Obama Labor Department official told employees to vote in online religion contest

Patrick Howley Political Reporter
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A top Obama administration Department of Labor (DOL) official sent an email to Department employees March 1, as workers were fearing furloughs as a result of sequestration, urging them to vote in an Episcopal Church-themed online game called “Lent Madness,” prompting outrage from Department workers who perceived the email as being in poor taste and a possible violation of separation of church and state.

Carl Fillichio, senior adviser for communications and public affairs at DOL, sent an email from his government computer and official email account system to instruct DOL Office of Public Affairs employees to vote in an online religious gaming contest on an unsecured website.

Fillichio urged Department workers to vote for Roosevelt administration Labor Secretary Frances Perkins (1933-45)  – a saint in the Episcopal church – in the online game, which was devised by two Episcopal priests and pits various saints against each other in a “March Madness”-style elimination contest.

“I sent [the email] to my team,” Fillichio confirmed to the Daily Caller, saying that he encouraged Office of Public Affairs employees to support Perkins. “It’s the one hundredth anniversary of the Labor Department. It was just meant to be morale-boosting.”

Fillichio said that he was not aware of any backlash to the email among staffers. “Not to my knowledge” was there any grumbling on staff, Fillichio said.

“The format is straightforward: 32 saints are placed into a tournament-like single elimination bracket. Each pairing remains open for a set period of time and people vote for their favorite saint. 16 saints make it to the Round of the Saintly Sixteen; eight advance to the Round of the Elate Eight; four make it to the Faithful Four; two to the Championship; and the winner is awarded the coveted Golden Halo,” according to lentmadness.org.

Labor Department employees expressed concern that they were being encouraged to participate in an online game in the midst of concerns about sequestration-related furloughs, and that the email might be a violation of separation of church and state, as governmental computers were used to promote a religious game associated with the Episcopal Church.

Read Fillichio’s email:

From: Fillichio, Carl – OPA
Sent: Friday, March 01, 2013 12:30 PM
Subject: Frances Perkins Needs Our Support!

Dear Colleagues: The Department’s Centennial is Monday . . . but today is a very important day for us . . . a former and much beloved Labor Secretary needs your support.

Starting at 8am today, people across the country and around the world have 24 hours to vote for former Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins in “Lent Madness.” Show your love for Frances today and help her reach the “Saintly Sixteen” round!

Voting is open to all. “Lent Madness” is the brainchild of two Episcopal priests, who turned NCAA March Madness brackets into a competition of saints.  Secretary Perkins is a saint in the Episcopal church (http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/guest-voices/post/remembering-the-legacy-of-saint-frances-perkins-this-labor-day/2012/09/01/fdba103e-f462-11e1-adc6-87dfa8eff430_blog.html).

When: TODAY (Friday, March 1st) until 8 am on Saturday, March 2nd.

How: Go to www.lentmadness.org and vote for Secretary Perkins. You may tweet and post your support on Facebook and Twitter, but only votes on the website will be counted. Just vote ONCE for Frances during the 24-hour period. No ballot stuffing allowed!

For more information on Lent Madness, read this great article in USA Today.

Don’t forget to vote. And forward to friends and familiy.  Thanks.

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