To the horror of Americans for Freedom from Religion and other far-left groups, many in the Trump Administration are gathering once a week for group Bible Study. A report by the Christian Broadcasting Network confirms that many of those in the weekly group are high-ranking government officials. While the practice is not unique to this administration, the criticism has reached unprecedented levels.
Regular attendees at the Bible Study include Health and Human Service Secretary Tom Price, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Agriculture Secretary Sunny Perdue, and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also attend the meetings when their schedules permit.
The sessions are led by Ralph Drollinger, a former NBA basketball player who turned to the ministry after his injury-shortened career. He also leads two Bible Study classes per week on Capitol Hill for members of the House and Senate. For his part, while he does not attend the Bible Studies, President Trump has requested, and receives, weekly notes on each lesson.
This is not the first administration to host weekly Bible Study groups. Under the blessing of former president George W. Bush, his staff held a weekly Bible Study and prayer group. Often, ordained minister and Attorney General John Ashcroft would lead the studies.
There are no rules against studying the Bible in a federal building, though the U.S. government issued guidelines in 1997, titled “Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace,” that stresses the importance of supervisors being careful to not press employees to participate in any way.
“Because supervisors have the power to hire, fire, or promote, employees may reasonably perceive their supervisors’ religious expression as coercive, even if it was not intended as such,” the guidelines say. “Therefore, supervisors should be careful to ensure that their statements and actions are such that employees do not perceive any coercion . . . and should, where necessary, take appropriate steps to dispel such misperceptions.”
Is it a good idea for top-level government officials to gather for weekly Bible Study and prayer on government grounds? In 2017, I can’t think of many ideas I like more.