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June 11th, 2010
03:17 PM ET

Separation of church, state and Twitter?

If you are one of the some 3,000 Twitter followers of U.S. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Illinois, then you probably know he is a prolific tweeter of Bible verses. Today he tweeted:

Psalm 19:14 Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer.
From twitter.com/RepShimkus

The 140-character missives are causing "unease" with Bernard Schoenburg, a columnist from The State Journal-Register in Springfield, Illinois.

A group not particularly thrilled about them is Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which reached out to us about about the tweeting congressman.

Barry Lynn, the group's executive director, told the CNN Belief Blog, "He wants people to adopt his Christian world view. There is probably no way to go and sue anybody about this. I would hope members of Congress would know their constituents are more interested in how to solve unemployed than your favorite Bible verse."

When asked if the congressman would be able to spell out a solution to unemployment in the 140-character limitations of Twitter, Lynn said, "You could get a good start."

Lynn says his group is not planning to sue because, "some things are so trivial you can't file lawsuits against them, but the fact this is an official government venue for spreading ideas ... it should raise concerns."

Shimkus' office told CNN that Schoenburg's column was the first complaint they had fielded about the posts.

Late this afternoon, Shimkus posted an apology in two tweets:

To twitter and FB followers. I am relatively new to this as many know tweets were designed to let people know what one is up to.

I do a daily devotions so that is part of my day. I am sorry if I have offended anyone and I appreciate the comments in support.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics

soundoff (196 Responses)
  1. Survey Magnet

    We have an interesting debate going on this topic at the following link:

    http://www.surveymagnet.com/2010/07/does-separation-of-church-and-state-really-exists/

    Come join the discussion

    August 10, 2010 at 8:10 am |
  2. HC21

    How lame that people would actually complain about this in the frame in which it is being presented. I lean left politically and I find this a totally moot point. Politicians will be slammed by their opponents no matter what they do, so this isn't really surprising, just basically stupid. Extremists are bad on both sides. In this case the extremists are the Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Grow up people!

    June 15, 2010 at 5:29 pm |
  3. ladymissysnow

    Every person has a right to believe in what they choose this congressman chooses to believe in God knows he has a higher moral power to have to answere to for the choices he makes. Those of you who think this "fairy in the sky" is a bad thing do you just have a problem with something higher or bigger then yourself with noone to answere to you can do as you wish no wonder socitey has gone down hill.

    June 15, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
  4. Jon Matthew Greenier

    I'm sick of being pushed around because I'm Catholic in this society. It's time to push back the secular forces and get our dignity back! Paganism will not be resurrected; sorry Pelosi! And civility will once again be common place in our society. Barbarism and the culture of death will be defeated and respect for human dignity, true liberty and respect for life will be the shining beacon that America once stood for! Liberals and progressives will not silence us!!!

    For all of the modern barbarians I say this, your time is coming!

    In Christ,

    June 15, 2010 at 4:08 pm |
  5. Erica

    Let us be fair. Christian does not equal BAD. What it does mean is that he is Christian, and worships one god. That's fine. I'm fine with him having those beliefs, and I'm fine with him putting his daily devotionals up on his own twitter account.

    When he starts blatantly forcing Christian belief down my throat, THEN I'll get upset. Until then, to each their own.

    June 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
  6. verify

    If he's tweeting Bible quotes on his own time, with his own equipment, he's certainly free to do so, much as if he were to talk about his butterfly collection or his geocaching or whatever. I would surely not be 'following' him on Twitter; and as a voter, I would think twice about electing someone with the nutty obsession of Bible quoting.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  7. Andacar

    Here's an interesting observation: it seems as though, in the opinion of the increasingly contentious secular humanist crowd, that the best way to assure that we are free is to heavily censor any religious views from public discourse. Hypocrites.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:04 pm |
  8. Ralph in Orange Park, FL

    Personally, I would prefer the congressman who represents my district (note that I did not say my congressman) would tweet instead of robo-calling my home phone and leaving long, boring messages.

    June 15, 2010 at 11:46 am |
  9. afi

    What's the big deal. Listen to the songs on the radio. People don't mind singing about filfthy things.

    June 15, 2010 at 4:33 am |
  10. Clark

    I think most of the comments have been fairly dead-on what I was thinking: the only people reading his tweets are the ones that subscribe as a follower. If you don't like what he posts, then don't subscribe to receive them. This is not a separation of church and state issue.

    June 15, 2010 at 3:38 am |
  11. Gary

    As an agnostic I am proud this country respects separation of church and state. I tend believe as more and more muslims move to this country the muslims will challenge this issue even more than evangelical christians

    June 15, 2010 at 12:16 am |
  12. Adam

    The sooner we achieve a world without religion, the better. We have too many useless governing bodies as it is.

    June 15, 2010 at 12:13 am |
  13. Cynthia

    God is love. God is good. God have mercy on us all because we are all sinners until we are washed clean and free of sin by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    June 14, 2010 at 10:42 pm |
    • jeff

      God exists in your mind not the real world!

      June 15, 2010 at 11:27 am |
  14. David T.

    The problem is that most do not understand what seperation of church and state or unity of church and state mean.
    1. seperation of church and state simply means that congress will make no laws concerning the church, it does not mean that the leaders of this country should not be religious, they have been from the start, the country was formed on those beliefs. our laws were formed from those beliefs. having the ten commandments or any other religious items in our government bldgs. or schools or anywhere else has nothing to do with unity of church and state,
    2. unity of church and state is simply when church leaders and government get together and congress makes laws, telling you and me what, where, when , how and who we will worship, when this happens it is the image of the beast and we are made to worship it, the beast here is the roman empire where church and state were united and the government of that time was ruled by the church, in those days the church killed countless people for not worshiping the way they wanted them to. it is going to happen again in the very near future.

    June 14, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  15. Dave C.

    The Bible has been used for just about any excuse known to the human race to do whatever one wishes to do. I am simply agreeing with Journey in that the use of the Bible can be used for just about anything. Jesus taught Life. I sincerely believe there are those who use the Bible to even promote their own kind of warfare, whether they be on the "good" side or the side of "evil." And I would agree that quoting the Bible for just about anything in politics is incredibly dangerous. I simply believe that Jesus would not take a human life and He is the one that I follow, but I can't say this about hardly anyone who is a politician or even one who calls himself or herself a believer. I simply believe the killing has got to stop and we need to quit quoting Bible verses to say we are better than our "enemies." God is the God of all regardless of belief and what we have to hold sacred is all human life with each of us being made in the Image of God. Peace.

    June 14, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  16. Journey

    That religion is getting all mixed up in politics just got to stop! America is founded on religious freedom, and this has been the intent of our Founding Fathers. To belief otherwise goes against what America stands for.

    Regardless of a persons right to their religious faith in worshipping the particular god they choose and the words of the good books they hold dear, that right is and will always be guaranteed. But to frame laws and to govern based on these beliefs does run counter to the principles America was founded.

    June 14, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • The USA sucks the big weenie and is going to hell

      So you support the repeal of our entire Consitution and the bill of rights!? You'd have to or you make no sense. Afterall, our entire legal system is based upon English 'common' law which is based on the 10 commandments of the HOLY BIBLE.

      June 14, 2010 at 9:53 pm |
  17. Dave C.

    What better way to promote your personal beliefs by quoting from someone who killed his "Tens of Thousands?"

    June 14, 2010 at 4:06 pm |
  18. LTIUAFO

    Too trivial to be THIS concerned about.

    June 14, 2010 at 11:28 am |
  19. Natalie

    He has freedom of religion just like the rest of us here in the U.S. He's not forcing any of us to believe what he does, he's simply posting verses that he reflects on and finds meaningful. Besides, twitter is a free social networking site so let it be. If it bothers you, don't follow him on twitter.

    June 14, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  20. wowlfie

    Sounds like he would be right at home living in Iran.

    June 14, 2010 at 10:48 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.