Press "Enter" to skip to content

Hickey Leaving Legislature for Scotland to Study Bonhoeffer

Steve Hickey’s leaving the Legislature and coming to Aberdeen? Whoo-hoo! Howdy, neighbor!

Oops—the other Aberdeen. Scotland, says Kevin Woster:

One of the things I like best about Steve Hickey is the surprises.

He’s full of them.

The latest he shared with me over the weekend, during a Facebook and phone conversation about an unrelated political issue: He’ll be resigning his seat in the South Dakota House of Representative, giving up his senior pastor role at the Church of the Gate in Sioux Falls and going back to school.

In Scotland. For four years. To get a Ph.D in Christian ethics in the modern world, with emphasis on the works of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the surveillance state [Kevin Woster, “Bonhoeffer Bound: Hickey to Leave Legislature for Christian Ethics Study in Scotland,” Politics in KELOLand, 2015.07.07].

Steve Hickey
Now if he can just bring back a Scottish accent…

Hickey thus denies me the pleasure of continuing to call him “Rep. Rev.” Alas!

Hickey has been on the Bonhoeffer trail for sometime. Bonhoeffer is definitely worth studying: he provides an instructive example of Christian response to evil, uniting deep theology with practical action and sacrifice. Even as a family-values Republican, Hickey has been a minor thorn in the side of the South Dakota Republican Party with his stands against payday lenders, closed meetings, and the death penalty. When he comes back after four years immersed in Bonhoeffer’s prophetic resistance to one-party rule, he may rattle the SDGOP cage even more.

Speaking of payday lending, Hickey tells Woster he will continue to promote the initiative to cap interest rates and check predatory lenders in South Dakota. Hickey gets it: good organizers can connect with and mobilize supporters from anywhere with Wi-Fi, be it Aberdeen, South Dakota, or Aberdeen, Scotland.

Bob Mercer leads his blog post on Hickey’s departure by dangling the coincidence of recent and unresolved questions about his 2012 nominating petitions, his stiff 2014 criticism of now-convicted felon Annette Bosworth for committing petition fraud, and his unexpected resignation. Hickey tells Woster the petition issue has nothing to do with this life change:

Hickey himself more recently came under scrutiny because of irregularities in some of his candidate petitions.  Hickey contends any mistakes were honest oversights. The case is still open, although Hickey contends “there’s really nothing there.” He said he is concerned that some might wonder about the timing of his move to Scotland.

“My concern is that people draw a connection between the complaint against my petition and what I’m doing here,” Hickey says. “This process on the Ph.D work has been in the works for more than a year. Anybody who knows anything about a Ph.D program like this knows that” [Woster, 2015.07.07].

Hickey’s story here is plausible: he’s changing location and job, but not core interests. He has a spectacular opportunity to deeply study one of the greatest Christian pastors and theologians of the twentieth century. Plus, Hickey’s going to study a good Lutheran, and that’s bound knock Hickey’s theology into better shape.

In four years, I’ll have to call Steve Rev. Doc. I wish him well on his studies… and I look forward to his blogging his Bonhoeffer knowledge from Scotland!

This is the third legislative vacancy Governor Dennis Daugaard has gotten to fill this year, following his appointments of Steve Fiegen to Tim Rave’s District 25 Senate seat and William Shorma to Dan Lederman’s District 16 Senate seat. Check my head count, but these two appointees and Hickey’s replacement will join five other sitting Daugaard appointees in the Legislature: Rep. David Anderson (R-16/Hudson), Rep. Kris Langer (R-25/Dell Rapids), Sen. R. Blake Curd (R-12/Sioux Falls), Sen. Alan Solano (R-32/Rapid City), and Rep. Mark Willadsen (R-11/Sioux Falls). Add Rounds appointees Rep. Brian Gosch (R-32/Rapid City), Rep. Kristin Conzet (R-32/Rapid City), and the 2016 Session will open with nearly 10% of our legislators owing their presence in Pierre to gubernatorial appointment.


