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. nobodyspecial

    One would think a site a lame as this one would welcome any post to this site as nobody else posts here.

    June 12, 2010 at 6:16 pm |
  2. BlackUSAguy

    SO..... our forefathers are against GOD. This world was created by GOD. Our forefathers decided to do away with GOD. But today's conservative blame liberals. Check your history.

    June 12, 2010 at 5:53 pm |
    • MikeTheInfidel

      There are no gods.

      June 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  3. Frank Rizzo

    who cares if this bum is quoting bible verses, maybe he needs to remind himself to keep clean and away from daily BS of Washington and stress. As long he in the JC mode maybe he could help out in the Gulf you know maybe walk on oil that prove his true beliefs.

    June 12, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  4. Robert

    When you accept a government account and agree to use it for official government purposes only, you are not allowed to use it to forward your religious beliefs.

    June 12, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
  5. james

    why can't he express his christian roots.this country was founded by christian men and women,that's why it became so prosperous.until the communist ,godless gay ,muslim criminals decided to take it over.that's why we're going to hell.

    June 12, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  6. BK Beach4x4

    Politicians can tweet about anything they desire. They speak out on many subjects on their blogs, twitter and facebook post.

    The problem is, everything that comes out of their mouth is bull crap.

    Wrapping a dead fish in bible verses won't stop that fish from eventually giving off the odor of we all know tells us its time to go fishing again.

    June 12, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
  7. Bill

    Where I work, we have devout muslims that pray several times a day, but if I pray at my desk, not making a display of myself I am chastised. Lets face it .l... if you are christian this is the worst thing you can possibly be in the USA today;. So naturally the congresman willl get into trouble tweeting bible verses. If they had been from the Koran no one would have cared.

    June 12, 2010 at 4:21 pm |
    • Frank Rizzo

      maybe if you prayed in private like moslems do you would won't be chastised, stop spreading your religious bigotry and mind your own freaking business.

      June 12, 2010 at 5:39 pm |
  8. april

    Um, twitter is not owned by the federal government. He can Tweet whatever he pleases. If you don't like it, don't read it. His being a politician has absolutely no bearing on his right to practice and to share his religion with others.

    June 12, 2010 at 4:04 pm |
  9. brenda

    i am glad my congressman is not afraid to share the word of God why is it that everyone else can voice a thiought or aopping and it has to be tolerated but if we christians want to voice our trust in the word from our Lord it is intolerable

    June 12, 2010 at 3:28 pm |
  10. wls

    Everyone should read "Free Thinkers" by Susan Jacoby
    You will get a great insite into the history of religion in this country.
    You will never go to church again!

    June 12, 2010 at 12:59 pm |
  11. Stephanie

    Ok, while I do believe that church and state should be separated – this is the man's personal Twitter account. What happened to freedom of speech? If someone is annoyed by him utilizing his right – then UNFOLLOW the man. If anyone was offended by what I wrote on my personal Twitter, I'd tell them to go shove it.

    June 12, 2010 at 12:44 pm |
  12. mightyfudge

    Even idiots are protected by the First Amendment. Let him tweet all he wants.

    June 12, 2010 at 11:36 am |
  13. QueTip

    Tweet away! You people take Father out of the equation and persecute the faithful for daring to declare their love of Father. SHAME ON YOU!!! To have more people quoting Father's word would probably only improve the state of our society, but Lord forbid WE be allowed to say anything and make the agnostics uncomfortable. Followers should be screaming for OUR RIGHTS to be given back, instead of bending to the will of those who don't want their conscience bothered.

    June 12, 2010 at 11:31 am |
  14. Mike Ward

    They aren't suing because they have no case.
    They have no case because he hasn't done anything wrong.
    If you don't like it, don't vote for him.
    If he doesn't represent you, it doesn't matter what you think about it.

    June 12, 2010 at 10:16 am |
  15. Bill

    Let's relate State to public school......I am confident ALL would agree that public school is a place to study and learn. Teaching " being thankful for the things you have" is a good thing, certainly a trait/awareness that would benefit any child's healthy development. With no influence of any kind wouldn't it be healthy to offer a time of silence to be thankful.....nothing else implied....it would be each child's independent and personal choice....and could change their focus as years go by......individual healthy growth. If more people were thankful would that be healthy for world growth......you decide it's your private silent moment to consider being thankful.......and even if you are totally opposed to being thankful then think about something else.

    June 12, 2010 at 9:24 am |
  16. Char

    Barack obama went to anti American Rev Wrights church for 20+ yrs thats more news then this. Report that

    June 12, 2010 at 9:20 am |
  17. nobodyspecial

    Are comments to this thread closed?

    June 12, 2010 at 8:52 am |
  18. tiredoftheuneducated

    Firstly, freedom of speech applies to the internet. If you don't want to read Bible verses, get off of his account. Secondly, to all those who are ignorant of the truth of what our Founding Fathers meant by separation of church and state, I suggest you read The 5000 Year Leap.

    June 12, 2010 at 8:13 am |
    • Jason

      Actually, it doesn't. The people paying for the site that you are posting on control that. You can only post on twitter what they allow.

      June 12, 2010 at 2:02 pm |
  19. hampster

    Religious freaks within America are as common as Donut shops, traffic ljams, and stop signs. Let them have their fun spreading their so-called supreme being stuff!

    June 12, 2010 at 7:39 am |
    • Jason

      Ya! Also, how dare they insult those who don't believe in God! It's completely unacceptable and hateful for a person that has a religion to insult, or make uncomfortable, those that do not have one.

      But.... if you switch the two around apparently it's perfectly okay.

      June 12, 2010 at 2:04 pm |

    The separation of state and church was mis interpreted and forced on the population by those who saw a way to exploit it.
    In England (the old country) the head of the church (the church of England) is the King/Queen. In england the head of the state is the King/Queen. You should all go and check your history books. When the founding fathers called for separation of church and state all they meant was that the head of state and the head of the church cannot be the same person. It never meant you could not have prayers in the school etc. Futhermore saying that this congressman is out of line by twittering religious verses is denying him his rights under the bill of rights. 1 freedom of speech. 2. freedom to parctice a religion or not to practice a religion. The problem with most americans is that they jump on the band wagon, instead of reading the laws etc for themselves. An imigrant seeking citizen status have to study the bill of rights among others and take a test to be awarded citizenship, yet the vast majority of born Americans dont even know what the bill of rights are. ThIS IS ONE OF THE REASONS WHY THERE ARE SO MANY UNEDUCATED OPINIONS.

    June 12, 2010 at 5:10 am |
    • Q

      You should take your own advice and read Jefferson's and Madison's numerous writings on this subject. Their views are very clear that the state has no legitimate interest in inserting itself into the religious practices of individuals. These were not thoughtless men and had they simply been referring to some national religion or the simultaneous head of state/head of a church, they would have stated as much. Rather, they chose the language "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof". No mention of head of state/head of a church and notice the language reads "of religion", not "of a religion". Furthermore, there is no prohibition against an individual's right to pray in school but rather, against a public school, as an instrument of the state, promoting this religious activity. Nonetheless, I'd agree that the congressman has every right to express his personal religious views.

      June 13, 2010 at 10:45 pm |
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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.