Congressional Freethought Caucus

Freethought Caucus commended for challenging House invite to Christian nationalist preacher 

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The FFRF Action Fund stands firmly with Congressional Freethought Caucus members who are demanding an explanation from the House Speaker and Chaplain for their decision to appoint Jack Hibbs, a well-known homophobic and Christian nationalist speaker, as a guest House chaplain. 

The signatories also questioned why Rep. Mark Pocan’s request for Freedom From Religion Foundation Co-President Dan Barker to serve as a guest chaplain has been ignored. FFRF Action Fund calls on the House Chaplain Margaret Kibben to immediately approve Barker as a House guest chaplain to show goodwill to dispel the ill-feeling caused due to the scheduling of Hibbs despite the breaking of House rules.

The letter from the Congressional Freethought Caucus, which represents 21 House members and works to promote secular government among other goals, closely details Hibbs’ history of support for the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, his outspoken anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, antisemitism, Islamophobia and advocacy against the separation of state and church. After documenting Hibbs’ role on election denialism, including attending the rally preceding the insurrection, the letter notes: “Three years after the insurrection, we were alarmed to see Hibbs leading a prayer on the House floor. Although by his standards the message was measured, he nonetheless directed every member to pray to Jesus Christ and nodded to the Christian nationalist belief that the Constitution is God’s ‘great gift to all freedom loving people.’”

The caucus also called out the fact that Speaker Mike Johnson and Kibben failed to meet the House criteria for guest chaplains. Hibbs was not sponsored by a House member from his district, there was no welcoming speech by the sponsoring member, the prayer was incorrectly timed and exceeded the allowed frequency of guest chaplain invitations permitted within the timeframe.

By contrast, FFRF’s Barker, who retains a ministerial ordination, is fully qualified for the role. His nomination by his representative, Mark Pocan, and his consistent promotion of ideas that are “mindful of diversity,” “transcend petty differences,” and “express a common aspiration to a just and peaceful society” (to quote guest chaplain criteria) starkly contrast with Hibbs’ divisive record.

“We cannot thank Rep. Huffman and his colleagues enough for calling out Speaker Johnson and Rev. Kibben on their hypocrisy, for ignoring Hibbs’ chilling history of Christian nationalism and even the House’s own rules on guest chaplains,” says Annie Laurie Gaylor, FFRF co-president. She added that the selection of a House guest chaplain should reflect a commitment to diversity, inclusion and the constitutional separation of church and state.

FFRF issued a statement the day after Hibbs’ prayer, calling him a “vengeful zealot” and saying his remarks had debased the U.S. House. No openly identified nonbeliever has ever been invited to give the opening invocation before Congress.

The FFRF Action Fund is a 501(c)(4) organization that develops and advocates for legislation, regulations, and government programs to preserve the constitutional principle of separation between state and church. It also advocates for the rights and views of nonbelievers, endorses candidates for political office, and publicizes the views of elected officials concerning religious liberty issues. The Action Fund serves as the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legislative and lobbying arm.