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Religious Freedom Group Promises to Back Iowa Governor Over Bible Proclamation

At least three groups — ACLU of Iowa, Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers, and Freedom From Religion Foundation — are considering filing suit against Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad because he signed a proclamation endorsing a Bible-reading marathon.

They see it as a clear violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

The Iowa Prayer Caucus, the National Governors' Prayer Team and the United States Prayer Council have organized Bible-marathon/prayer events that will be held in front of each of the state’s 99 county courthouses from June 30 to July 3.

“Iowa Bible Reading Marathon is an Appeal to Heaven through the living Word of God being read out loud to change the atmosphere in Iowa and our Nation,” according to the Iowa Bible Reading Marathon Facebook page.

This won’t be the first time the Bible has been read on government property in Iowa. Volunteers spent 80 hours reading the Bible aloud — from Genesis through Revelation — inside the Iowa Capitol Rotunda on Jan. 4.

If push comes to shove, and a lawsuit is filed, First Liberty Institute has promised to have Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad’s back, and the Republican is counting on their support.

Hiram Sasser, First Liberty Institute director of strategic litigation, told PJM a lawsuit, if it is filed, wouldn’t go far because there is so much legal precedent on the governor’s side.

Branstad said it is routine for politicians to endorse the idea of prayer. So, backing the marathon seemed like a no-brainer to him.

“I get hundreds of requests for proclamations and for a lot of good causes,” KMEG-TV reported Branstad told reporters during his weekly press conference June 6.

“You know, you can go back to the Declaration of Independence, and all of the leadership of this country from the very beginning have supported religious freedom,” he added.

Sasser said there is just not legal basis for litigating a suit against Branstad, and the proclamation he signed “is such a historically routed tradition that it is beyond judicial question.”

He said there is just no legal basis for litigating a suit against Branstad.

“In all the cases that have addressed these types of proclamations, the courts have routinely just thrown them out because there’s no injury to anyone,” Sasser said. “No one has any standing to sue the governor over anything.”

Sasser also said he found it hard to believe that a politician like Gov. Branstad was facing this kind of blowback over signing a seemingly innocuous proclamation.