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. Joel3

    The guy quotes a few bible verses and all the atheist agnostic scientist followers of MAN get their panties in a bunch. Look people, whether you choose to believe or not GOD is real, and YES the bible and all of it's prophetic messages apply to YOU. Yea YOU! The one reading this post while anger and offense builds in your heart and mind thinking of the next thing you can say to reply to me by mocking God, stepping on Him, calling Him a fairytale, refering to His miracles as made up "magic", and countless other ignorant empty statements which show you haven't got a clue. Meanwhile, there is an oil leak in your backyard, the middle east is on fire, the media controls your thoughts, Twitter is a hip tracking device for your children, world governments are falling out, the world is moving away from God like the bible predicted, and man can't figure out how to solve ONE of these problems. lol. I'm sorry I laughed, but from OUR perspective you guys look like a bunch of chickens with their heads cut off. Everyone is looking for the answer, yet everyone seems to have turned blind from truth. It's literally the blind leading the blind! But you guys keep at it, hey your doing great without Him, right?

    June 14, 2010 at 10:05 am |
    • ShanetheAtheist

      Right. I'm sure if we all pray hard enough, all of it will all go away, right?

      Sure. And while we're at it, we can just pray for Iran not to start a Nuclear holocaust, and pray for North Korea's dictatorship to fall.

      If you opened your god-damned eyes, you'd see religion isn't doing Jack to help anything. People praying isn't going to stop the oil spill, people praying isn't going to dismantle nuclear weapons. Praying isn't going to get rid of twitter or facebook, Hell, if praying stopped people from eating out of the Media's hands, then explain Fox news.

      There's not a damn thing religion does to help any one of those issues you just brought up, so please, do stop being ignorant yourself, get a clue, and if you're going to be selfish enough to try and prove an idiotic point, then please show some evidence as to how it's going to help any of the problems you brought up.

      I hardly see how indoctrination of more people is going to change the current state of affairs in the world, save for maybe lowering the global I.Q. a few points.

      June 14, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • Melissa

      Religion is a curse upon this planet. It doesn't help anything.

      June 14, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  2. michael S

    This is an example of the 2 largest problems with Separation of Church and State in the current day. Church and State laws are there to prevent the American version of the Church of England. Meaning, the law prevents the Government, from enforcing, endorsing, or otherwise sponsor any religion or denomination over another. It isn't their to remove religion from the people who work and represent the government. The government does not have to be athiest, it just can support any one more than the other, as a whole. The indiviuals can have their faith, use there faith as guidance, etc. We can even elect them or vote against them because of their faith. Afterall, our laws are built around right and wrong, and most religions are in line with what is defined as right and wrong.

    June 14, 2010 at 9:15 am |
  3. Sean

    Unless I missed something in all of the civics and constitutional law classes I have taken over the years, citizens have the right to religious expression regardless of their profession, even if that profession is a publicly held office. The constitution states, "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, nor prohibiting the free exercise thereof." I am pretty confident that a psalm posted on someone's tweet does not constitute passing a bill that establishes a state religion. It is clear that the founding fathers did not intend that public officials be completely deprived of their rights to exercise their own religion. They understood that an individual's religious views will impact their political views and were comfortable with that. If you have a problem with that, then you are free to elect an agnostic or atheist candidate.

    June 14, 2010 at 8:48 am |
  4. Coltfourfive

    Woah wait, "this is an official government venue for spreading ideas" Twitter? Are they talking about Twitter being an "official government venue"? Did I miss something?

    June 14, 2010 at 8:28 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Speaking as an atheist, I don't understand what the problem here is. If the Congressmen wants to "tweet" bible verses, let him. This isn't "an official government venue for spreading ideas;" if he had tweeted that he loves McDonalds' hamburgers, would that mean he's trying to spread the idea that McDonalds should be government endorsed and is superior to Burger King? No, it would not. Separation of church and state means that congressmen will not make laws on the basis of religion; tweeting a Bible verse has absolutely nothing to do with it. You can't take one step without offending some hypersensitive individual; Lynn is taking being politically correct to a ridiculous and almost comical level.