  1. Russ Stedman 2015-07-07

    I live in Rev. Doc. Rep. Steve’s district, and I can only hope that he gets replaced with someone who isn’t a “Holy Man”, and someone who will keep their opinions on morality to themselves. Good riddance, Congressman homophobe!

  2. leslie 2015-07-07

    not sure whether i agree with your suggestion about mercer

  3. mike from iowa 2015-07-07

    Might just be me,but I have a hard time imagining christian and ethics in the same room,let alone same sentence.I’m sure there are some out there somewhere,but……..

  4. bearcreekbat 2015-07-07

    Thank you Rep. Hickey for your efforts to repeal the SD death sentence – that will be my best memory of your time in Pierre. Good luck in your studies!

  5. Roger Elgersma 2015-07-07

    When I got my religion degree with the Ethics concentration at Augustana we definitely studied Bonhoeffer. I remember a movie which showed a Lutheran Synod meeting where all the pastors were doing Heil Hitler in unison. He broke away from the church and started a secret seminary to get back to the Bible.
    With now days right wing lack of ethics on business, we need someone who can see the problems and do what is right. Hickey tried hard when he was in the legislature but did not get his key bills through. Bonhoeffer did not stop the train before it went over the cliff either. If people listen to what is right on time they can stop a disaster. But the greed of America may be to great to do that.
    When I was visiting my daughter in Texas a few years ago she brought me to a meeting where six prophets were going to talk. My own opinion is that there are some who do at times get a word from God and there are also fakes. Five of the six said that God is going to bless you’all by miraculously getting your bills paid and bless you with financial prosperity. One said that the church has to get their act together. This was soon after the housing market bust of a few years ago so many liked the report that they were going to go from broke to rich. But I was not impressed so did not go forward to get prayed over and blessed. Instead I got in a conversation with the person sitting near me while most of the others went forward to form six lines in front of the prophets. The two of us were both new there and I asked him if he really believed that Gods main point to the richest nation on earth was that we were going to get even richer. Church attendance in my life time has dropped considerably. I thought that only one of the prophets was even close. Well my voice must have carried much better than I realized and what I said must have made sense because when we got finished with our little conversation I looked up and there was only one prophet left up front and a few listening to her and the rest had sat down.
    The conservative attitude now days that we have to keep all we have and let the poor go to payday lenders is ridiculous. Not paying our teachers more is not good either. The church I grew up in sees the verse that says the workman is worthy of his hire means that we should pay the pastor adequately. I think teenagers should get reasonable minimum wage as well.

  6. Craig 2015-07-07

    Not to sound too pessimistic here, but I can’t help but think of the fact that Mr. Hickey was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis a year or two ago and without a lung transplant, he likely has only 2-4 years of life left. Of course I have no idea whether he is a candidate for a transplant nor do I know specifics of his case, but it could be that he has determined education is his priority at this stage of his life and this is what he wishes to do at this time. More power to him.

    I don’t find myself in agreement with Mr. Hickey all that often, but I have found him to be fair and open in his views. He seems to respect the views of others even when he may disagree, and I do appreciate how he made himself available on various blogs and forums.

    Whether this is merely the next chapter in his life, or if this is the last chapter I wish him the best.

  7. Jeff Kroon 2015-07-07

    I wish you all the best Steve.

  8. Rorschach 2015-07-07

    I think Rep. Hickey has grown in office. He’s not the tri-cornered hat guy he billed himself as at the beginning. His positions are more nuanced now. He’s demonstrated that he’s open to considering others’ ideas and (usually) respectfully debating them. And he’s not always a party-line guy.

    Let’s wish Rev. Rep. Hickey well on his new adventure. I don’t ever want to see him in a kilt though.

