Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad is encouraging Iowans to participate in a Bible reading marathon, a decision that has angered several liberal and atheist groups.
The Iowa Bible Reading Marathon is a historic event with participants from all 99 counties in Iowa. It is organized by Kingdom Builders Enterprises to "appeal to heaven through the living Word of God being read out loud to change the atmosphere in Iowa and our nation."
The Bible will be publicly read out loud in front of a courthouse in every county from June 30 to July 3. Families are also encouraged to read the Bible together during the marathon.
Branstad released a proclamation personally endorsing and encouraging every family to read the Bible out loud.
He proclaimed America was "founded upon biblical principles and Judeo-Christian ethics," and described the Bible as being "the one true revelation from God."
But organizations like the American Humanist Association, the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, and the Freedom From Religion Foundation are criticizing Branstad's actions. Many argue that the governor's public support for the reading the Bible violates the Constitution.
"The governor's endorsement of the Bible violates our nation's founding principle of the separation of religion and government," Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the AHA, said.
"In exalting Christianity above all other religious and nonreligious worldviews, the governor is discriminating against non-Christian citizens and infringing upon their right to be free from religious coercion by the state," he said.
The AHA also wrote a letter to Branstad expressing their concerns.
"Your divisive proclamation can only be understood as pandering to a certain religious demographic while offending those who hold differing religious views," the letter said.
But many who support the governor endorsement say he is not forcing anyone to read the Bible, but is only supporting a movement that encourages those who choose to do so.
Branstad is not the first person to hold a government office who has issued a call to read the Bible or pray.
President Barack Obama called on Americans in a 2011 National Day of Prayer speech to "give thanks for the many blessings God has bestowed upon our Nation."
The Freedom From Religion Foundation challenged Obama's religious-themed speech in a federal appeals court but lost. The court ruled mere offense was not enough to silence speech.
The Iowa 99 County Bible Reading Marathon is expected to have a large turnout with participants from every county.