State Capitol Chaplain Faces Criticism

2/28/2008 Fresno Ralph Drollinger holds a weekly Bible study for lawmakers in Sacramento, sponsored by Clovis Assemblyman Mike Villines. Drollinger recently wrote that another non-denominational Bible study at the capitol was disgusting to God. Villines says he disagrees with Drollinger's comment, but has no intention of cutting his ties with the pastor.

Clovis Assemblyman Mike Villines was one of one two people who attended Wednesday's weekly Bible study with Ralph Drollinger. The gathering was much smaller than usual after Drollinger blogged that religious tolerance and the work of another non-denominational group were offensive to God.

Drollinger wrote, "Although they are pleasant men in their personal demeanor, their group is more than disgusting to our lord and savior."

After Wednesday's Bible study, Drollinger refused to talk about his comments and instead deferred to a spokesperson. Sean Wallentine of Capitol Ministries said, "Unfortunately there are Christian groups in the Capitol, one specifically, that we believe is watering down the gospel and making people feel like Jesus is okay with them because they believe other things. We just believe that's clearly inappropriate."

"Inappropriate" is the same word Assemblyman Mike Villines used to describe Drollinger's comments. Villines said the other Bible study group also does important work, "Those are my friends those are people who believe in Christ and are working toward it. Those are people who are different faiths and want to learn more I encourage that. I think it's a good thing to do. So I was very uncomfortable with the comments."

The comments were also called deplorable and offensive by Jewish state senator Darrell Steinberg, "He needs to know that the community and its leadership is always going to respond."

This isn't the first time Drollinger's comments have caused controversy. In 2004, female lawmakers wore aprons to work in protest after Drollinger said women lawmakers who left their children at home were sinners.

Still, Assemblyman Villines says Bible studies like Drollinger's are necessary and has no plans to stop sponsoring the group. "Legislators need a place to get away, be quiet, for fellowship, and a place to do that. I want to make sure we continue to do that."

Drollinger has held Bible studies at the capitol for more than a decade and is paid by the non-profit Capitol Ministries. Though Steinberg and Villines said Drollinger's comments were inappropriate, they both pointed out we all have a right to free speech.

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