OKLAHOMA CITY — A group advocating for the separation of church and state on Tuesday accused Gov. Kevin Stitt of using his office to promote religion.
Stitt in his official capacity as governor is speaking at 7 p.m. Sept. 22 at Guts Church in Tulsa, according to the Freedom From Religion Foundation. The event uses his title to seek attendees.
In a Monday letter to Stitt, the Freedom From Religion Foundation, based in Madison, Wisconsin, said if Stitt wanted to discuss religion, he should do it as a private citizen and not as governor.
“Using the Office of the Governor to promote a specific religious mission is unconstitutional and sends a direct message to the 30 percent non-Christian adults who you serve that they have the wrong religion and that only your personal god can solve Oklahoma’s problems,” the letter said.
“We are telling Gov. Stitt, as we tell all pious politicians: ‘Get off your knees and get to work,’ ” said Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “It’s not OK in Oklahoma or any other state for public officials to misuse their office to promote religion.”
Ryan Jayne, a staff attorney for the Freedom From Religion Foundation, said the matter was brought to the group’s attention by members in Oklahoma.
“We are hopeful the governor will learn from this mistake and not repeat it,” Jayne said. “If it continues, we will definitely discuss other legal options with our local complainants.”
The Freedom From Religion Foundation is a nonprofit founded in 1978. It has more than 30,000 nonreligious members, including members in Oklahoma.
“This has been a remarkably productive administration, and it is because we have a governor who works tirelessly, casts vision and values people no matter their background or place of worship,” said Baylee Lakey, a Stitt spokeswoman. “One of the first events he hosted at the Governor’s Mansion was a lunch for members of the Interfaith Alliance of Oklahoma, which represents individuals across 75 faith traditions.
“The governor welcomes all opportunities to speak and listen to Oklahomans, in their communities, no matter their background or religious affiliation.”
It is not the first time the organization has been critical of Stitt or an Oklahoma governor. The organization targeted remarks Stitt made on Jan. 15 at an Inaugural Prayer Service at the First Baptist Church of Moore.
In those remarks, Stitt said he tells his team that they have an opportunity to join in what God is doing in Oklahoma.
“He is about to unleash Oklahoma …,” Stitt said, according to the organization. “We’re going to engage the nonprofits and the churches to really heal and solve some of these social issues, county by county, that the government can’t do, no law can do, but our Heavenly Father can do.”
In a Jan. 17 letter to Stitt, the organization raised similar concerns. “Please understand that you were not elected to be a preacher, but a governor,” the letter said.
In 2016, the organization wrote a letter to then-Gov. Mary Fallin urging her to rescind her “Oilfield Prayer Day” proclamation, Jayne said. The proclamation said Christians acknowledge that natural resources are created by God.
The organization’s letter said the proclamation is “scientifically ignorant” adding that oil and gas were not created by God but by millions of years of geologic pressure exerted on organic material.
It also signed a statement opposing “a discriminatory adoption and foster care bill that Gov. Fallin vocally supported.”