Religion

Atheist Group To Congressman: Stop Proselytizing

| by Nik Bonopartis
Rep. Jeff Miller during a visit to a U.S. naval base.Rep. Jeff Miller during a visit to a U.S. naval base.

A Florida congressman is using taxpayer money to preach religion to his constituents, according to a secular group.

Republican State Rep. Jeff Miller of Florida,  whose district covers a large section of Florida's panhandle, writes a weekly "Miller Newsletter" to his constituents. Miller isn't shy about sharing his Christian beliefs, something the Wisconsin-based Freedom From Religion Foundation says it takes exception to.

In a statement on March 29, the FFRF highlighted one of Miller's 2015 newsletters, in which he quoted a Bible verse and told his constituents that "Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth of Christ and for giving thanks to God Almighty for sending his son to save us."

Miller's most recent newsletter, dated March 27, mostly features his musings on the terrorist attack in Belgium, and his opinions on issues related to U.S. military service members, as Miller is the chairman of the house's Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

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It also includes an Easter message in which Miller quotes another Bible verse, Romans 6:8-10, and writes about Easter's significance to Christians.

The FFRF says Miller uses taxpayer funds to disseminate the newsletter. It's not clear if a printed version of the newsletter exists, or if the organization is referring to the use of the government's electronic resources. The congressman's website mentions only an email version of the newsletter.

"The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that public officials acting in their official capacities or using government resources may not seek to advance or promote their personal religion," Andrew Seidel, a staff attorney at the FFRF, wrote in a letter to Miller. "The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits government sponsorship of religious messages. Endorsing and promoting Christianity in your official capacity sends the message that you, as a U.S. representative, endorse the Christian faith."  

The FFRF also accused Miller of "grossly misrepresenting" the Establishment Clause and the intentions of the Founding Fathers in regard to separation of church and state.

The secular organization wants Miller to stop using his newsletter to promote his religious views.

It may be a moot point anyway, since Miller recently announced his intention to retire after a 16-year career in congress. The eight-term Republican said on March 9 he won't seek reelection in November, according to Politico. Republican leaders haven't settled on a candidate to replace Miller, but said they're confident the party will keep the district in the upcoming election.

Sources: Freedom From Religion Foundation, Politico / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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