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-07

    Roger E, those guys telling your fortune aren’t the prophets who interest me. I prefer to use the word to refer to those who speak with a prophetic voice, i.e., a voice that speaks truth to power and tells us what we need to change. Bonhoeffer spoke with a prophetic voice when he opposed totalitarianism. Hickey speaks with a prophetic voice when he criticizes payday lenders and the death penalty. I try to speak with a prophetic voice here daily.

    Craig, I don’t like to talk about folks’ health situations, but Hickey mentioned his malady in the Woster interview. It’s fair to say that his lung troubles have more to do with this decision than any complications from the as-yet unsubstantiated petition kerfuffle. Hickey has important things he wants to do, and he knows he may not have all the years he wants to do them. Our mortality is not an invitation to wanton hedonism, but it should urge us to prioritize our goals and not wait around to pursue the big ones.

  10. Jenny 2015-07-07

    I’m surprised to hear this, and I’ll miss you, Steve. Deep down, I think most of us libs know you’re a good man. We’ve had our spats about abortion and gay marriage, but I have admired your bravery in dealing with the boys in Pierre. Good luck, and I wish you and your family all the best!

  11. larry kurtz 2015-07-07

    If Gov. Daugaard had any balls he’d put a Democrat in that seat because there will never be another person as smart as Steve Hickey is in the SDGOP. Ever.

  12. Bill Dithmer 2015-07-07

    “Our mortality is not an invitation to wanton hedonism, but it should urge us to prioritize our goals and not wait around to pursue the big ones.” Aint that the truth?

    The Blindman

  13. owen 2015-07-07

    I met Rev. Hickey and even though we disagree on a lot of issues I found him ready to listen and an easy person to talk to. He didn’t get mad or think he was superior to me. We had a good discussion.
    Sad that the legislature is going to lose a decent Republican.
    I can only guess who the Governor will appoint.

    Good luck Rev Hickey.

  14. Roger Cornelius 2015-07-07

    And of course, Lora Hubble knows the “real” reason Hickey is resigning, but she’s not talking.

  15. owen 2015-07-07

    I saw that too Roger. I have to admit that I’ve lost a lot pf respect for her.

  16. daleb 2015-07-07

    The statute of limitations on petition fraud is 7 years i think. Maybe its 20, but i am thinking its at least 7. So its not like hes absconding. And I’d add that you wont get an indictment on perjury by eyewitness testimony alone. Either way its pretty heartless of some on the Right to go after Hickey for his involvement in Annette’s petitions. Its also hypocritical because they did not support Annette in the primary. Had they endorsed Annette they would at least have a leg to stand on. Hickey’s health issues are his own business, but if his time left on Earth is short I’d hope those on the Right who hate him would let him spend his final years here in relative peace. Id also add that Hickey really hasnt done anything to hurt Annette. The lawsuit is about it, which he withdrew, and the public comments about her faith and what not is just political fodder. If you run for office people are gonna say some negative things about you, and some of them may even be true. Heh. When a person runs their life the way Annette does they are gonna have some run-ins with the law, and people in general. Id also add, once a person has one run-in with the law, the law tends to watch them a little more than before, so its pretty safe to say this isnt the last we have heard of Annette.

  17. owen 2015-07-07

    well said daleb, well said

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-07

    Hey, Roger, Owen, at least Hickey got Hubbel away from promoting her vaccine-autism quackery. Good grief.

    Dale is right: If there is any there there, Hickey could still face prosecution for any 2012 petition perjury. Even in the unlikely event that someone steps forward and offers under oath some evidence that Jackley could use to prosecute Hickey, every word that Hickey said about Bosworth publicly remains true. Hubbel is simply exhibiting the real Bosworth Derangement Syndrome, the strange belief that obsessively throwing insults and accusations at everyone else somehow refutes the facts about Annette Bosworth’s crimes. Hubbel, Waldron, et al. have become Bosworth’s tools of childish vindictiveness.

    Meanwhile, Hickey makes a hard choice and jumps to a remarkable new challenge, serious scholarship about a true Christian hero.

