MADISON, Wisc. (Christian Examiner) – A Republican Wisconsin lawmaker is under fire from the litigious Freedom from Religion Foundation for his "overtly proselytizing message" issued during the Christmas holidays via the Internet.
Rep. Scott Allen, R-Waukesha, posted a video wishing his constituents a Merry Christmas on the YouTube page used by the state assembly's GOP representatives.
"To me and my fellow Christians, celebrating the birth of our Savior, our Emmanuel, well, it is one of the most important celebrations of the year," Allen said in the video.
"If, like me, you celebrate the birth of Jesus, I ask you this holiday season to consider the words found in Hebrews 10:24-25: 'Let us consider how we spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up on meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.'"
In the introduction of the video, Allen encouraged non-Christians to "consider the hope offered by the Prince of Peace." He concluded the video with Hebrews 10:38, which speaks of Christians being saved.
That was enough to draw the ire of the atheist foundation, which questioned the propriety of Allen and other state lawmakers using their state email addresses to send religious messages.
"It is unclear at this point whether state resources were used to produce this video, but we have included an open records request to determine if this is the case. It's our understanding that these messages, including Allen's proselytizing message, were distributed using state resources, specifically state email, which, if verified, is a misuse of governmental media," FFRF's Co-Presidents Dan Barker and Annie Lauri Gaylor wrote in a complaint letter to Speaker of the Wisconsin House of Representatives Robin Vos.
The anti-Christian duo did not accuse Allen or any of the other lawmakers who issued Christmas messages of violating state law, but they targeted Allen for his evangelical message.
"When representatives speak as representatives, their speech is not private speech, but government speech subject to the requirements of the Establishment Clause. ... While Allen is free to promote his personal religious beliefs on his own time, it is inappropriate to do so when he is afforded a special platform due to his elected position," the letter from the FFRF co-presidents said.
The group also squawked about Allen's use of Hebrews 10, which they noted concludes with the verse after the verse cited by Allen. Hebrews 10:39 promises judgment for those who refuse to "convert," the complaint letter said.
"The concluding passage, verse 39, proclaims that those who are not Christians—all those who reject Allen's invitation to worship his particular deity—will be destroyed: "But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved." Verse 31 has already warned that "it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God."
"No Bible or so-called 'holy book' should be promoted using the power, infrastructure or imprimatur of our secular government," Barker and Gaylor wrote.
Judging from the comments Allen has received on his Facebook page, FFRF, which is headquartered in Wisconsin, has plenty of angry and foulmouthed supporters. Most of the comments Christian Examiner cannot repeat, but some of the more tame comments include the following:
- "The Taliban also requires all citizens to be of the same religion ... just like you. Congrats for being just as evil as they are."
- "The problem with xtians like you is that they didn't hold you under water long enough during the baptism."
- "Basically the same gist of message that ISIS gives to all those they conquer. 'Join us or be destroyed.'"
- "The only difference between you and ISIS is they dress better."
- "Mr. Allen, are you going to be the one who destroys those that don't join your Christian Terrorist Organization?"
Allen, of course, did not demand anyone's conversion to Christianity and he did not pronounce judgment on anyone in the video. A significant portion of the video is devoted to the subject of loving one's neighbors more.
Allen has yet to respond publicly to the complaint or the comments on Facebook. However, Vos told the Capital Times Dec. 29 that Allen had, in fact, used state resources to produce the Christmas video. The video, he said, was produced in the state's capitol's video production studio.
Vos said Allen's message was "entirely appropriate" and those upset over it were "making a mountain out of a molehill."