On October 16th, 2019 the ACLU of Tennessee requested an investigation into Secretary of State Michael Pompeo’s speech delivered 5 days before. Entitled “Being a Christian Leader” and delivered to the American Association of Christian Counselors, the ACLU claims it acted essentially as a Christian sermon and that using the State Department’s social media, website, and other resources to put it out there was a violation of the First Amendment.
He consistently refers to scriptures, speaks on how to be a good Christian leader, and mixes affairs of the state with religion in a way that is impossible to separate. One quote the ACLU pulled from the video that showcases this fact impeccably – “But no matter whether it’s your family’s finances or you’re responsible for protecting taxpayer funds and being a good steward, as I am today, the Bible calls us to be faithful in our stewardship of whatever it is that we have been privileged to hold onto, no matter how much or how little. We have to be faithful in every single circumstance.”
Using the State Dept.’s resources to promote this speech before it happened, broadcasting it live, and promoting it on social media blurs the line between religion and state, two things that are supposed to be separated according to the Constitution. The ACLU is doing the right thing by calling for an investigation into this, and I believe they explain their decision best when they quote from court case Engel v. Vitale that “[w]hen the power, prestige and financial support of government is placed behind a particular religious belief, the indirect coercive pressure upon religious minorities to conform to the prevailing officially approved religion is plain.”
By promoting and broadcasting this speech to the American people, the State Dept. is essentially stating that Christianity goes hand in hand with being a good leader, and that Christianity is the favorable religion to the United States’ government. Sure, they didn’t explicitly state this, which some might use as a way to defend this use of resources, but the implied message is clear – non-Christians cannot be good leaders, and possibly good Americans.
If Secretary Pompeo had used his own resources, streamed on his own personal media, perhaps on the American Association of Christian Counselors’ website or social media, this would not be an issue. But using official government websites and social medias to broadcast and promote this speech was a misuse of power and needs to be rectified in a country with so many religions as well as both religious and non-religious citizens.