Kentucky Inquisition

I left a comment on a web site that described some political machinations in the state of Kentucky.   A county legal official promoted a questionnaire for local politicians, asking them about their religious views.  I thought that this was rather unusual, and possibly unconstitutional, and offered the following comment.

“Jeff Sharp, the county attorney for Barren County in Kentucky sent a “survey” to all state legislators and legislative candidates asking them whether they “accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.”

State Representative Kathy Stein (D – Lexington) introduced a resolution calling on her colleagues in the House to disregard the religious questionnaire.  She said the survey is an attempt to intimidate lawmakers and those seeking public office.

“This is doing what the Constitution prohibits,” Stein said, “and that is offering a religious test for public officials.”  Article VI of the Constitution states that, “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

Sharp was quoted as saying that he was surprised by the reactions to what he called “a simple little survey.”  He added that he would be more likely to vote for a Christian candidate “because I feel their values would be more in line with my values.”

If that’s the case, I think Barren County officials would be well-advised to fire Sharp immediately, since he shares “values” with Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, Bill Frist and all the other corrupt influence peddlers who are self-proclaimed devout Christians.

Mr. Sharp replied as follows:

Mr. Bert Bigelow left some important facts out of his story. Jeff Sharp and his seventh and eight grade Wednesday Night youth class at Gethsemane Baptist Church sent this survey out as a class project. It had nothing to do with the Barren County Attorney’s Office. Jeff Sharp is the Barren County Attorney but the survey was sent out with his classes help on his own time at his own expense. Even The Kentucky Civil Liberties Union who rarely ever sides with Christians said their was nothing improper or Unconstitional in the sending of this survey. The Gethsemane Baptist Youth group had a duel purpose in sending the survey. The primary purpose was a spiritual one, the secondary purpose was political. Because AP radio and news picked up this story it went not only Nationwide but Worldwide. Every newstory that carried the story set forth the Question ask in the survey ” Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” Because of the widespread publicity Millions read or heard this story. I am sure each person that read this question had to ask themselves the same question. Who knows how many of those people may have from that thought either gave their life to Jesus then or started a path down that road. I am sure regardless of the miniscule political consequences because of the sperading of the Question Gethsemane Baptist Youth beleives they more than exceeded their goals. People will complain and protest, but the Gethsemane Youth expected this, Satan always fights back when you kick him in the teeth.

Jeff Sharp

I replied as follows:

Welcome, Jeff, and thanks for your comments. I knew that the survey was sent out in conjunction with a school class. Frankly, I did not think that was relevant. You are a public official, and by participating in this “survey” you give the impression that it is an official government act.
While the “Kentucky Civil Liberties Union” whatever that organization is, may not have objected, Americans United for Separation of Church and State did. That is where I picked up this article. Since you obviously planned to publish the results, you clearly intended to intimidate all the legislators and candidates. The article said that all candidates responded in the affirmative. They really didn’t have any choice, did they? Your survey did its job, and served as a very clear “test.” And that is prohibited by the Constitution.

Bert Bigelow

Jeff’s response:

The survey to the legistlative candidates only stated it was from the 7 & 8th grade Wednesday night youth class at Gethsemane Baptist Church. Nowhere did it state my position or that I was a public official of any kind. It was not our classes intention that this survey get media attention. The same survey was mailed out two years ago during the last legislative election cycle and received no publicity. The only reason it received publicity this time was because of the stink Kathy Stein raised about the survey. As I said before we welcomed the publicity when it came but we did not generate the publicity. It was the newspapers that first brought up the fact that I was the Barren County Attorney, I never gave the impression that it was a official government act. Surely you are not suggesting that Public Office holders do not have the right to witness for Christ on their own time at their own expense.
The Kentucky Civil Liberties Union is the Kentucky Branch of the ACLU.
The Constitution religious test provision prohibits disallowing people to run for office because of their religion or lack of religion. The Constitution does not prohibit supplying information to voters. If you intend to prohibit voters from voting based on a candidates religion, how are you going to enforce that. Will you force voters to take lie detector test and disqualify their vote if they in any way considered a persons religion when casting their vote?

Surely you are not suggesting that Public Office holders do not have the right to witness for Christ on their own time at their own expense”

I responded as follows:

This has nothing to do with your personal religious rights. You know that.
As I said in my article, the Constitution says the following: “”No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”
I think it could be argued that your “survey” is an attempt to impose a religious “test” on candidates. While the “survey” may not have given your official position, it still seems inappropriate for you to have been involved in such a thing. Would it have been appropriate for President Bush to put his name on it?
Well, maybe I shouldn’t ask you that. I’ll ask the other readers.

Bert Bigelow

Much later in the discussion from Mr. Sharp:

I think you guys are so far removed from people like me that we are almost like a foriegn culture to you, we are like pigmies from Africa to you, we are like a bug in a jar to be studied. Let me tell you one little aspect about us that you may not understand or may not have ever considered. We Fundamental Christians believe to our core, that upon death there is a Heaven and a Hell in which all souls will spend eternity. We believe these are literal places. Heaven is a wonderful place and Hell is a place you wouldn’t want even your worse enemy to have to go to. We believe that the only way to heaven is thru Jesus Christ. So now I am getting to the part I don’t think you understand about us. Our desire in witnessing and trying to win people to Christ is a desire born out of our love for others. As I said earlier I wouldn’t want my worse enemy to go to Hell. I guess the point I am trying to make is this, we are not people to be feared, we are motivated by love for your soul and a desire to help you. I know you think we are just nuts for beleiving as we do, but we love you so much we don’t want your blood to be on our hands. In other words, if I see you and do not witness to you for Christ and you go to Hell its partially my fault. If I tell you about Christ then I have done all I can do, if you make the wrong choice after that, your blood will not be on my hands. I just give you that info so you can better understand our motivation for witnessing.

Jeff Sharp

From me:

Jeff,
I want to thank you for coming back and posting your comment above. I have no doubt that you are absolutely sincere in everything you said. I also have no doubt that you think you know what is best for every person on this earth…that they embrace your religious views. That is one of the things about devout fundamentalist believers that bothers me the most, because I think that their attempts to impose their beliefs on me…whether through opposition to abortion, stem cell research, sex education, contraception and family planning or attempts to impose “Biblical Law”…are done with the best of intentions!
I suspect that the Catholic priests who carried out the tortures of the Inquisition were equally certain of the righteousness of their actions.
The certainty that you have in your beliefs has elements of arrogance, even intolerance. I suggest that you do NOT know what is best for me or any other person. And while I respect your sincerity, I deplore the attempts by people like you to impose your beliefs on me, and I will continue to speak out against what I view as the increasingly aggressive actions of the Religious Right to impose religious tyranny in this country.

Bert Bigelow

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *