The branch of a national group that advocates prayer in state Capitols has called for prayers for Kansas' "dark spiritual areas" which include large Democratic concentrations.
Dave DePue, the head of Kansas affiliate Capitol Commission, in a letter distributed Feb. 7 requested prayers for several of the heaviest Democratic areas of the state. The document distributed by DePue was made public Tuesday night by several Democratic legislators and first reported by the Wichita Eagle that evening.
"Target prayer for dark spiritual areas of SE Kansas, Lawrence, KCKS, North Johnson County," DePue wrote. The areas mentioned by DePue are among the most Democratic in the state and have Democratic legislators.
The document included notes on prayer for legislators with health issues, along with prayer for Gov. Sam Brownback's (R) initiatives on child poverty and obesity.
The Capitol Commission is a national group seeking to place pastors in each state Capitol. The group is currently in 21 states, primarily in the South and Midwest.
DePue leads regular prayer breakfasts for state legislators in a conference room in the governor's office. Last year, the Topeka Capitol-Journal reported that he said a prayer for journalists at a Brownback staffer's request.
DePue did not return a call from The Huffington Post, but told the Wichita Eagle on Tuesday evening that he was not trying to single out Democrats and their spirituality. He said he was asking for prayer in order to boost the economic prosperity of the regions.
“It’s just unfortunate wording on my part,” DePue told the Wichita Eagle.
Democrats from the areas singled out by DePue are upset and do not believe his explanation.
"Between Wichita and southeast Kansas, we produce more clergy than any other area and we're a dark area?" House Minority Whip Julie Menghini (D-Pittsburg) told HuffPost. "Why would you call it a spiritually dark area? You can say it's economically dark and I'd buy that."
Douglas County Democratic Party Chairwoman Margie Wakefield told HuffPost that she believes that under Brownback "even prayer is partisan." She urged DePue instead to pray for "Kansas leaders with basic common sense."
State Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence) told HuffPost that the prayer request upset him due to his involvement in Plymouth Congregational Church, the oldest church in the state. Wilson said he would like to know who requested the prayer and why they consider the regions "spiritually dark."
Wilson said religion has taught him to help others, noting that he wants to use government to end child poverty and expand social services in the state. He said there is more lawmakers can do than pray to end child poverty.
"I believe prayer is a powerful thing," he said. "I also think that prayer in conjunction with good work is powerful. We don't have to wait for prayer to address child poverty. We can do something as legislators now."