Christianity a strong theme during Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s inauguration

Gov. Sam Brownback, who proudly wears his religious faith on both sleeves, declared the day of his inauguration a “gift from God” not to be frittered away.

“Let us treat it appropriately,” he said during his speech Monday to a packed crowed in the Kansas House chamber. “Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow never does come. Today is our masterpiece. We have been placed here for a reason and a short season. Let us make the most of it.”

Expressions of Christian faith were plentiful throughout the Capitol as people marked transfer of governance to new executive branch members and a fresh cadre of people serving in the Kansas Legislature. These public activities parallel emergence in Kansas politics of social conservatives intent on making faith a more robust pillar of government.

Brownback said faith would help the state grapple with economic and social problems in a way reminiscent of the way abolitionists denouncing slavery prevailed to “end the original sin in America.”

In the Statehouse, the Old Supreme Court room was reserved for prayer and joyful celebration of the Lord. Musicians entertained people seeking divine guidance. The program was sponsored by Capitol Commission, a ministry working in more than a dozen states, in conjunction with the Kansas Family Policy Council and Concerned Women for America.

“We’ve come together to pray for our legislators,” said Denise Cochran, a Topeka member of the organization of conservative women.

Brad Johnston, pastor at Reformed Presbyterian Church in Topeka, said more Christians were called to be politically active. The goal is to remain nonpartisan while urging civility and integrity of government leaders, he said.

“God is present here,” Johnston said. “There is a moral dimension to everything that goes on in this building.”

Central targets of the holy message — 165 members of the Kansas Legislature — are generally loathe to challenge anyone spreading a message of tolerance and compassion. There is, however, a line some lawmakers believe shouldn’t be crossed.

“I’m a person of faith,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka. “I do think you need to have a separation of church and state.”

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, concurred.

“It’s appropriate on a day like today to ask for prayer,” Davis said. “I think people should find religion. The state shouldn’t be forcing people to do that.”

The House and Senate, which begin each regular work day with prayer, held with tradition. Sen. Dick Kelsey, R-Goddard, prayed for a special blessing for Sen. Vicki Schmidt, a Topeka Republican, as her father battles a serious illness.

Brownback had Dave Mugler, dean of agriculture at Kansas State University when the governor was a student, offer the invocation at the inaugural. Mugler sought “wisdom and discernment” for Brownback.

Brownback included in his speech thoughts of Arthur Capper, Kansas governor from 1915 to 1919 and U.S. senator from 1919 to 1949: “Let us, in Capper’s words, ‘do our part, be it large or small, in making the world a little cleaner, a little more decent, a little happier, a little more God-like.'”