Charleston, WV., Thursday at the State Capitol in Charleston, a dozen local pastors from several counties in Senator Mitch Carmichael’s senate district, got a taste of what happens when you confront the Republican senate president about his social justice activism. Retaliation.
Some of these same pastors had privately confronted President Carmichael on December 3rd, and strongly urged Carmichael to abandon his activism on a dangerous pro-LGBT rights bill that would violate the First Amendment right of religious freedom.
The boldness of these men of the cloth caught him off guard, especially when they noted that they represented several thousand votes in his district. Carmichael is up for reelection May 12th.
After that December 3rd meeting, he thanked them to their faces and shook their hands. But Carmichael didn’t appreciate being held accountable by pastors. He has won multiple re-elections by portraying himself as a compassionate Christian and part-time Sunday school teacher, at his Methodist church in Ripley. But he personally killed the 2015 Religious Freedom Restoration Act in the senate. That bill would have protected West Virginians against the state’s attempts to force affirmation of things that violate a citizen’s religious objections.
At the beginning of December, Carmichael proudly participated in a round-table with some of West Virginia’s most radical Democrats. These activists are intent on redefining marriage, promoting drag queen events to children and allowing males to compete against high school girls in sports competitions. Their goal is to force everyone else to affirm these things by passing a new state employment and housing law that includes special protections for sexual behavior and confused self-image.
All of those radical goals are an affront to our way of life in West Virginia, and for many, they are violations of common sense. Those goals are opposed in writing by the West Virginia Republican Party Platform. But Carmichael disagrees with that part of his party’s platform and has been an ally of these radical groups for years.
Originally Thursday’s meeting was scheduled to be a private follow-up to get a commitment from him to stop pushing the dangerous Fairness Act, a radical LGBT bill that would allow the targeting of Christian business owners with anti-discrimination lawsuits.
But Carmichael lied to them about who had been invited to the meeting. When they arrived at the meeting at the State Capitol on Thursday morning, the pastors not only faced the media, but they were ambushed by sixteen activists. They included representatives from the ACLU, Fairness West Virginia, the pro-gay rights WV Manufacturing Association, LGBT-affirming clergy and Fairness board members posing as local businessmen.
The seated Republican president of the West Virginia State Senate, a leader in the party of faith and values, set an ambush for local pastors from his own district!
Carmichael was still chafing from their December 3rd meeting because they had dared confront him for pushing this controversial and unconstitutional bill. So when the pastors called for a followup to press for a commitment, he saw a political opportunity.
A few days after agreeing to the meeting, Carmichael called and asked the pastors if the media could attend their private meeting so they too, could hear the pastor’s concerns. The pastors, not well-versed in political gamesmanship, agreed to allow the media to document their meeting.
Their thinking was, that they had nothing to hide and were proud to confront wrong-thinking openly and lovingly, in the name of Christ. So what could be the harm in allowing the paper to write about it?
That was a strategic political miscalculation on the pastors’ part.
Carmichael has a decade-long reputation of telling every constituent exactly what they want to hear. He is a crafty politician that has never let forthrightness burden his objectives. He has managed to get re-elected several times despite multiple public scandals. Politically unaware Putnam County church-goers have been largely responsible for his re-elections, so a dozen organized pastors holding his feet to the public fire is certainly a new threat to another re-election.
So the purpose of Thursday’s followup meeting: Pastors from senate district #4, meeting again with their senator, to lobby him to discontinue acting in a manner that would bring harm to their communities.
But the senate president wasn’t interested in round two of being called on the carpet by faith leaders. Also, he certainly wasn’t going to be backed into a corner where he had to give a straight answer on his support for the appaling Fairness Act legislation. (Hoppy Kercheval had already unsuccessfully attempted to do that December 4th, on his political radio show, which made for one of the most uncomfortable radio interviews of the year.)
The pastors were clear to Carmichael that they didn’t want to participate in a public debate, especially with unreasonable activists who believe that polite dissent equals bigotry and hate. Those fears were proven accurate by Thursday’s spokeswoman for Opportunity West Virginia, a pro-LGBT activist group that advocates under the guise of youth business opportunity. She claimed in her address to the pastors that discrimination was happening all over West Virginia and that merely hearing opposition to her pro-LGBT world view by one pastor, created discrimination in the room.
When Pastor Justin Simmons from Spencer asked her if she had documentation of her claims of discrimination, her reply, “I don’t see how that’s relevant to this discussion!”
But days before Thursdays meeting, after agreeing to allow media to attend, Pastor Jonathan Pinson asked Carmichael directly, if any of the proponents of the legislation would also be invited?
Carmichael lied to the pastor and told him that “he had not invited any of the proponents of the bill.”
The lie lured the dozen or so pastors and Christian businessmen and women, into Thursday’s public forum. Once there, the pastors were placed upon a senate committee platform, facing a podium as if they were all on trial.
After being allowed to make opening statements, the pastors were then forced to sit through several presentations including the non-sensical one by Opportunity West Virginia. And all were by homosexual/affirming activists, attempting to discourage the pastors from adhering to their sincerely held religious beliefs on sexuality and biology. Only Family Policy Council President, Allen Whitt, who Carmichael didn’t expect to attend, took the opportunity to rebut the invited activists.
Afterwards, state radio network MetroNews, was running clips of Carmichael stating, “I’m glad that both sides got to hear the other’s perspective.” This was clearly a planned, public dressing down of men and women of faith, who had dared challenge the Republican president of the West Virginia State Senate. And simultaneously Carmichael hopes that this “forum” will help keep this bill alive.
A version of the Fairness Act was used to sue Colorado cake baker Jack Phillips and torment him for seven years before the Supreme Court finally sided with him. Already the West Virginia version has met with much public backlash from West Virginian’s who recognize the bill isn’t about protecting anyone from discrimination. It’s about demanding affirmation at the long arm of the law and creating new law suits against hard-working small businesses.
Thursday’s deception and ambush, by Carmichael was clear retaliation against these pastors. Carmichael has a strong primary challenger on May 12th in House Delegate Jim Butler, who is opposed to the Fairness Act.