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Freedom From Religion wants Parson to apologize for ‘Christian values’ tweet

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A national organization promoting nontheism has asked Gov. Mike Parson to apologize and remove a tweet regarding the fight over his pick to lead the health department

The governor announced Tuesday that he had accepted the resignation of Donald Kauerauf as the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) director after the Senate declined to confirm him. Parson defended Kauerauf from accusations that he was for COVID-19 vaccine and mask mandates and not pro-life enough. 

“Missourians know that I share these beliefs and would not have nominated someone who does not share the same Christian values,” Parson said on social media and in a press release. 

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the governor a letter this week asking for him to apologize and remove the tweet. 

“We share your frustration and agree the Senate acted in a ‘disgraceful’ manner by capitulating to an anti-vaccination fringe and commend you for saying so publicly. Government officials denying science have interfered with the country’s ability to combat a deadly global pandemic for two years now,” Annie Laurie Gaylor and Dan Barker, co-presidents of the organization, said. 

“However, in your tweet in question, you needlessly and inappropriately inserted religion into the discussion of whether or not Kauerauf should have been confirmed. You imply that only Christians are fit to serve in Missouri as public officials or appointed officials,” they continued. “Additionally, you appear to be saying that sharing your same Christian beliefs is a prerequisite to be appointed to a high-level position in your state. This is unacceptable coming from your secular office.”

Barker and Gaylor asked the governor to apologize to “non-Christian Missourians for the implication they are unfit for government office.” 

On social media, Republican Rep. Adam Schwadron said: “I’m curious, governor, is this a standard you traditionally use? Article IV of the US Constitution strictly prohibits a religious test as a qualification to any office or public trust. Considering that, I then must ask the question. Would someone who is Jewish, such as myself, be considered for nomination?” 

Kauerauf resigned as the DHSS director just hours after a conservative senator launched a filibuster in opposition of his nomination. The filibuster, coupled with a looming snowstorm, forced the Senate to approve Parson’s other appointees and adjourn without confirming Kauerauf ahead of a Friday deadline. 

“The events that have transpired over the past few days surrounding Don’s Senate confirmation hearing are nothing short of disgraceful, unquestionably wrong, and an embarrassment to this state and the people we serve,” Parson said. 

“Throughout this process, more care was given to political gain than the harm caused to a man and his family,” Parson continued. “Don is a devoted public servant who did not deserve this, and Missourians deserve better. I pray that honor, integrity, and order can be returned to the Missouri Senate and that it comes sooner rather than later.” 

Richard Moore, who has served as general counsel for DHSS, has taken over as acting director of the department. In a news release, the Governor’s Office said Parson “will further evaluate the state’s options in the coming days.”