarding depletion of tax dollars needed elsewhere.

  41. Tom Paine, probably, along with Hamilton, the greatest mind during the early years, having penned one of the most outstanding pieces of English literature, simply stated, ‘ My religion is what I do.” Who among us is wiser?

Comments are closed.