Va. House Democrats protest opening prayer as conservative pastor condemns abortion, gay marriage

Va. House Democrats protest opening prayer as conservative pastor condemns abortion, gay marriage
Democrats walked off the floor of the House of Delegates Tuesday morning as the pastor invited to give the opening prayer delivered stinging remarks condemning abortion and gay marriage and said God would bring his “wrath” against those who don’t follow biblical principles. (Source: WVIR)

Democrats walked off the floor of the House of Delegates Tuesday morning as the pastor invited to give the opening prayer delivered stinging remarks condemning abortion and gay marriage and said God would bring his “wrath” against those who don’t follow biblical principles.

“Is this a prayer or a sermon?,” a delegate yelled from the Democratic side of the chamber as the prayer turned increasingly political.

Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn, D-Fairfax, ultimately ended the prayer by banging her gavel and moving right into the Pledge of Allegiance.

“It was totally disrespectful to all of us, all of us in this House,” said Del. Luke Torian, D-Prince William, who is a pastor himself.

The pastor, the Rev. Dr. Robert M. Grant Jr. of The Father’s Way Church in Warrenton, had been invited by Del. Michael Webert, R-Fauquier.

Speaking to reporters afterward, Grant stood by his remarks and called the Democratic response “unprofessional.”

“I think that statehouse belongs to all the citizens. And all the citizens have a voice,” Grant said. “If it’s my turn to have a voice, and I am a pastor, what do you expect from me? If you don’t want to hear what a pastor has to say, then don’t invite one.”

As he walked off, a man accompanying Grant asked a group of reporters if they were aware that “sodomy” was once considered an offense worthy of capital punishment. He declined to give his name.

Guests delivering the opening prayers — which are usually nonpolitical and encompass a variety of religious faiths — are typically invited to send in the text of their remarks beforehand. That did not happen with Tuesday’s prayer, according to House officials.

The Virginia Mercury is a nonpartisan, nonprofit news organization covering Virginia government and policy.