The American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa and the Wisconsin-based Freedom from Religion Foundation are considering a lawsuit to block a proclamation signed in April by Gov. Terry Branstad to encourage Iowans to take part in a “99 County Bible Reading Marathon” outside courthouses from June 30 to July 3 and to read their Bibles until the second coming of Jesus Christ.
“It’s beyond judicial question that (Branstad) has the ability to issue these types of proclamations,” said Hiram Sasser, deputy chief counsel for First Liberty. “All the cases that have addressed these types of proclamations, the courts have routinely just thrown them out because there’s no injury to anyone. No one has any standing to sue the governor over anything.”
Opponents of the proclamation, which encourages “individuals and families in Iowa to read through the Bible on a daily basis each year until the Lord comes,” argue that it’s unconstitutional because it specifically supports one religion. The proclamation, embedded below, also claims that the country was founded on “Judeo-Christian ethics,” says “the Bible is recognized as the one true revelation from God,” decries the Bible’s “remov[al] from our schools,” and argues the Bible is the solution to national problems such as the “drug crisis.”
First Liberty is the same organization that backed Bob Eschliman, the former editor of the Newton Daily News who was fired after publishing a personal blog post complaining that the “LGBTQXYZ crowd and the Gaystapo” were attempting “to make their sinful nature ‘right with God.'” (Read our in-depth story about Eschliman here.)
Two of the groups organizing Branstad’s Bible Reading Marathon are the United States National Prayer Council and the Iowa Legislative Prayer Caucus, the latter of which is co-chaired by two Republicans, state Sen. Jason Schultz and state Rep. Joel Fry, and Democratic state Rep. Phyllis Thede.
A third group involved in organizing the Bible Reading Marathon is the National Governors’ Prayer Team, whose aim is to reach out to governors as part of an effort “to reestablish, rebuild and reclaim the public places of worship in our nations [sic] capitals and courthouses in the very name under which they were established ‘Jesus Christ’.”