Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal has been visiting churches across the state on the taxpayers’ dime. Actually, it’s worse than a dime. His trips have cost around $45,000:
Between March 2 and July 20, Jindal traveled to churches, mostly in north Louisiana, on a state helicopter at a cost to the taxpayers of about $45,000, according to State Police records.
In May, June and July, there was rarely a Sunday when Jindal did not fly a taxpayer-funded helicopter to church services in a remote part of the state. Two aides usually accompanied him along with his security detail and pilots.
The Governor’s Office refuses to tell the media ahead of time about Jindal’s church visits.
A video of one of the visits — posted on YouTube — shows that Jindal talks about the military, his family, his values and his conversion to Christianity.
This is entanglement of church and state. Jindal is not visiting churches on his own as a worshiper. He is making political speeches using government money — it’s illegal, pure and simple.
A few days ago, Rev. Welton Gaddy, a Baptist minister and head of the Interfaith Alliance, wrote Jindal a letter urging him to pay the state back:
If you were traveling to these churches to worship with the various congregations, you should have paid your own expenses to get there as did the other worshippers. If you were traveling to these churches for the purpose of sharing your personal faith and encouraging faith in others, state funds absolutely should not have been used to pay your expenses. Indeed, in that instance, your state-funded actions were a violation of the United States Constitution’s promise of religious freedom which has been a critical contributor to the vitality of religion in our nation. If you were traveling to these churches for political purposes, you should not have been there in the first place, regardless of who funded the travel.
Governor Jindal, it appears that you owe the people of Louisiana an apology and the treasurer of the state a reimbursement of at least $45,000 in addition to whatever money was spent in the period not covered by the Advocate’s investigation. No taxpayer money should have been used for your travel.
So how did Jindal’s spokesperson respond?
This political group [the Interfaith Alliance] opposes putting crosses up in honor of fallen policemen, has attacked the National Day of Prayer and advocates for same-sex marriage, so it’s not surprising that they are attacking the governor for accepting invitations to speak at Louisiana churches.
And that should settle the matter…
Or not, since it doesn’t even address the issue.
The Interfaith Alliance was against the Religious Right hijacking of the Day of Prayer, not that people shouldn’t pray. Their stance on gay marriage is that gay couples should be eligible for the same rights as straight couples, not that churches should be forced to perform gay marriage ceremonies. And no one is upset that Jindal accepted invitations to speak at churches. The issues are that he only seems to speak at churches and he used state funds to do it.
Rachel Maddow had Gaddy on her show last night to talk about the issue:
I doubt Jindal has any intention to pay the money back, and in his mind, he thinks what he did was perfectly fine.
That’s a problem.
This is why Jindal has no right aspiring to higher office as a potential Republican presidential candidate. This is why residents of the state should be demanding his resignation. It’s disgusting that any politician would be doing anything like this.
(Thanks to Hector for the link!)