Prairie Politics

Lawmakers may give themselves a permanent place to pray at Capitol

A painting of the Ark of the Covenant is on display in a room used for meditation in the Kansas Statehouse.
A painting of the Ark of the Covenant is on display in a room used for meditation in the Kansas Statehouse. The Wichita Eagle

Kansas lawmakers may establish an official meditation room in the Capitol, where they and others can go to pray.

The bill, if passed, would establish something that already exists. An open office on the second floor of the Capitol – the floor that houses the governor’s office – has already been set up as a mediation space by Gov. Sam Brownback.

Dave DePue, a close friend and spiritual adviser to Brownback, said the governor chose to lend the room for that purpose. The bill would ensure that “the next governor doesn’t make a smoking room out of it or something like that. Or grab it as an office and fill it with people.”

The bill will go before the House after being advanced by the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs on Thursday. Rep. Annie Tietze, D-Topeka, was the lone dissenting vote.

DePue said the mediation room gives lawmakers and other Statehouse employees a place to find respite during the long work hours of the legislative session.

“You can sit in your office, but there’s no privacy. And you can weep in the hallway, but there’s no privacy,” DePue said. “But this gives you just a place of respite where people can go if they’re stressed or they want to meet with another person or just pray or cry.”

DePue is the Statehouse’s unofficial chaplain. He is not a state employee, but is the director of Capitol Commission, a Christian group that places fulltime pastors in statehouses around the country. He can often be seen walking the hallways of the Capitol alongside the governor or lawmakers.

His website features a testimonial from Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast, R-Emporia, praising him as “our servant leader in the Capitol.”

Asked if the meditation room would be set up for a specific religion DePue replied, “It’s for everybody, so really one group shouldn’t do that,”

The room prominently features Judeo-Christian symbols, such as a painting depicting the Ark of the Covenant and another of Moses kneeling before the burning bush.

Reach Bryan Lowry at 785-296-3006 or blowry@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BryanLowry3.

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