- Associated Press - Saturday, January 31, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas would protect a room set aside in its Statehouse for prayer and meditation from being converted to another use under a measure advancing in the Legislature.

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports (https://bit.ly/1JQySJQ ) that the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill to designate the set-aside second-floor space as the Capitol Meditation Room so that it remains as it is permanently. The measure goes next to the House for debate.

Legislators considered - but didn’t approve - a proposal in 2012 to create an all-faiths chapel. Gov. Sam Brownback then stepped in, making available a room that had been assigned to his staff.

The room now has soft chairs and low-light lamps.

“This isn’t what I’d consider a novel idea,” said Rep. Brett Hildabrand, a Shawnee Republican.

But the room’s furnishings have raised questions about whether the space is really non-sectarian.

As of Tuesday, the room contained paintings that depicted Jesus and George Washington praying, as well a painting of the Old Testament prophet Moses kneeling before the burning bush. Another painting showed the Ark of the Covenant, holy to the ancient Jews and often said to contain the original Ten Commandments.

The painting of Jesus was removed by Wednesday.

But as of Thursday, a bookcase in the room contained copies of “America’s War on Christianity” and “What Makes God Cry the Most: Things You Really Should Know About Abortion” along with other books. There also was a New King James edition of the Bible.

“There were no other holy books,” said Rep. Annie Tietze, a Topeka Democrat who voted against the bill. “We represent the state of Kansas and many people of different beliefs. The Capitol is the peoples’ building and we should represent them.”

But House committee Chairman Steve Brunk, a Wichita Republican, said the Statehouse is laden with religious art and symbolism. For example, a second-floor mural of fiery abolitionist John Brown shows him holding a Bible, while angels are part of ceiling paintings.

“The room really has been open to anybody who wants to come in,” Brunk said. “We’re not naming it the Come To Jesus Room.”



Bill designating meditation room: https://bit.ly/1uH7mWg


Information from: The Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal, https://www.cjonline.com

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