  19. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-07-07

    Bonhoeffer is a great choice for study. Good for you Hickey. Have a wonderful time in Scotland.

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-07

    Bernie Hunhoff offers this Facebook response to Hickey’s resignation:

    Bad news today if you might be one of the South Dakotans who could fall into bankruptcy, or perhaps become trapped in a payday loan cycle or experience some other malady that pushes you to the edge. You had a champion in the state legislature, a Sioux Falls pastor and state legislator by the name of Steve Hickey. He was a Republican who bucked his own party and took unlikely, unpopular and uncomfortable positions for the poor and disenfrachised. Rep. Hickey is leaving the legislature to pursue a doctorate, and also to focus on his own health issues. Pierre will be a lesser place in my opinion [Sen. Bernie Hunhoff, Facebook post, 2015.07.07].

  21. Kurt Evans 2015-07-07

    Cory wrote:
    >“He has a spectacular opportunity to deeply study one of the greatest Christian pastors and theologians of the twentieth century.”

    Arguably the greatest. I’m impressed by the open-minded nature of your atheism, Cory.

    Cory wrote:
    >“Plus, Hickey’s going to study a good Lutheran, and that’s bound knock Hickey’s theology into better shape.”


    “To go against conscience is neither right nor safe.”
    —Martin Luther (April 18, 1521)

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-07-08

    Thanks, Kurt. One need not be a paragon of open-mindedness to recognize greatness in various fields. To the extent that I am open-minded, I’m just trying to model the civil interaction I’d like everyone to practice. Atheists like me can admire and learn from Bonhoeffer without screaming, “He’s a Christian, so he must be a jerk!” I’d like my majority-Christian neighbors to deal with atheists with similar fairness.

    We seem to be hearing folks recognizing that kind of fairness in Hickey. He doesn’t categorically (I’m using that word in two ways) dismiss an atheist like me or a Democratic homosexual like Steve Hildebrand. He recognizes that people of different beliefs can converse and collaborate without compromising their beliefs.

  23. troy 2015-07-08


    As of now, four of the legislators will be there this January due to appointment (4%): Fiegan, Shorma, Willadsen, and Hickey’s replacement. Anderson, Langer, Curd, Solano, Gosch, Conzet have all been elected to their seats.

    On a related note, it appears the percentage of appointments/resignations is up. However, in general people’s lives are more transitory than previously. People used to live close to where they grew up, work for one or two employers their entire life, and live in the same house most of their life. That is definitely changed throughout society. We can expect our citizen legislature to reflect society.

  24. Flipper 2015-07-08

    If everything that Steve says is true, wonderful for him! However, I have to admit that I can’t shake the feeling that something fishy is going on. It wouldn’t be the first time that we’ve been duped by a politician or a preacher. I hope I’m wrong.

  25. troy 2015-07-08


    The following has been part of the public record for years:

    1) Reverend Hickey has an affinity for the theology and philosophy of Boenhoffer.
    2) He has a serious hereditary health issue which killed his father, the prognosis is dire without a lung transplant within years.

    Then let’s assume the absolutely worst about the petitions (which I don’t believe) are true. Rep. Hickey could make an offer to resign his office and plead guilty. My guess he’d at worst get probation (what Bosworth got) but likely get less just for saving the taxpayers the cost of a trial. He wouldn’t have to resign from the church he started, give up his source of income, and move to another country. He’d likely become a hero for facing up to his crime (which I stress, a crime I don’t believe occurred).

    What makes sense based on everything we know and Steve has said is just as Cory describes- Steve is a man who might have less time than the rest of us think we have and wants to use this time pursuing something more personally rewarding than being in the legislature. And, God willing, he gets a transplant and lives a long life, my guess is he is confident being greater versed in the theology of Bonhoeffer will be well worth it to him.

  26. larry kurtz 2015-07-08


Comments are closed.