By / Jan 19

Where do we go from here? Sometimes that phrase is heard after a family tragedy or a moment that upends our life or business. Many Kentucky Baptists and their neighbors were asking that very question after the historic west Kentucky tornadoes on Dec. 10, 2021, and the eastern Kentucky flooding this past July.  

But in this case, the question was being asked after the Yes for Life Amendment (Constitutional Amendment 2) failed to pass in Kentucky’s voting booths Nov. 8, 2022. The amendment stated, “To protect human life, nothing in this Constitution shall be construed to secure or protect a right to abortion or require the funding of abortion.” The result of the vote was disappointing for those who worked diligently to see this amendment passed.  

Much prayer and sacrifice went into the drafting and promotion of this historic amendment. Many elected leaders, as well as pastors and church leaders, put their own names on the line to defend the preborn in our state. Kentucky Baptist pastors and associational and ministry leaders were “all in” on promoting the passage of Amendment 2, and Kentucky Baptists showed up and voted for the amendment. We should give thanks for those who provided leadership to speak up for the preborn.  

We are disappointed in the defeat of Amendment 2. Legalized abortion is the greatest human rights atrocity of our day, and Kentucky Baptists will continue to work and pray that it remains illegal in our state. We are grateful that Attorney General Daniel Cameron has proven that he will fight to uphold Kentucky’s pro-life laws in court, and we encourage our state legislators to continue passing legislation that protects preborn children made in the image of God. 

What’s next for pro-life Kentuckians? 

But, where do we go from here? Here are five actions to consider:  

1. We continue to pray for abortion to be abolished in Kentucky. Abolitionist William Wilberforce fought tirelessly against the inhumane slave trade in Great Britain. He suffered defeat after defeat before finally experiencing victory. Our cause is one worthy of continued effort and prayer. This defeat gives each of us an opportunity to sharpen our pro-life apologetics and get to work convincing and persuading others of the rightness of our position.  

2. We continue to care for women and families with unplanned pregnancies. Forty-nine pregnancy resource centers in Kentucky are connected to the Kentucky Baptist Convention. You can learn more here. The leaders and volunteers at these bastions of compassion woke up on Wednesday morning following the election and went to work doing what they do every day—serving women and families experiencing an unplanned pregnancy. We can help them with their work.  

3. We continue to encourage elected leaders who defend life. I was so proud of many of Kentucky’s elected House and Senate members and constitutional officers who put their own popularity on the line to defend preborn children in Kentucky. The disrespectful chant that says “politicians look for a parade and get in front of it” does not fit these courageous leaders. In Kentucky, we have strong pro-life laws and an attorney general who will vigorously defend them before the Supreme Court. Continue to pray for the Kentucky Supreme Court as it heard arguments on Nov. 15t, 2022, about a challenge to the state’s pre-Roe trigger law which has currently banned abortion. We pray that they will uphold the ban which is currently in effect.

4. We continue to pray for pro-abortion advocates. During the recent Amendment 2 campaign, I was given a renewed passion for praying for and striving to persuade those who view preborn human beings differently than I do. I believe, according to God’s Word, that they are wrong in their position. I also believe they are people made in the image of God who need the gospel. 

5. We continue to promote the adoption of vulnerable children. While a vulnerable mom might not be up to the task of parenting her preborn child, someone else is. There are couples all over the commonwealth who would line up to adopt vulnerable children and give them a great life.  

So where do we go from here? We keep working toward the day when legalized elective abortion will be part of our terrible past, but not part of our more humane future.  

As of the writing of this article, there are no legalized elective abortions being performed in Kentucky. Please join me in praying that this will be our normal from now on. 

A version of this article first appeared here

By / Jan 12

Todd Gray, executive director/treasurer for the Kentucky Baptist Convention, recounts how Kentucky pastors have been inspiring during the pandemic.

By / Sep 9

Should Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage license, have resigned?

