Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is rejecting requests from a liberal group to remove the drawing of a cross outside the governor's mansion, asserting that the depiction is constitutional and also an expression of her family's faith.
The back-and-forth began on June 26, when Sanders, a Republican, posted a photo on social media of a chalk drawing made by her children on the pavement at the entrance of her governor's residence. The colorful chalk drawing resembled a stained-glass window with a cross at the center.
"New artwork to welcome people into the Governor's mansion!" Sanders wrote. "So proud of how hard the kids worked and how well their masterpiece turned out!"
Sanders' post sparked a letter from Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which claimed it had received a complaint about the artwork. The letter asserted that "promotion of one religion over others through a religious display at an entrance to the Mansion sends the impermissible message that those who do not share the favored faith are unwelcome and will be treated differently."
"The religious display at the entrance to the Arkansas Governor's Mansion violates the Establishment Clause because it sends a message that the Governor's office – and by extension, the state of Arkansas – favors one religion over others," Americans United said. "Such favoritism is unconstitutional."
Sanders, though, said in a follow-up letter that she would not remove the artwork.
"I have received your letter and my answer is no. I will not erase the beautiful cross my kids drew in chalk on the driveway of the Governor's Mansion or remove my post on social media, and I will not now or ever hide that I am a Christian, saved by Christ," Sanders wrote. "You are wrong to claim that our Constitution prevents public officials, let alone their families, from making earnest expressions of religious faith. Our founding documents are riddled with religious language – stating plainly that the very rights you claim to defend are 'endowed by our Creator.' You are asking me to ignore that truth and hide a crucial part of my identity and the identity of my kids. That, I will not do."
Dear @americansunited,— Sarah Huckabee Sanders (@SarahHuckabee) June 30, 2023
I have received your letter and my answer is no.
I will not erase the beautiful cross my kids drew in chalk on the driveway of the Governor’s Mansion or remove my post on social media, and I will not now or ever hide that I am a Christian.
My letter⬇️ https://t.co/cdt9vJsMUk pic.twitter.com/3pdur4Fdmj
Sanders added that "in Arkansas, we stand up to bullying liberals."
"We won't let you power-wash our kids' chalk drawings off our front steps," she wrote. "We won't let you tear down Christmas decorations and stomp our traditions into the dirt. We don't live our lives in fear of strongly worded letters coming down from Washington. I am offended by the implication that, just because I am a Christian, I am somehow a bigot. All people, of all faiths, are welcome in our state. All Arkansans are welcome in the Governor's Mansion. We are all citizens of this same great country – one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla/Staff
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.