DIOCESE OF GRAND ISLAND
Jane Kleeb choked up Friday while talking about no longer attending a Catholic church in part because it became too political.
Kleeb, the chair of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said she remains a Catholic.
"I love the Catholic Church," she said.
But she challenged comments made late this week by the bishop of the Diocese of Grand Island, who questioned the recent election's legitimacy.
"I think comments about election fraud, or speaking about abortion from the pulpit, is not appro-Jane Joseph Kleeb Hanefeldt priate," said Kleeb. "I don't want politics in my church."
In an email to 500 followers, Bishop Joseph Hanefeldt wrote about "numerous reports of election irregularities and voter fraud" and people coming forward "to report violations of one kind or another."
Hanefeldt wrote that he didn't view this as an attack on President-elect Joe Biden or the Democratic Party.
"It is imperative that these reports be thoroughly investigated," he wrote. "It is a matter of safeguarding the integrity of the electoral process in this country, now and in the future."
After Kleeb used social media to label Hanefeldt's comments "shameful," the priest said he believed that his comments were "neutral."
"I'm not stirring the pot," he told the Grand Island Independent. "People are asking me what I'm thinking."
Kleeb said Friday that people in power "have a responsibility to put out accurate information."
The church, she said, should encourage "community and loving our neighbor" and not engage in political rhetoric. Further, she said, there has been "zero evidence of fraud" in election results around the country.
President Donald Trump and some members of the Republican Party claim that fraud resulted in Biden's victory. This week, the Department of Homeland Security's Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency called the election "the most secure in American history."
Kleeb, of Hastings, said she hasn't heard Hanefeldt preach but has read his writings online.
Hanefeldt's comments about the election will push many in Grand Island toward ignoring what Biden says on agriculture, health care, climate change and other issues, she said.
Hanefeldt, has been led the diocese since 2015. The diocese covers more than 42,000 square miles in central and western Nebraska.
Hanefeldt is in isolation after contracting COVID-19. He said he has suffered from stuffiness and a light fever.
"But at least it's my own four walls and not a hospital's four walls," he said.
He ended his email by writing, "For more than 200 years we have placed our trust in our electoral system as a model of the democratic process for the world. Let us not be afraid of discovering the truth. It is a matter of freedom and justice for all."
Of Kleeb's reaction on social media, Hanefeldt said, "I don't know what the big problem was —maybe that I said anything."
Jeff Bahr of the Grand Island Independent contributed to this report.
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