    June 14, 2010 at 1:17 am |
  6. Grist

    The man has the right to use twitter to post whatever he wants (shouldn't use government computer though). This is not about separation of churches an state. There is no official business being conducted with his twitter account. Of course he conceivably could offend some atheists, but that is ok. And I am an atheist. I an unaffected by his tweets.

    June 13, 2010 at 11:29 pm |
  7. Troy

    Barry Lynn should seriously consider getting a real job. What's next, suing elected officials who use cash to make purchases because our money says, "In God we Trust?

    June 13, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
  8. Ando

    Wow, that is awsome that an Illinois senator is a God fearing man! That is very refreshing in this age when it seems most of them will say/do anything to get elected. Let us hope more of our leaders find the wisdom and moral accountability that a relationship with Jesus Christ will give you if you truely give your life over to him. As for people trying to sue him over his twitter messages, I'm sure God will somehow use that for his glory.

    June 13, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
  9. Chosenone

    I doubt many Americans understand the origin of seperation so often mis-stated. I have no problem with god centric citizens voting thier beliefs but do fear government tyranny.

    June 13, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
  10. scdad

    A question for all Christians: if we destroy the wall seperating church and state, and allow policy makers to make policy based on religious ideology, what happens when a Satanist, or really weird Christian (say one of those priests who likes little boys more than he should) gains a policy making position? Do we say "oops" then and try to seperate church and state? Be careful what you wish for...............

    June 13, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      As I said, God is the one that is and will forever be in control. He has the last word, besides, when that time comes, the Anti-Christ will be announced, but for us who trust in the Lord, shall be caught up in the rapture, and for those weird Christians, as you say, and Satanists followers will stay behind. Those will be the worse days of anyone's lives.

      June 13, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  11. righteous-in-Christ

    Here is the problem, many want church and state separated, but than, when disaster takes place, like what we had on 9/11, many run to the church, so how do we expect for God to spare our lives if many runs God out from every place in our nation? I feel sorry for anyone that rejects Christ who is the Author and Finisher of our Faith.

    June 13, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
  12. john316

    I think we need more separation of church and state. Freedom of religion is a great thing, as well as freedom from religion. I think the churches need to pay taxes like every every other corporation ( which they tend to resemble in 2010 ).

    June 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  13. scdad

    I am a practicing Satanist. If I obtain office here in SC this year, how do you think people will react if I post verses from the works of my master and his followers? I'd bet Christians would start screaming for seperation of church and state then. Especially should I start writing policy based on our beliefs, or those of my brothers in Dragon Rouge.

    June 13, 2010 at 7:25 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      Well, as a Christian, I will pray for your deliverance as you probably don't know that even your master, Satan, hates you and all his followers. He is very hungry for your death and wants your soul. You don't have to keep serving someone that hates you, you can turn your life around and allow the Spirit of the Lord set you free. You nor Satan are a threat to the people of God in any way! Greater is He (Jesus Christ) who is in us, Christians, than he (Satan) who in the world. Satan has already been defeated at the Cross of Calvary, so, even if you run for SC, God is and will always be in control!!

      June 13, 2010 at 7:35 pm |
    • Anonymous

      I'm not a Christian or a Satanist, but I think you (and the Congressman) can post whatever you want.

      June 14, 2010 at 1:19 am |
  14. righteous-in-Christ

    I wouldn't be analogizing for proclaiming the Word of the Living God to no one! This is why any of the blind people are offended when some one professes the Word of God:

    HEBREWS 4:12 – "For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

    June 13, 2010 at 5:25 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      Editing: "This is why MANY blind people are offended when some one professes the Word of God:"

      June 13, 2010 at 5:26 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      I meant to say, "I wouldn't be apologizing to anyone"

      June 13, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
  15. Joe

    As far as I know Twitter allows people to sign up to voluntarily receive messages from someone they subscribe too. If they don't want those messages they can unsubscribe. If anyone is offended by his messages why did they sign up for them in the first place. As for him being a Christian and expressing his beliefs, I think that is still legal in the US. You would hope anyway.