Over the past week many people, including many Christians sympathetic to her cause, have said Davis should resigned from her elected position as Rowan County Clerk if her conscience won't allow her to do the job as required. While I understand the reasoning, and am even partially sympathetic to that view, I think it misses the reason Davis acted as she did and how her choice does not necessarily conflict with the rule of law.

For at least fifty years it has not been a requirement that you must do every aspect of your job, despite your beliefs, or automatically resign. As Ryan Anderson wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed:

We have a rich history of accommodating conscientious objectors in a variety of settings, including government employees. Do we really want to say that an otherwise competent employee must quit or go to jail if there is another alternative?

I don’t believe we do want to say that. In fact, I believe one of the quickest ways to government tyranny is to require every religious believer with conscientious objections to immoral laws and government overreach to resign from government positions.

While we don't have an absolute right to religious liberty, we also don't give up every religious liberty when we work for the government. (For more on this, see legal scholar Eugene Volokh's explanation for when your religion can legally excuse you from doing part of your job.) To determine where the line gets drawn, we need some form of negotiation between the believer and the state.

Ideally, the individual states would have been given time to issue a relevant policy. For example, Kentucky could have either accommodated the religious beliefs of same-sex marriage objectors or made it clear that they would need to resign their position if they could not, in good conscience, issue marriage licenses with their name on them. However, when the Supreme Court imposed their immoral standard by fiat, they required the changes to be made immediately and did not give states the time needed to address the issue. As Ryan Anderson adds,

Had same-sex marriage come to Kentucky through the Legislature, lawmakers could have simultaneously created religious liberty protections and reasonable accommodations for civil servants. But the Supreme Court decided this issue itself — and, as predicted by the dissenting justices, primed the nation for conflict.

Because each marriage license issued by the clerk’s office bore her name and title, Ms. Davis concluded that her religious beliefs meant she could not have her office issue licenses to same-sex couples. So she had the office stop issuing them entirely.

Still, the individual states should have made it a priority to address the concerns after the Obergefell ruling in June. Kentucky did not do so. Instead, when the governor was asked to call a special session of the legislature to try to work out a reasonable accommodation, he said it could wait until January.

What were those with religious objections supposed to do until the new year? Was Davis expected to violate her conscience until the other elected officials in Kentucky decided to act? By refusing to quit or violate her conscience, Davis attempted to force the state to address the issue. She even filed a federal complaint against state officials under the Kentucky Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which should have been sufficient to resolve the issue. As Eugene Volokh says,

So if Kim Davis does indeed go through the state courts, and ask for a modest exemption under the state RFRA — simply to allow her to issue marriage licenses (opposite-sex or same-sex) without her name on them — she might indeed prevail. Rightly or wrongly, under the logic of Title VII’s religious accommodation regime and the RFRA religious accommodation regime, she probably should prevail.

The state of Kentucky should have quickly responded by making it clear they were open to considering removing the clerks names if they had an objection (a simple enough change) or they should have told Davis and all other clerks in the state that there would be no accommodation and that they would be impeached for refusing to issue marriage licenses (a move that would have been politically unpopular). The state did neither, and instead the federal government intervened—once again—in a state issue and made the situation messier than it needed to be.

On the bright side, this may be the wake-up call other states need to realize they need to clarify their policies. It may also help Americans better understand how many exemptions and accommodations are already allowed, and that we don’t necessarily have to give up our religious freedom simply because we work for the government or get elected to office. By refusing to take the easy way out and resign, Davis has forced a much needed conversation about religious liberty in America.

By / Jun 1

My foster son began using marijuana when he was in the fifth grade. That was before he became a ward of the state and came under my care. But his drug use wasn’t the cause of him being taken away from his parents. It was their drug use.

“My Poppy didn't used to do drugs. He only smoked a little weed. He started after Mama. Mama got started because of my sister.” Today our foster son’s “Poppy” is in prison, and a quick look at photos posted on Facebook and Instagram will reveal his mother's addiction has not waned. Of course, he isn't supposed to see those photos because he has been ordered by the court to have no contact with his own mother and father. Their parental rights have been permanently terminated.

