TOPEKA, Kan. (CBS ST. LOUIS) — A secular group says Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback should “repent” for his attendance and promotion of a religious rally on Saturday in Topeka.
In his promotion of ReignDown USA, Brownback declared Saturday — the day of the event — to be a “Day of Restoration,” but the Americans United for Separation of Church and State tore into the governor for allegedly overstepping his constitutional rights, Fox News reports.
“The people of Kansas do not need politicians telling us when, how or whether to pray,” Vickie Sandell Stangl, president of the Great Plains Chapter of Americans United, said in a statement to Fox News. “If anybody needs to repent, it’s Gov. Brownback. He needs to repent for violating the constitutional separation of church and state.”
Brownback also created a video message that promoted the rally, which drew the ire of many secularists, Fox News reports. The video states that no government resources were used to create the recorded message.
“We collectively repent of distancing ourselves from God and ask for His mercy on us,” the message stated.
Brownback also used the proclamation to quote former American presidents — including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson — who discussed their faith and God.
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Brownback spoke at the rally for 10 minutes, touching on a series of topics including his own religious journey and the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He also asked for personal forgiveness for a series of historical decisions, including slavery and the United States’ dishonesty in breaking treaties with Native Americans.
“I pray this as a child of God, I pray this as a sinful man, I pray this as somebody in the position of governor in the state of Kansas, I pray this in the name of Jesus,” Brownback said, according to the Capital-Journal.
The secular group also accused ReignDown USA organizers of wanting “government leaders to adopt their religious vision and impose it on us all.” And the group insisted their agitation at the governor’s actions were of purely legal basis.
“The governor is really overstepping his constitutional bounds. He was elected to serve as governor of our state, not our state pastor-in-chief,” Stangl said.
This is not Brownback’s first time running into controversy with secular groups for his support of religiously-affiliated legislation.
In May, Brownback signed a bill aimed at keeping state courts and agencies from using Islamic or other non-U.S. laws when making decisions. Dubbed the “sharia bill,” critics said it specifically targeted Islamic legal code and would nullify legal contracts between Muslims.