    June 13, 2010 at 5:18 pm |
  16. Gene Brady

    These religious idiots are responsible for most of the worlds problems. This is not new and is why the founders were adament about the seperation of church and state...that is the most important problem facing the world today and always.

    June 13, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
    • Jeff in NC

      Gene...for one, the founders didn't put in the statements about separation of church and state, it was added much later. And isn't if funny how the problems surrounding things such as this comes from the non-religious. All the Congressman was doing was posting a prayer to "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer". Now what's the worst that would come from this?

      But nooooo.....you have to come out with words like "idiot" and accuse him for "causing all the world's problems". Seems like the world would be MUCH better off if you and a good number here on this page would start your days off with the same prayer. Sounds like you all are the "haters".

      June 13, 2010 at 5:10 pm |
  17. HorseHooves

    I don't mind a politician having religious beliefs...I don't mind a politician being anti-gay. But when it turns out they have "wide stances" in public bathrooms, I realize most Republicans only seem to be born-again Hypocrites. I have some advice for Christians: Keep the Good News to yourself. It's neither good (being rather redundant with hate and fear) and it certainly is not news. But then again, I suppose you could always try and alter boy.

    June 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm |
    • righteous-in-Christ

      If Jesus Christ died for us and He, being the God of Heaven and earth, tells His disciples to go and preach the Gospel of the Good News to the ends of the earth, why should we keep it to ourselves? It may not be news to you, but many that are lost, as you are, need to hear the Good News for the salvation of their souls!

      June 13, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
  18. Tom M

    The Congressman can tweet whatever he wants, its a free country; however if most of his tweets consist of biblical quotes, it implies he doesn't think much- or have much to say- about the major issues facing the country, and that maybe he would be better off quitting congress and taking up a job as a pastor.

    June 13, 2010 at 12:23 pm |
    • Jeff in NC

      Tom...thanks for noting he does have the right to say what he wants, because yes it is a free country. But I would add that he is best suited for this role because he is taking more care in his decision making. Contrary to what people may think, Christians don't just throw things in the air hoping God will answer for them. They actually take issues into great regard and praying over them demonstrates that.

      When there's a major issue at hand, I'd much rather have someone who will mull it over, think it over, and pray about it than someone who makes snap judgements and rules against something just because it doesn't fit their mold.

      June 13, 2010 at 5:15 pm |
  19. Monbois

    Anthony: If a person has half a brain he or she will realize that the senator is only quoting bible verses as a distraction away from the real issues and as a means of lulling the devoted into a state of stupor, coaxing them to admire them for his alleged religious devotion and ignore whatever he is or isn't doing as their elected representative. If he has to go this far to distract them then he's undoubted up to no good. I believe the bible itself says there's a time and place for everything, and an elected representative's public blog supposedly inteded for voters to communicate with him is an inappropriaute forum to proselytize. Besides, apparently he doesn't think there are any Jews or Muslims, atheists or agnostics in Illinois. Then again, we all know how much Illinoisans they their love their guns, and how much Christians love guns, too, so maybe he's right! Praise the Lord! (Anyway, who cares about dirty, stinking Jews, anyway, right?)

    June 13, 2010 at 11:59 am |
  20. danjeffers

    Normally I'm pretty strong on separation of church and state, but this is ridiculous. It's up to him to say how "official" his Twitter feed is. It's a free service and most people mix professional and personal, because the medium prizes a personal, informal approach. Personally, I've had to create a separate professional feed over time, but even there I am free to express personal thoughts and opinions.

    It's ridiculous to worry about this, and threatens to make those of us who believe that the separation of church state is vital to our society look ridiculous as well.

    June 13, 2010 at 11:36 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.