Facebook users attacked Rep. Mike Bost, R-Ill., for a post about his hand-delivering a bag of prayer cards to President Donald Trump nearly a year ago, apparently believing it was Bost’s response to the Florida high school shooting.
Those faulting Bost on Facebook said the bag of prayer cards—cards with handwritten prayers and passages from the Bible—was “ridiculous” and “offensive” to the families and friends of those killed or wounded in the Feb. 14 massacre in Parkland, Florida.
But it turns out the White House photo actually was taken 10 months ago.
The post on Bost’s Facebook account mentions his wife Tracy and reads:
Those who criticized the Facebook post, whether Bost’s constituents or not, seemingly thought it and the photo were a response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, which left 17 dead and at least 14 wounded, and some of their comments reflect that.
Not all comments on the post were angry, though. One constituent, Mike Williams, thanked the congressman for his work, writing on Facebook:
Thanks Mike and Tracy for all you do for Southern Illinois and for helping to make America Great Again. There is nothing more powerful than the prayers of true Christians. Bringing God fearing people together is what it will take to stop the senseless violence committed throughout this country and the world!
Patheos, a self-described progressive, secular, and humanist blog, reported Feb. 19 on the Facebook attacks on Bost’s post, which originally was posted Feb. 16 with the caption: “Tracy and other ladies from Southern Illinois collected prayer cards, which I hand delivered to President Donald J. Trump!”
The title of the Patheos commentary piece is “GOP Lawmaker Delivers Bag of Prayers to Trump After School Shooting.” The piece describes Bost’s gesture as “bizarre and asinine,” and mistaken reports that the Illinois Republican delivered the prayer cards after the Florida school shooting.
But he didn’t. Bost delivered the prayer cards last April after beginning to collect them two months earlier, though his Facebook post originally criticized by the Patheos article didn’t mention the timing.
“In February 2017” are now the first three words of Bost’s Facebook post, which was edited for clarification Feb. 20 after the Patheos criticism appeared.
The Daily Signal sought comment from editors at Patheos and asked whether they would issue a correction, but did not receive a response before publication.
In an interview Wednesday with The Daily Signal, Bost discussed the importance of prayer in his life and in his local Illinois community.
“I don’t think the comments characterized by the [Patheos] article reflect my district,” Bost, 57, told The Daily Signal. “Very few people hold that opinion.”
Bost, elected in 2016 to his second term in the House, previously was a member of the Illinois state Legislature since 1995. A Marine veteran, he was a firefighter before beginning his political career.
During protests of Trump last year, the congressman said, he thought it would be a good idea to give prayer cards to Trump so that the president knows that people are praying for him and wishing him the best.
Bost’s wife, someone he described as a “strong woman of faith,” helped gather the prayer cards along with Pastor Rick McNeely of Christ Community Church in Murphysboro, Illinois.
McNeely told The Daily Signal that he has collected prayer cards for Trump twice now, and he continually encourages people to pray for the president no matter who occupies the White House.
“We’ve prayed for the president on a continual basis. We prayed for Barack Obama. We prayed for George Bush,” McNeely said. “I think that’s needful and something every American ought do.”
I think it’s sad that we’re using a tragedy to try and make a political point. What we ought to be doing instead of trying to smear someone is put that energy toward praying for those families and figuring out what we can do to help those families. Those families are hurting right now and they need our support.
“We were expecting 30 to 40 [prayer cards],” Bost said. But his wife and the pastor, he said, received hundreds of prayer cards, “from children in grade school to elderly people in their 90s.”
“It was never meant to be a political thing,” Bost said, noting that his office didn’t post on Facebook about delivering the prayer cards to Trump as a response to the Florida shooting. His office received the photo only this month from the White House, and posted it.
“I don’t know how other lawmakers go without praying or reading the Bible,” Bost, who was raised a Baptist and now belongs to a nondenominational church, told The Daily Signal.
Faith helps him and colleagues in Congress build a community, Bost said. “We pray for each other,” he said.
Bost pointed out the irony that Facebook users attacked him for his religious freedom, guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution, while supporting protests following the Florida shooting to limit gun ownership rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment.
“It amazes me that people are taking a First Amendment issue to attack the Second Amendment,” he said.