And in the bedroom down the hall is a little boy struggling with all of the challenges common to middle school adolescents but multiplied by the reality of living in a stranger's home and knowing his parents are still alive but not even being allowed to talk with them. On good days, his pain is masked behind dark curls, brown eyes and an infectious grin. On bad days, it is unleashed in self-destructive decisions and unyielding defiance. 

This is why I ask Kentucky Baptists to fight against the legalization of marijuana in our state. But it isn't just the boy down the hall. Today, in Kentucky alone, there are more than 7,600 other little boys and girls in state care. Is every case drug related? No, but most are. Does every addiction begin with the decision to “smoke a little weed?” No, but most do.

Yet, support for marijuana legalization is rising rapidly in the United States. According to the Pew Research Center, 53 percent of Americans now say the drug should be made legal, compared with 44 percent who want it to be illegal. Opinions have changed dramatically since 1969, when Gallup found that just 12 percent favored legalizing marijuana.

Here in Kentucky, marijuana legalization efforts are in full swing. The Speaker of the State House of Representatives introduced legislation earlier this year to legalize the drug for medicinal purposes. In response, we worked through the Public Affairs Committee of the Kentucky Baptist Convention to compel Kentucky Baptists to address the issue. A series of press releases, letters and phone calls helped to spread the word. Concerned Baptists quickly reacted by contacting their elected representatives and imploring them not to take our state down a trail that would likely end at full blown legalization of marijuana for recreational use.

The Baptist outcry was heard and Kentucky legislators acted with wisdom. Ed Shemelya, coordinator for the National Marijuana Initiative, an organization that opposes legalization of pot, was quoted by the press as saying, “The success we had this year was, in large part, thanks to the stand Dr. Chitwood took on this issue.” Shemelya is a 30-year veteran of the Kentucky State Police (KSP), and a retired KSP Post Commander. He is also a fellow Kentucky Baptist who feared that Kentucky would become the 24th state where medical marijuana was legalized by politicians without the input of physicians and pharmaceutical research. Thankfully, Ed’s fears have been put to rest, at least for now, because of the responsiveness of Kentucky Baptists.

Medical marijuana is an emotional, complex and often confusing issue. I have spent time studying the matter and sought out the counsel of law enforcement and medical professionals. The Federal Food and Drug Administration continues to study all of the facts related to the medicinal use of marijuana but has not found any marijuana product to be safe or effective for the treatment of any disease or condition. Moreover, the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychiatric Association, American Society of Addiction Medicine, American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and American Cancer Society have all reviewed the science as it relates to their respective discipline and do not advocate marijuana as medicine. 

For the sake of those who genuinely suffer from debilitating illness, we hope FDA testing will reveal derivatives that are safe and effective as medicine and would obviously support the legalization of those medicines. Epidiolex is one example of a drug that is a direct derivative from the cannabis plant currently being used in an FDA trial study to determine its effectiveness. My hope and prayer is that we can give time to allow trained researchers and medical professionals to do their work rather than politicians taking matters in their own hands and unknowingly putting people at risk.

After speaking out on the issue, we received many expressions of appreciation and praise. But we also received a good amount of criticism and hate mail. Some of the criticism came from those convinced that marijuana could help them or their loved ones with health problems. Most simply saw us as standing in the way making their pot habit legal.    

Our ultimate desire is to protect children in Kentucky, not harm them or prevent them from receiving treatment they desperately need. The wreck and ruin I have witnessed firsthand in the lives of countless children of drug addicted parents has the common denominator of individuals who started their drug experimentation with marijuana. Potentially multiplying that pain by making marijuana even more easily accessible is, for me, a grave risk we must work hard to avoid even as we try to determine if marijuana can be used for good rather than evil.

Until hard evidence proves that marijuana is a safe and effective treatment option, I implore Kentucky Baptists and Southern Baptists to fight against legalization. Why? For the kids.