An 80-hour Bible-reading marathon begins at 8 a.m. today outside every county courthouse in the state. Karen Brownlee has been organizing the volunteer readers who will be on the Des Moines County Courthouse lawn in Burlington.
“We have two-hour teams that come in read for a two-hour period and then another team will take over at that point,” Brownlee says. “The plan is to continue 24 hours a day, so in the evening we will switch to an indoor setting, the House of Prayer, which is just to the left of city hall.”
This scene will be replicated in each of Iowa’s 99 counties. Organizers estimate it takes 79 hours to read the Bible aloud, at a “pastoral” pace, from the first chapter of Genesis to the end of Revelations. Brownlee says they hope to complete their task in each county by 6 p.m. on Sunday, July 3.
“We wanted to just share the hope that is given in the Bible for our land right before America’s birthday,” Brownlee says.
Governor Terry Branstad signed a proclamation in April, encouraging Iowans to take part in the event. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Freedom from Religion Foundation have raised constitutional concerns, arguing the government should be “neutral” toward religion. The “First Liberty Institute” has said it will defend Branstad if he is sued over the matter.
A lawsuit challenging President Barack Obama’s proclamation declaring a “National Day of Prayer” each year was tossed out by a federal appeals court in 2011.