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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. atc333

    How pathetic, some people don't seem to know they do not have to read his tweets. Instead they choose to muzzle him from his personal beliefs and opinions. Separation of Church and State issue, not hardly, more of a case of censorship of an apparently religious man who desires to share his beliefs with all who will listen. When he tries to pass legislation that all Americans have to read his tweets, then it becomes an issue. Until then, get a life, and leave the man alone.

    June 13, 2010 at 10:38 am |
  2. Joe

    people should keep religion off of twitter and facebook.. unless its a specific group for that kinda thing. its bad enough it gets pushed on us in every day life. with people coming to your door, preaching programs on tv, and what not. keep your brainwashing cult to yourself and to the church on sunday, or saturday if your seventh day adv.

    June 13, 2010 at 9:40 am |
  3. Love Bible Qoutes

    You have to wonder if he twittered quotes from the Bible about how women should be submissive to their husbands or that God forbids eating pork, or calls for the death of women who are not virgins on their wedding nights, or those who dare 'touch' Mt Sinai , blasphemy and rebellious teens (yes it's all in the Bible) if everyone would be so quick to stand up for the guy. Of course the right to speak out about religion is only defended when it's the christian religion anyway.

    June 13, 2010 at 9:15 am |
    • Jacob

      As a Jew, I defend his right to quote (any quote, even a repulsive one) from the Bible, the Koran, the Bhagavad Gita, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or Penthouse Forum for that matter. His actions on twitter are not an violation of my First Amendment rights and I am not about to violate his. I am also not going to tell him not to let his religious convictions affect his decisions as a lawmaker, so long as he never does anything to get in the way of my own religious beliefs and practice.

      June 13, 2010 at 11:21 am |
  4. Reality

    At least he should give credit to those who wrote the original psalms i.e. the Greeks, Babylonians and Egyptians. The OT/Torah and NT scribes were not the orignators as they borrowed, as we all do, from the ancients.

    June 13, 2010 at 8:20 am |
  5. RodentKing

    We live in a free country if you don't like what he tweets don't read it

    June 13, 2010 at 7:46 am |
  6. George Washington

    Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens. ....And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle. – 1796 Farewell Address

    June 12, 2010 at 11:41 pm |
  7. Joel Weymouth

    What these rabid fanatical secularists forget is that more people have been slaughtered in the name of atheism than any other reason.
    Communist Russia 60,000,000
    Communist China 100,000,000
    Communist Cuba
    Other Communist Countries in Asia, Africa, South America – 3,000,000

    Now – secularists – tell me 1 atheistic charitable organization that exists? There are a few secular charitable organizations but they just started over the last 40 years.

    Furthermore – Barry Lynn is a charlatan. He claims to be a Christian Minister: but what principle of Jesus encourage a minister to interfere with government and be a political activist. Why doesn't spend all his effort to help the poor.

    June 12, 2010 at 11:32 pm |
    • White Blaze

      Communist is not atheism. By far this has to be one of the most retarded arguments every used. It deserves no more comment than this.

      June 13, 2010 at 12:33 am |
    • Love Bible Qoutes

      don't forget all the Christian charities that have bilked and skimmed.. you know scammed people out of money to put in their pockets. Talk about a bunch of Charlatans.

      June 13, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • HealthySceptic

      Because you asked...
      ACLU
      Amnesty Int'l
      DefCon
      Doctors Without Borders
      DonorsChoose
      EngineersWithoutBorders
      Kiva
      Oxfam
      Nature Conservancy
      Population Connection
      Rotary Int'l
      SEED Foundation
      SHARE
      Union of Concerned Scientists
      ... and on and on and on...
      UNCF

      June 13, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
  8. Doug Hayse

    Why would that even be a problem? last time I checked blogs like facebook twitter ect are privite sites not gov ran.... plus Anyone has the right to say what they want! write about buda hindu hopie christian what ever. folks who think other wise need to leave this country and live in some of the others like north korea where if you disagree with anything you die.
    Be thankful that we have a choice to say what we think.

