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Christian pastor travels hundreds of miles each week to offer Bible study at Colorado, Wyoming State Capitols

Dan File in front of the First Baptist Lake City Church where he’s the interim pastor. File also leads a weekly bible study at the Colorado State Capitol for lawmakers when the legislature is in session.
Laura Palmisano
Dan File in front of the First Baptist Lake City Church where he’s the interim pastor. File also leads a weekly bible study at the Colorado State Capitol for lawmakers when the legislature is in session.

Dan File doesn't let adverse weather or traffic stop him from being at the Colorado State Capitol Building on Tuesday mornings during the legislative session.

The 68-year-old even has a personalized license plate with the word “capitol” on it.

He drives five hours from his home in remote Hinsdale County to Denver to lead a weekly Bible study for state lawmakers and staff.

He’s done this for the past twenty years. File said God called him to it.

“Then he brought me the ability to be able to evangelize, nurture, and disciple our political leaders,” File said. “And, what a privilege it is to be able to share Christ with those that make our laws.”

He is part of a nationwide religious organization called Capitol Commission.

“Our goal is to put one pastor at every state capitol in the United States,” he said. “So, I’m a missionary.”

When the Wyoming state legislature is in session, File also travels from Denver to Cheyenne to offer bible study then returns to his home in remote Hinsdale County, Colorado.

Republican Senator Rod Pelton, who represents much of the Eastern Plains, is the Senate sponsor for the class.

“I go down every Monday during announcements and announce ‘come have some breakfast with us and have a Bible study.’” he said

Pelton said it helps him get through the week at the legislature.

“Our state Capitol building is a very dark place especially with the Republicans being in the House in super minority, and we lack one seat of being the super minority in the Senate,” he said.

“And so, there’s a lot of ungodly policy being passed here,” Pelton said. “I guess I need that boost during the week to get me grounded back in the word.”

The “ungodly policy” Pelton referred to includes bills in support of the trans community. This session, he voted against a bill requiring schools to call trans students by their preferred names.

Democratic Senator Tony Exum of Colorado Springs voted for that bill and has backed legislation that supports the LGBTQ community. He also attends Bible study.

“I believe in separation of state and government but this is God’s assignment of my life,” he said. “I’m not going to become some person I’m not because I’m a state legislator.

“If it wasn’t for God in my life I wouldn’t be in this position,” Exum said. “I think it is because of my faith that it helps me do my job and it is not an easy job.”

Pastor File said his class is a no-politics zone.

“We don’t talk politics,” he said. “Sometimes, it seems to ooze out from time to time but I am not a lobbyist.”

And while politics might ooze out into Bible study on occasion, Bible study sometimes finds itself in the political business at the Capitol.

File recalled one of the more memorable moments for him that took place over a decade ago.

“When Colorado was going through the issue of introducing civil unions to this state, of which I don't agree with,” he said. “I don't agree with it because it is contrary to the teaching in God's word.”

He said after one of his Bible study classes, then-Senator Scott Renfroe, a Republican from Weld County, went to the podium.

“He stood up at the podium and he said, ‘colleagues, I love each one of you guys,’” File said. “‘And because I love you, I have to share with you what God says about this issue about civil unions.’”

File said Renfroe opened up the Bible and read from it in support of his opposition to civil unions. The civil union bill passed, and same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in the state since 2014.

Democratic State Representative Lorena Garcia of Adams County is one of a few Colorado lawmakers who is nonreligious. She has questioned the need for prayer at the Capitol.

“We are supposed to have a separation between church and state but when we entertain prayer, even before gavel, and when we allow advertisement for a Bible study that's held on Capitol grounds, I feel like that blurs the line,” Garcia said.

File said about a dozen lawmakers from both parties regularly attend his class but occasionally that group is larger.

“It’s great to see a fifth of the Colorado state legislature come to my Bible study,” he said. “More than the numbers is faithfulness to God’s word.”

And he said everyone is welcome to join his Bible study.

“We’ve had Hindus come,” File said. “We have Jewish people come. Jared Polis’ brother came and he’s a practicing Jew.”

File said in his opinion, the church is the foundation from which the family and government should operate. Conservative lawmakers like Lauren Boebert and Mike Johnson also oppose the separation of church and state.

“Our country has come up with this thing that they see that it is important that we have a separation of church and state. I totally disagree with that,” he said.

“And so to be a good governmental leader, they need to know what God says about any sort of issue, ” File said.

After two decades of Bible study at the Colorado State Capitol, File said he isn’t sure how much longer he’ll do it, but he plans to continue for at least the next several years.

Laura joined KVNF in 2014. She was the news director for two years and now works as a freelance reporter covering Colorado's Western Slope. Laura is an award-winning journalist with work recognized by the Society of Professional Journalists, Colorado Broadcasters Association, and RTDNA. In 2015, she was a fellow for the Institute for Justice & Journalism. Her fellowship project, a three-part series on the Karen refugee community in Delta, Colorado, received a regional Edward R. Murrow Award.