Published on November 20th, 2014 | by Millennium Magazine Staff0
Pastors plan more active ‘stand’ on moral issues
Charleston, SC. – Charleston pastor Kevin Baird and other evangelical Christians say they will be more outspoken during the coming legislative session about what they see as persistent attacks on morality and their values.
Baird, pastor at Charleston’s Legacy Church since 2002, rallied on a recent weekend outside the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia with about 200 supporters galvanized by the belief their views on abortion, same-sex marriage and public expressions of religion are being drowned out.
“There is a lot of grassroots momentum stirring out there,” Baird said in an interview. “We believe our values have as much of a right at the table of discussion as any other value system. There’s no such thing as neutral. Somebody’s morality is always represented in every law.”
Pro-choice advocates and organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union have pushed back when evangelicals or other religious groups have exerted their political muscle to attack abortion rights or anti-discrimination protections for gays and lesbians.
Tell Them, an advocacy group for women’s health issues, has fought so-called “personhood” bills, which define life as beginning at conception, and have been defeated in the state Legislature the past 16 years in a rows,
“No elected official should want to pass a law that takes hormonal birth control off the market, or denies a rape victim access to emergency contraception – both practices that would be illegal if personhood measures became law,” Tell Them spokeswoman Emma Davidson said in an email.
Baird’s rally was in response to Houston Mayor Annise Parker trying to subpoena sermons last month by local pastors who opposed the city’s equal rights ordinance protecting the LGBT community.
The ban on anti-gay discrimination by businesses, private employers, in housing and in city employment and contracting is still being contested in court. Opponents sought to repeal it, in part, because it would allow transgender people barred access to a restroom to file a discrimination complaint.
The mayor backed down on the subpoena threat, but pastors in South Carolina and elsewhere were incensed at what they considered an infringement on religious freedom. Baird helped circulate a document he said has been signed by more than 500 religious leaders declaring their opposition to abortion, legalizing same-sex marriage and restrictions on public displays of religion.
Abortion is a hot-button topic nearly every year in the General Assembly. Last year, several abortion-related bills advanced in the Senate before ultimately failing.
Baird said he would like to see South Carolina outlaw abortion as a challenge to Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that guaranteed a woman’s right to abortion.
Sen. Larry Martin, R-Pickens, chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said he and others have successfully worked to limit abortion, passing bills banning late-term abortions, requiring a waiting period and education about the procedure and options, such as adoption.
But signing on to personhood bills can be a problem for him and many of his colleagues, he said. While he generally opposes abortion, he said he could not support a bill that outlaws abortion if giving birth jeopardizes the mother’s life.
He knows that doesn’t sit well with the religious right.
“You’re really a closeted pro-choice person in their mind,” he said. “We’ve done quite a bit to lessen abortion in South Carolina that’s within the rules.”