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South Dakota Legislature tackles Christian marks in Capitol

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — South Dakota lawmakers can adorn their workplace with a crucifix, however they will’t pound the nail into the state Capitol’s wall, a legislative oversight board clarified on Tuesday as a part of a coverage regulating how spiritual symbols can mark the state’s seat of presidency.

The Legislature’s Government Board took up the problem after two Republican lawmakers stained 5 chairs in a Capitol assembly room with oil as they marked chairs with crosses forward of a gathering final month to elect caucus leaders. It took the Capitol’s groundskeepers about three hours to wash, however 5 chairs had been left barely discolored.

The manager board appeared content material with the lawmakers, who weren’t named, protecting the $79.80 in wages for the time spent cleansing the chairs. No less than one offender expressed remorse on the choice to mark the chairs, mentioned Republican state Sen. Lee Schoenbeck, who chairs the chief board.

However the episode — which got here alongside a rift within the Republican caucus between moderates and a right-wing — additionally raised questions on who had entry to the Statehouse rooms the place legal guidelines are shaped and to what diploma lawmakers, usually compelled by their Christian convictions, can go away a mark within the Capitol.

Republican state Rep. Sue Peterson instructed The Dakota Scout that she marked chairs with oil crosses as an act of prayer earlier than final month’s Republican caucus assembly. She mentioned many lawmakers usually pray as they craft state legal guidelines.

Peterson didn’t instantly reply to a request for touch upon the brand new coverage.

Schoenbeck proposed a coverage that instructs lawmakers they “might not mark on or injury in any trend the actual or private property of the Residents’ Capitol.” And in the event that they need to “modify” their workspaces, they need to make a request to the state company that maintains the constructing.

“There’s a crucifix in my workplace, and I’m not the one who kilos the nail within the Capitol to hold it,” Schoenbeck mentioned, giving an instance of how lawmakers ought to stroll the road between permitting spiritual expression whereas respecting the century-old constructing.

Lawmakers have lengthy been comfy with an environment imbued with Christianity. They bow their heads in prayer earlier than beginning every session, dozens present as much as the Capitol with their foreheads marked by crosses on Ash Wednesday and the Bible is typically invoked throughout invoice debates.

However Schoenbeck additionally mentioned it was necessary to make clear how First Modification rights are revered on authorities property. He mentioned if one spiritual group is given area for expression, some other group must be granted entry as properly.

The board’s coverage establishes a course of by which legislators and residents can request to make use of one of many Capitol’s assembly rooms if it complies with the Legislature’s work and insurance policies. Residents would wish to make a $500 deposit.

Schoenbeck mentioned he hopes folks will pause to consider the historical past of the constructing: “Individuals don’t step again and take into consideration, we’re simply passing via this place.”

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