Montana Legislative Sermon Signals a New Push for God in Legislatures

In a lot of respects, 2014 was a pretty awful year when it came to a separation of church and state. The Supreme Court made rulings in favor of employers being allowed to forbid birth control coverage if they had a religious objection to the medication, and in favor of Judeo-Christian prayer at the start of public legislative session. Candidates are campaigning in churches, legislatures are ruling the Bible the state book, and schools are allowing baptisms on the football field.

Unfortunately, 2015 could be even worse, if the state of Montana is any indicator. In preparation for the 2015 legislative session, a Sunday sermon was held on the steps of the capitol, the fifth year such an event had taken place. For this year’s benediction the sermon was given by Pastor Matt Trewhella, a Wisconsin based dominonist who preaches the doctrine of the “lesser magistrate,” an idea that if God’s teachings and federal law are in conflict, a person has a right to refuse to follow federal law.

Trewhella, well known for his incendiary anti-abortion views and belief in traditional roles for males and females, as well as his abhorance of homosexuality, put his own views into practice repeatedly in the 1990s as the leader of Missionaries to the Pre-Born, where he blocked abortion clinic doors in attempts to stop patients from entering the building. He was among a handful of “rescue” movement members who defended the actions of Paul Hill, the man who murdered an abortion provider in the mid 1990s, and signed on to Hill’s 1993 letter stating that murder of abortion providers is a justifiable act in the defense of the unborn.

None of these issues appeared to be a concern to a number of the Montana Republicans who appeared at the sermon with Trewhella, many of whom replied to the criticism by either stating that they weren’t that familiar with his views or that as long as he didn’t advocate violence at the Capitol, he had a right to his free speech, according to the Montana Independent Record.

The legislators questioned may not have been familiar with his views, but they eagerly embraced his idea of legislating solely based on Judeo-Christian principles when they go back into session. “The message was clear despite the muddling acoustics in the statehouse rotunda Sunday; some want Montana legislators to stand up to the federal government and install or, if you prefer, bring Christian strictures back as the guiding principles in civil government,” reported Terrence Corrigan at the Independent Record. He added that, “Everyone who spoke made it clear that they wanted to invite God back into the statehouse and the God they meant was the Christian God. The audience seemed in perfect alignment with the hosts and speakers, many expressing their agreement vocally — ‘amen’ — with the speakers when they hit their most strident views.”

Not all Montanans were onboard with the call to biblical law or the idea of using the Capitol steps to push for principles that take rights and opportunities away from women, the LGBT community and other people who don’t hold the solid powers of the patriarchy. As a protest, the Montana Human Rights Network hosted an alternate event to “talk about dignity, equality, and safety for community members,” and combat the “divisive” views coming from Trewhella’s event.

Legislative prayer sessions, religious events and a call to return to Biblical law are becoming increasingly commonplace in our state legislatures, and a growing number of “hate” preachers are being offered a public podium to share their views in a way that appears to be legislatively endorsed. In 2011, one Minnesota legislator brought in a similar incendiary preacher to address the session by offering the opening prayer. During his prayer, Bradlee Dean, an anti-LGBT, far right wing activist who advocates returning Jesus to the public schools, used his speech to declare that the President wasn’t a Christian.

Trewella is only the latest theocracy-pushing preacher to be brought in to talk to legislators, and if those who support Biblical law in the statehouses have their way, he represents a push to make this trend continue. As one Ohio writer at the Examiner points out in his own coverage of the event, all it takes is a willing activist in another state to continue the process. “What then is stopping Ohio, Akron, Canton, Summit or Stark Counties, or any other of the surrounding governmental jurisdictions from restoring this great American tradition?” he writes. “It is only the lack of someone with the vision to restore this great land to its former greatness, by restoring it to its former goodness, under the authority of Jesus Christ, who will take up the task to organize such an event for local lesser magistrates. It would be beautiful to see an Ohio Election Day Sermon promoted on the Project Liberty Tree web site in the next two years. Thank you Helena for your example.”

Now the question to ask is will the sermon or the call upon local legislatures to put God and the Bible first have any effect on the legislation passed in Montana in 2015? For that, we will have to watch and see.

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven1 years ago

thanks for the article.

Sue H.
Sue H3 years ago

This makes me Very glad that I do not live in Montana. But it's worrisome because it might be contagious. :(

William Eaves
William Eaves3 years ago

Crazy nutcases. Why on earth in this day and age would anyone want to base laws based upon a poorly written fantasy novel.

Regus Slantei
Regus Slantei3 years ago

Karen H. says "Not sure where people get the idea America is a Christian country."

That bit of partisan-baited propaganda is driven like nails, daily, into the empty heads of rightwingers by their media masters. These masters know that their media slaves are weak, intellectually infirm people who have proven to be too lazy and cowardly to deal with reality and too stupid to think for themselves.

Read more:

Regus Slantei
Regus Slantei3 years ago

Adam S. -- Whatever meds you are taking are not working. Seek help, otherwise you need to look to Freddy R. and Jacob R. for a picture of the sad end-state of your disease. That level of garbled rightwing stupidity is hardboiled and hardwon, thru a veil of attempted therapy and endless prescriptions for mind-numbing drugs.

Bill Eagle
Bill Eagle3 years ago

If we go "back to biblical law" does that mean that we will have to live according to the rules in Leviticus?
Even Jesus spoke against biblical literalism.
Our Constitution says that there should be no religious test for public Office. The treaty of Tripoli that was passed during the Adams administration states: “As the Government of the United states…is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Musselmen—and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.”
Thomas Jefferson’s words, “A wall of separation between church and state.” and if you take time to check you will find no mention of "God" anywhere in our Constitution.

Winn Adams
Winn Adams3 years ago


Sharon Tyson
sharon Tyson3 years ago

We are turning into a theocracy and that is not a good thing for democracy.

Karen H.
Karen H3 years ago

Freddy R, religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution, but NO religion is specified. The IRS grants non-profit status as a religion under section 501(c)(3) of the tax code. ALL religions are permitted in the U.S. and the government goes out of its way to leave them alone as long as they're law-abiding. That includes Scientology and the Church of Satan.
Not sure where people get the idea America is a Christian country. Maybe the pilgrims--who were fleeing from religious oppression and then oppressed others once they got here.
The Native Americans were here following their religious beliefs long before the Europeans brought Christianity to our shores.

Donnie H.
Donnie H3 years ago

The christian cult intends to force everyone to live by their fanatic beliefs, and enslave women again. They plan to take away our human rights and force us to be fetus factories. They consider women no better then the cattle that are kept for breeding. Republican men think they own women's crotches and can dictate what health care a women can and can't have. They wouldn't tolerate anyone telling them what they can or can't do with their penises. And that they can't have viagra, or other erectile disfunction treatments. A double-standard for sure. Women need to protest, march, riot if necessary, to get human civil rights for themselves. It works for other people who are fighting for human rights, so maybe it will for women, too. And, people need to come out in force when there are elections, and vote these delusional republican dictators out of office, for 'our' own good.