A photo of Jared Deck titled Secularist of the Week and A photo of Micheal Lemelin labeled theocrat of the week.

‘Theocrat’ claims mass shooting was God’s punishment while ‘secularist’ criticizes chaplain-in-school bill  

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FFRF Action Fund’s “Secularist of the Week” is an Oklahoma state representative who’s pointed out the unchecked constitutional problems in the push to install chaplains in public schools nationwide. Meanwhile, our “Theocrat of the Week” is a Maine representative who blamed mass shootings on God’s wrath over legislation that protects state healthcare workers who provide abortion and gender-affirming care.

During a floor debate, Maine state Rep. Michael Lemelin, representing the state’s 88th district, spoke out against a “shield bill” that would protect Maine providers from legal action for helping out-of-state patients receiving abortion or gender-affirming care in Maine. In his distasteful comments, Lemelin claimed that the bill came from “Lucifer himself,” while also calling abortion “murder” and saying “transgender is a slap in God’s face.” Lemelin professed that God “draws a line in the sand and when we cross that line there’s consequences” to immoral activity.

Lemelin then addressed a Maine law that extended the period in which doctors are allowed to perform medically necessary abortions. The timeframe was extended past the prior viability cutoff, around 24 weeks. The law took effect on Oct. 25, the same day as a horrific mass shooting in Lewiston, killing 18 people and injuring 13 others. Lemelin connected the two by saying, “God heard you, and the horrible events on Oct. 25 happened.” After state Rep. Shelley Rudnicki stood up to agree with Lemelin, the House admirably voted unanimously to censure them both. The “shield bill” passed the Democratic-led chamber 80-70. 

Speaking up for the separation of state and church in the Oklahoma Legislature and against theocratic, reckless legislation to replace qualified counselors with chaplains is Oklahoma state Rep. Jared Deck, representing the 44th District. Deck posted on X: “Today in Gen Gov, we heard a bill to allow ‘chaplains’ in schools. The term and its duties are not defined at all. This basically allows anyone off the streets into our schools.” In another post, Deck added, “The bill not only flies in the face of church/state, but it is also a slap in the face to school professionals who endure years of education and certification to do their job. #OklahomansDeserveBetter.”

Oklahoma state Rep. Kevin West had “shucked” an unrelated bill, SB 36, removing the bill’s language entirely and replacing it with language permitting unlicensed chaplains to take over counselor duties in public schools — a maneuver that avoided committee deadlines. 

At the bill’s hearing, Deck pushed back by saying, “Nothing in this bill provides any framework for any kind of education basis, any kind of training. Anyone can go right now and get certified to be a chaplain. I don’t think we should put just anyone in our public schools.” Unfortunately, the bill passed through the committee with a 6-2 vote.  FFRF Action Fund and its advocates will continue to fight this bill and similar legislation introduced in several states.

“We’re thankful to legislators like Deck who understand that our public schools should remain secular, with certified educators, administrators and counselors,” says FFRF Action Fund President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We’re also grateful to the Maine House for refusing to tolerate the indecorous ranting of Christian nationalists.”

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.