Volume 9 | September 25, 2019
Released: Monday, September 30, 2019
This newsletter contains the VisionUPDATE I presented at the 2019 ONE Voice for Liberties Conference. I will give a report on this year’s conference in my next newsletter.
One special change in this year’s schedule was a one-hour, guided tour of the Richmond Capitol. When I have visitors during the General Assembly, I like to tell them a story about the George Washington statue in the rotunda. I just recently had this story verified by a researcher who found this bit of information: “Washington’s statue had suffered small losses and cracks, damage to the cane and its tassel being the most noticeable. An explanation for this damage was found in an 1866 newspaper story reporting a pistol duel that resulted in harm to them. Close examination also revealed the cane was original to the piece, but it was fabricated by Houdon as a separate element.”
In the story related to me, the pistol duel occurred when a legislator burst through the door entering the hallway facing Washington’s statue, saw his opponent (another legislator) standing in front of the statue, and challenged him to a duel then and there. The challenger drew his pistol, fired, and missed his opponent. The opponent then drew his pistol, fired, and also missed. Both men were quickly restrained and removed from the building.
Someone, I assume a building caretaker, went back to examine the damage done by the missed shots (fortunately no one else was hit!) and found that the first shot had nicked Washington’s cane and tassel, cutting a gouge on the outside of the cane. It was miraculous that the statue was not hit elsewhere nor were any bystanders struck. Of course, it was repaired so that if you look for the spot now, it is doubtful you will find it. It’s amazing the facts you can learn on this tour, as we have an amazing history attached to our Capitol.
Enough of that. Please read the following VisionUPDATE and pray for (and vote in) the elections on November 5.
Our vision involves “advancing the rights, values, and liberties of independent Baptists in Virginia.” Why advancing and not protecting? The VAIB cannot keep legislation from passing nor force legislatures to maintain certain policies. We can and will ensure that the rights, values, and liberties of independent Baptists in Virginia are advanced, which may mean re-winning certain ground or establishing new legislation in certain areas after winning small victories in previous years. This is a process, a dynamic pursuit, and not a static “win-once-and-done” situation.
We gather yearly to fulfill our mission, which states: “The purpose of the VAIB is to rally the independent Baptists of the Commonwealth of Virginia to strengthen our position on issues for the common good and to inform pastors concerning matters of a critical nature that affect our local churches and their ministries. It shall in no wise be the purpose to promote any school, college, fellowship, or personal interest group.”
This ministry will seek to continually advance the rights, values, and liberties of independent Baptists in Virginia by staying true to its mission. This requires refining the role of the organization around the specific needs of our pastors and churches in Virginia. Many see the path of an organization through time as an organic compilation of circumstances and responses to those circumstances. I believe that God would have us pursue a consistent vision and meet goals that successfully take the VAIB to a position where the organization can effectively execute the function of its mission and be in a stronger position to do so into the future.
A critical area of work is at the General Assembly. We work to build relationships with legislators, their staff, and agency personnel in order to move our agenda forward.
During the 2019 General Assembly, VAIB lobbied over 120 bills:
- supporting twenty-two bills, with twelve passing;
- opposing fifty-six bills, with nine passing;
- and monitoring forty-two other bills that had potential impact on churches.
SOGI: While all twenty-two SOGI (sexual orientation and gender identity) bills were defeated this year, judges continue to move this agenda forward. A high-profile case in our own state— Gavin Grimm in Gloucester County—has taken an unfortunate turn. The judge’s decision may force Virginia public schools to allow transgender individuals unfettered access to communal facilities like locker rooms. Some school boards, like in Stafford County, have considered such policy changes. This issue will not go away. But we cannot bury our heads or ignore the issue. Even if you live in what you think is the most conservative area of the state, such as the far southwest, it is already there. So, I continue to voice our concerns, urging legislators to see reason and common sense. And your voice is needed on this issue. You need to be involved with VAIB by signing up for our emails. Then, when you receive a CapitolAlert, you can easily contact your delegate or senator, helping get the message to him or her.
Pastors as Mandated Reporters: Two critical bills, HB1659 and SB1257, which added pastors and religious leaders to those classified as mandated reporters for child abuse, passed the General Assembly. Revelations in recent years of sexual abuse of children in independent Baptist churches and Southern Baptist churches, in conjunction with past revelations in other churches and denominations, have created an environment of distrust by legislators, prompting these bills. In some cases, pastors protected the abusers, while in other cases the pastors (usually youth pastors) were the perpetrators. VAIB agrees that children should be protected and that religious leaders who hide or perpetrate such acts deserve prosecution. If you are a pastor or other ordained religious leader, you now have a requirement to report to police any reasonable suspicion of abuse of a child. Failure to do so could put a child at risk, but you could also be in putting yourself or your church in legal jeopardy. Let’s do what is right for the sake of our children and our churches.
Religious-Exempt Day Cares: From 1979 to 1990, the ten-year battle to create religious-exempt day cares ensued and involved some of our independent Baptist churches. The battle continues to this day, and some even attack our church nurseries and Sunday school workers in the process. This year, new regulations went into effect that I believe give better protections in both areas. But there is a new effort underway to change the entire narrative. I have seen television advertisements for Richmond public schools urging parents to enroll their pre-K child in public school programs. Maybe you’ve seen them in your area. The goal of those supporting this initiative is for children to be educated by the state from pre-K to twelfth grade. A bill this year attempted to make that a reality. Thankfully it was derailed by Senator Emmett Hanger, who made the bill into a study. According to some, it seems to be a done deal. Our day cares are facing a challenge. Parents struggling financially will say, “If the state is going to provide free ‘education’ for children from zero to four years old, what is the point of me paying for day care?”
Abortion: Year after year, efforts to reduce or remove regulations for abortion centers continue. We have seen what happens in Virginia when abortion clinics have little oversight—facilities are filthy, women are misinformed or misled, and some women have even died due to botched abortions. VAIB has not changed its position on abortion. It is murder of the unborn. I am deeply concerned about bills like Delegate Kathy Tran’s HB2491, which would permit abortions up to the point of birth—infanticide. Even more troubling is the malaise of so many who don’t care. Some in our churches just don’t want to talk about it. Life is precious! We must care! We must speak out! We must continue our work opposing abortion.
Other Issues: Time will not permit me to discuss other areas, such as:
- efforts to expand gambling through casinos and off-track betting facilities,
- weakening marijuana laws and permitting recreational use of marijuana,
- state licensure of church workers who deal with children, and so on.
Elections: Time and again I see delegates and senators elected in Virginia who hold to these positions just mentioned. And I continue to ask myself, “Where are God’s people? Are God’s people voting God’s values?” If statistics hold true, this November only about 30% of registered voters will go to the polls. And if those who hold these ungodly views win the majority this, the 2020 General Assembly could see a wholesale change in our laws like we have not seen in our lifetimes.
If our churches continue to stand with VAIB, I will be there. I will be there to be your voice for religious liberties. Will you help me? Join your voice with mine, and pray for God’s help.
Your voice for Christian liberties!
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