The lieutenant governor of Alabama is in trouble with an atheist group after urging his social media followers to pray for it.
Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth posted on Facebook and Twitter Oct. 2 a faith-themed message about Blount County (Ala.) Sheriff Mark Moon, who was being criticized by the Freedom From Religion Foundation for promoting and hosting a prayer vigil.
Ainsworth linked to a story about Moon and wrote, “An anti-religion group is trying to make Blount County’s sheriff abandon a prayer vigil. Don't they know Alabama's motto is ‘We Dare Defend Our Rights’?”
Ainsworth then added, “Join me in praying for the sheriff and asking God to touch the hearts of the misguided FFRF lawyers.”
An anti-religion group is trying to make Blount County’s sheriff abandon a prayer vigil. Don't they know Alabama's motto is “We Dare Defend Our Rights”? Join me in praying for the sheriff and asking God to touch the hearts of the misguided FFRF lawyers.https://t.co/BHRoIwsQhG— Will Ainsworth (@willainsworthAL) October 2, 2019
Now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is targeting Ainsworth for asking his followers to pray for Moon and the FFRF.
The organization sent a letter to Ainsworth, asserting his comment was unconstitutional.
“As lieutenant governor, you represent a diverse population that consists of not only Christians, but also minority religious and nonreligious citizens,” FFRF attorney Chris Line wrote. “Religious endorsements made in your official capacity send a message that excludes the 24 percent of American adults who identify as nonreligious, including 38 percent of Millennials and younger Americans. Religious endorsements coming from your office needlessly alienate the non-Christian and nonreligious citizens you represent, turning them into political outsiders in their own community.”
Ainsworth’s Twitter bio reads: “Devoted husband, father, farmer, businessman, and outdoorsman. Christian, Conservative Republican Lt. Governor of Alabama.”
FFRF insists that “to uphold” his obligation “under the constitution to remain neutral” on “matters of religion” while acting in his official capacity, Ainsworth “must not use his official social media accounts to encourage citizens to pray.”
“Government officials can worship, pray or quote any religious text they wish when acting in their personal capacities,” Line wrote. “But they are not permitted to provide prestige to their personal religion by lending a government office and government title to religious ideology. Their offices and titles belong to ‘We the people,’ not the offices’ temporary occupants.”
Ainsworth has been outspoken about his faith. In an April statement saying he would not run for U.S. Senate, Ainsworth said he reached the decision “after deep discussions with my wife, Kendall, and prayerful guidance from above.”
Michael Foust is a freelance writer. Visit his blog, MichaelFoust.com.
Photo courtesy: Will Ainsworth Facebook
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, The Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.