    June 12, 2010 at 11:31 pm |
  9. David in Houston

    I could care less if he wants to Tweet a bible verse to his followers. When he starts using his CHOSEN religious beliefs to discriminate against LGBT citizens... THEN we have problem.

    June 12, 2010 at 10:36 pm |
  10. Mike

    And reason and logic are completely gone in America...

    June 12, 2010 at 10:05 pm |
  11. Joyce Neal

    Keep on tweeting those verses; that is the only Bible some will ever get

    June 12, 2010 at 9:35 pm |
    • Love Bible Qoutes

      Yeah and don't forget to tweet about Jesus' loathing of the 'rich man' and how the rich should give to the poor. The problem with Bible quoters is they always pick those quotes that they think make them sound righteous, quotes they think others should live by (but they usually don't themselves) and leave out all the truly hateful, murderous and flat out insane quotes the Bible has to offer.

      June 13, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  12. Fernando

    Separation of church and state. This guy didn't get the memo...

    June 12, 2010 at 7:57 pm |
    • hariseldon

      We are not governed by memos we are governed by the constitution in which the first amendment clearly reserves the right for this congressman to tweet bible verses if he wants to.

      June 13, 2010 at 1:51 pm |
  13. Deb

    Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, OR PROHIBITING THE FREE EXERCISE THEREOF; OR ABRIDGING THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH..... too many people ignore those phrases in the First Amendment....

    June 12, 2010 at 7:51 pm |
    • Doug Hayse

      yep yep jsut think all those whiners speaking out against a north korean offical about what he wote or said all would be dead to many people dont know what we havve here seperation of church and state just means that the church can not tell the gov. or its members how to vote and the gov can not say which church to belong to. it dosent mean that a public offical can not pratice or say his belifes lol some folks really should think.

      June 12, 2010 at 11:45 pm |
  14. Ben from Harvard

    This is ridiculous. The man can tweet what he likes – it's called free speech! If you don't like your congressman tweeting Bible verses, then vote for a different one! The only thing the congressman has done wrong here is apologizing for admirable behavior.

    June 12, 2010 at 7:41 pm |
    • Fernando

      Yeah but too many politicians bring religion into everything. Can't they do anything secular?

      June 12, 2010 at 7:58 pm |
  15. Kay Ajayi

    nation under God trying so hard to remove itself from under God. Remember, blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord. Remember also, those who deny God will the Son of man also deny before HIS Father

    June 12, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • Monk

      It's only been "one nation under god" since the 1950's!!! And the only reason that happened is because of the paranoia created by the McCarthy hearings.

      June 13, 2010 at 8:02 am |
  16. Bobby

    WHY Congresman has personal twitter and facebook accounts. He can say whatever he wants.

    June 12, 2010 at 6:46 pm |
  17. MikeTheInfidel

    Sigh... Barry Lynn is a smart guy. He should know better than to claim that Twitter and Facebook are official government *anything*.

    June 12, 2010 at 6:39 pm |
    • ShanetheAtheist

      It's not that Twitter or Facebook are government owned, it's that he's linked his Twitter and Facebook accounts to post updates on his official government page. THAT'S the main problem here.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:29 pm |
  18. Georgia Peach

    I applaud this man. it is amazing that most democrats want to take the right of ones religious freedom away. Twitter is not government funded and this man has nothing to apologize for but should stand firm in his faith as many of us do in the days of religious persecution creeping into the US. Many of our politicians in the history of this nation have turned to prayer and the bible and we have fought hard in this country to obtain this right. God bless the USA

    June 12, 2010 at 6:26 pm |
    • MikeTheInfidel

      Religious persecution? Are you serious? You people make up about 82% of the population. You're the MAJORITY. Quit whining.

      June 12, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  19. nobodyspecial

    Hello, wake up...................I just posted something and it is still up????????????????????

    June 12, 2010 at 6:17 pm |
  20. nobodyspecial

    You guys are taking your time pulling down my post, what, are we busy reading the bible???

    June 12, 2010 at 6:17 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.