Weekly Bible study classes are being held at the White House, and some Trump administration officials — including Vice President Pence, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — join when they are in town, according to a story on the Christian Broadcasting Network. (See video below.)
The classes are led by Ralph Drollinger, founder of D.C.-based Capitol Ministries, which lists the following as its mission on its website:
The BHAG (Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal) of Capitol Ministries is to deliver the Gospel to every public servant, in every capitol every year! Since our founding in 1996 our vision has not changed: to evangelize elected officials and lead them toward maturity in Christ. We stay away from politics and concentrate on the hearts of leaders. Our above purpose statement reflects this.
Drollinger also leads twice-weekly Bible study classes on Capitol Hill for members of the House and Senate, according to the ministries’ website:
Capitol Ministries, which has planted Bible studies in 40 state Capitols and 24 foreign nations, has a mission to take the Gospel of Jesus Christ to political leaders around the world.
CBN reported that DeVos, Sessions, CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, and Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price have been among the participants, and that President Trump has been invited and receives a copy of each week’s Bible lesson. It quoted Drollinger as saying: “It’s the best Bible study that I’ve ever taught in my life. They are so teachable. They’re so noble. They’re so learned.”
There was no immediate response to queries about this from the White House, the vice president’s office or the Education, or Health and Human Services departments. A CIA spokesman said he could not comment. A Justice Department spokesperson said Sessions does attend the White House Bible study sessions when he is in town. Drollinger did not immediately return phone calls. The website of his ministries says this on its media contact page:
Privacy Notice: Please note that it is the strict policy of Capitol Ministries not to comment on any Public Servant who is involved with our organization. We protect the privacy of all who attend our Bible studies.
Drollinger was quoted as saying this about Sessions: “He’ll go out the same day I teach him something and I’ll see him do it on camera and I just think, ‘Wow, these guys are faithful, available and teachable,’ and they’re at Bible study every week they’re in town.”
This is not the first time Bible study classes have been held in the White House. In the administration of former president George W. Bush, some White House staff members held weekly prayer and Bible study sessions, and during that administration, John Ashcroft held daily Bible studies at the Justice Department when he was attorney general.
There are no rules against studying the Bible in a federal building, though the U.S. government issued rules in 1997, titled “Guidelines on Religious Exercise and Religious Expression in the Federal Workplace,” that stresses the importance of supervisors being careful not to press employees into participating in any way.
“Because supervisors have the power to hire, fire or promote, employees may reasonably perceive their supervisors’ religious expression as coercive, even if it was not intended as such,” the guidelines say. “Therefore, supervisors should be careful to ensure that their statements and actions are such that employees do not perceive any coercion … and should, where necessary, take appropriate steps to dispel such misperceptions.”
Trump has had strong support from the country’s evangelical community. A few weeks ago, a photo was made public showing some evangelical leaders laying hands on Trump in the Oval Office as he bowed in prayer.
(Update: Adding comment from Justice)