Home Christian News Freethought Democrats Object to Pastor Jack Hibbs as Guest Chaplain, Say He’s...

Freethought Democrats Object to Pastor Jack Hibbs as Guest Chaplain, Say He’s Christian Nationalist

Jack Hibbs
Pastor Jack Hibbs speaks at Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in California. (Video screen grab)

WASHINGTON (RNS) — Members of the Congressional Freethought Caucus, a group which advocates advocate for separation of church and state, and other House Democrats are speaking out against Speaker Mike Johnson’s sponsorship of a controversial pastor as a guest chaplain and accusing Johnson of importing a radical brand of Christian faith into the House.

On Thursday (Feb. 15), 26 lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Jared Huffman of California, sent a letter to Johnson and the House Chaplain’s Office expressing outrage that Jack Hibbs, pastor of Calvary Chapel Chino Hills in California, was allowed to deliver the House’s opening prayer on Jan. 30, in an appearance sponsored by Johnson, who is an evangelical Christian.

The letter raised questions as to why Hibbs was approved as a guest chaplain at all, given that the pastor lives in California, not in Johnson’s Louisiana district.

“He was violating the guidelines by bringing in someone who wasn’t even his constituent,” Huffman told Religion News Service.

“Pastor Hibbs is a radical Christian Nationalist who helped fuel the January 6th insurrection and has a long record of spewing hateful vitriol toward non-Christians, immigrants, and members of the LGBTQ community,” read the letter.

The Freethought Caucus and other liberal members have been wary of Johnson, who formerly served as a lawyer for a conservative legal group. Some have expressed concern that he could use his position to further conservative Christian and Christian nationalist causes.

“We know that some of these hate preachers were very involved in inciting people to attend on January 6, and giving them a religious permission structure that contributed to the violence,” Huffman told Religion News Service. “To now have those people not only have zero accountability for what they said and did … but to be given the prestige of a congressional invocation … should be alarming to people who care about this threat to our democracy, as well as the continuing attack on church-state separation.”

The letter detailed a long list of Hibbs’ inflammatory statements throughout his career, including his suggestion that Islam is used by Satan as a “vehicle” to bring about the Last Days; that a “true Jew” is one who worships Jesus; and that transgender people are part of a “sexually perverted cult.”

Hibbs gave voice to a Christian vision of the country’s future in his prayer before Congress, calling on God to bestow wisdom on lawmakers present because a “coming day of judgment draws near when all who have been and are now in authority will answer to you, the great judge of heaven and of Earth.”

Hibbs, a well-known figure in conservative political circles, frequently hosts conversations with Charlie Kirk, founder of Turning Point USA, a right-wing advocacy group that has sought to enlist pastors in its efforts to push conservative political views. Kirk, in turn, has championed Hibbs, and the pastor has often appeared on radio programs with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

The lawmakers pointed to remarks Hibbs delivered to his congregation days before the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol attack, that “there is no president-elect,” referring to Joe Biden’s win in the 2020 election. Hibbs, who participated in the pro-Trump rally that day but did not go to the Capitol, told Perkins, “This is what you get when you eject God from the courts and from the schools,” according to NPR.

In addition to Huffman, the signers of the letter include U.S. Reps. Jamie Raskin of Maryland, Pramila Jayapal of Washington, Jan Schakowsky of Illinois, Jerrold Nadler of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and Rosa L. DeLauro of Connecticut. The signers represented Christians, Muslims, Jews and secular humanists.