Secular group demands investigation into Mike Pompeo's 'Christian Leader' speech

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is joined by commission chair Harvard Professor Mary Ann Glendon while announcing the formation of a commission to redefine human rights, based on “natural law and natural rights,” during a news conference at the Department of State, on July 8, 2019, in Washington, D.C. | Getty Images/Mark Wilson

A secular church and state watchdog group is calling on the U.S. Inspector General to open an investigation into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a speech he gave at a Christian conference, which they deem as an "unconstitutional endorsement of religion." 

Americans United for Separation of Church and State sent a letter to the Office of the Inspector General last Friday regarding Pompeo's speech titled “Being a Christian Leader” that he gave at the American Association of Christian Counselors’ World Conference in Nashville, Tennessee, earlier this month. 

During the speech, Pompeo told the counselors that, just like them, he draws on the “wisdom of God” to help him “be a force for good in the life of human beings.” 

He added: “Now, I know that even having just said that, I know some people in the media will break out the pitchforks when they hear that I ask God for direction in my work. But you should know, as much as I’d like to claim originality, it is not a new idea. I love this quote from President Lincoln. He said, quote: ‘I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had nowhere else to go.’”

Americans United is accusing Pompeo's Oct. 11 talk of being “a proselytizing speech that endorsed Christianity in his official government capacity, as well as the department’s use of its resources to promote the speech.” 

The letter notes that Pompeo said in his speech that he was speaking at the event because of his position as secretary of state. The group also took issue with the State Department's decision to post a video and transcript of the speech on its website. 

“While Mr. Pompeo is entirely free to engage in religious activities in his personal capacity, he must not use his official role as Secretary of State to promote his religion,” the letter argues. “In his role as secretary, delivering a speech that enthusiastically endorses Christianity is a violation of the Establishment Clause.”

Americans United President Rachel Laser condemned Pompeo for giving the speech, saying in a statement released last week that he “cannot use his official position and government resources to proselytize and impose his faith on the rest of us.”

“In America we are governed by our shared secular values, not by the privileged religious views of government officials. That means government cannot favor one religion over others or religion over nonreligion,” Laser added. “Americans United will hold this administration accountable for undermining the constitutional principle of religious freedom for all. We urge that these violations be addressed immediately.”

Pompeo’s speech also garnered criticism from other groups, including the American Humanist Association, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, which the UAE considers to be a terrorist organization.

“This religious favoritism is the kind of abuse of their duty to represent all Americans equally that demonstrates how fundamentalism is the driving force of this administration’s agenda,” said AHA President Roy Speckhardt.

Others, including the group Disciple Heritage Fellowship, commended Pompeo for the speech he gave at the AACC gathering, taking to Twitter to express their support.

“We were so blessed to hear Secretary of State Mike Pompeo at the American Association of Christian Counselors world conference today in Nashville,” DHF tweeted.

“Encouraged to know he keeps an open Bible on his desk at all times, to seek God's wisdom in the decisions he makes!”

Follow Michael Gryboski on Twitter or Facebook

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