A couple of weeks ago, Andy Gipson led his Facebook followers in prayer. He’s from Mississippi and they’ve been struggling with COVID, so this was a way to ask for God’s intervention to calm the storm.
The problem with that post is that Gipson isn’t some random dude offering a pointless gesture. He’s Mississippi’s agriculture and commerce commissioner, and this was his official Facebook page. Why was a government leader using his position to ask the Christian God to intervene?
Better yet, why didn’t he just walk a few feet inside his office building and talk to his Republican colleagues in the administration and urge them to stop making everything worse?!
The Freedom From Religion Foundation wants some answers:
“Religious endorsements coming from your office needlessly alienate the nonreligious and non-Christian citizens you represent, turning them into political outsiders in their own community,” FFRF Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor write to the Mississippi agriculture and commerce commissioner. “Such social media posts send the message to your minority religious and nonreligious residents that their state government sees their views as less valued than that of their Christian counterparts.”
Even if Gipson is a Baptist minister in addition to being a government official, the U.S. Constitution still applies to him, FFRF emphasizes. That’s why he must refrain from promoting his personal religious beliefs while speaking on behalf of the government — and while using government power and resources — because he represents all Mississippians, not just Christians.
FFRF is asking Gipson to stop posting religious endorsements on his official social media pages and to immediately delete his religious video.
FFRF also suggested in its letter that Gipson is in a position to solve the problem he’s asking God to fix:
… the reality is that your message will unfortunately affirm the widespread belief that prayer is an adequate substitute for getting vaccinated, wearing masks, and taking other science-based steps to mitigate and defeat the pandemic. This erroneous belief could be one of the reasons why Mississippi has one of the worst daily infection rates. Your call to prayer instead of call to vaccinate is helping to make a raging crisis in Mississippi worse, not better.
Mississippi is struggling with COVID in large part because people like Gipson won’t use their power to help citizens. Instead, they’re using the crisis as a political ad for their Christian base, letting everyone know how quickly they’ll turn to the Christian God when dealing with problems. It’s a sign to more rational voters that these people have no business running the government. If they think God can fix problems, the last place they should be is in the State Capitol.
By the way, notice that Gipson justified his call to prayer by citing “In God We Trust” on the official state seal. This is a perfect example of how a seemingly innocuous — and legally “secular” — phrase is nothing more than a stepping stone for Christian Nationalists who want to use those four words to push a much more Christian-specific agenda on everyone else.