By Staff, Baptist Message
BATON ROUGE, La. (LBM)—Although the state budget dominated the 2017 Louisiana legislative session, Louisiana Baptists scored dramatic victories on moral and social concerns, including: promotion of right to life issues; protection of children from exposure to online pornography; and, prevention of the creation of a special class of transgender rights.
The success in pushing through these bills and resolutions, and in some cases defeating proposed legislation, was a result of working with faithful Louisiana Baptists serving as lawmakers for the state as well as coordinating among like-minded conservatives to rally votes in committees and on the floor of the House and Senate, according to Will Hall, director of the office of public policy for Louisiana Baptists.
“We were blessed to work with individuals like Senator Beth Mizell, a faithful member of First Baptist Church, Franklinton, who championed the rescue and protection of children from sexual exploitation and human trafficking, and, also pushed through restrictions to prevent a minor from obtaining an abortion without parental consent,” Hall told the Baptist Message.
“Representative Rick Edmonds, a retired Louisiana Baptist pastor, worked with our office to craft a resolution declaring ‘the proliferation of pornography among Louisiana children to be a public health hazard’ and calling for Governor [John Bel] Edwards to work with Senate President [John] Alario and House Speaker [Taylor] Barras ‘in an aggressive public campaign to protect children from exposure to pornography,’” Hall said.
Hall also shared praise for Senator John Milkovich, who is a not a Southern Baptist but is a faithful member of Shreveport Community Church, a non-denominational congregation.
Milkovich backed legislation which tightened prohibitions against selling body parts of aborted unborn children and took to the podium of the Senate to champion Louisiana Baptists’ objections to a sex survey which would have exposed school children to topics on homosexuality and multiple sex partners.
“Senator Milkovich reached out to me to stand up for our shared beliefs on the Senate floor and helped defeat a measure that appeared set for passage,” Hall said. “I am thankful for his friendship and his cooperation in promoting key biblical principals in public policy — in this case, the need to protect children’s hearts and minds and to promote parental rights and responsibilities in the raising of children.”
Hall also lauded the work of Louisiana Family Forum, a strong pro-family and pro-life advocacy group in the state.
“Louisiana Family Forum President Gene Mills has put together a structure and secured the resources to support a combined effort among like-minded Christians and other conservatives to shape public policy in our state,” Hall said. “Moreover, he’s assembled a team that lends expertise and coordination that is essential to the work of Louisiana Baptists, even though it is not a Louisiana Baptist ministry.”
“Kathleen Benfield, Kristie Cross, Dale Hoffpauir and Victoria Kelly are dedicated servants of Christ and tireless advocates for the Louisiana faith community,” he said.
Finally, Hall described a “setback” in public policy, a lost debate outside the legislative session that, nonetheless, he called a successful stand.
“I had the honor of testifying in support of Dr. Wade Warren, professor of biology with Louisiana College, who had worked tirelessly as a member of a committee of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education,” Hall said. “He had meticulously analyzed the new science standards and offered science-based inputs for common-sense modifications, all of which were rejected by the board.
“In one suggestion, he simply asked the committee to add the words ‘sudden appearance’ in the statement about ‘patterns of the fossil record’ and ‘change in life forms throughout the history of life on Earth,’” Hall continued. “This is a commonly used description among most scientific authorities. Yet, opponents who testified against his recommendations derisively dismissed even this input as evidence of some sort of Christian conspiracy.
“BESE passed the standards without Dr. Warren’s inputs. So, in that sense, the effort to improve science teaching in Louisiana failed. But, Louisiana Baptists can be proud of Dr. Warren’s scientific expertise, which stood out in the meticulous analysis he performed, and for his willingness to take a public stand for what is right,” Hall said. “He is a shining example of the superb faculty at Louisiana College, both in his academic credentials and his bold faith.”
KEY PUBLIC POLICY SUCCESSES
Defeated: H.B. 448 (would have allowed Orleans Parish to tax the properties of religious non-profits, including New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary as well as more than 125 Louisiana Baptist churches and related ministries); H.B. 136 (would have reduced mandatory wait times for divorce from one year to six months, limiting the opportunity for counseling and reconciliation); S.B. 85 (would have allowed a sex survey of school children, including topics such as homosexuality and multiple partners); S.B. 155 (would have created special rights classifications for transgender and gender fluid persons)
Passed: H.C.R. 100 (declares the proliferation of pornography among Louisiana children to be a public health hazard; and, calls for the governor, Senate president and House speaker to publicly campaign to protect children from exposure to pornography); S.B. 54 (provides essential structures to rescue and protect children from sexual exploitation and other harms of human trafficking); S.B. 111 (puts identity checks in place for accompanying adults to prevent a minor from obtaining an abortion without parental consent); S.B. 128 (prohibits even the cutting of an aborted unborn child as a measure to prevent the sale of body parts)