Virginia state Democrats on Tuesday stormed out of the House chamber after a local black minister led the body in an opening prayer that openly and strongly condemned abortion and gay marriage.
Rev. Robert M. Grant Jr., who pastors The Father’s Way Church in Warrenton, used his few moments at the microphone addressing the newly Democrat-controlled House of Delegates to decry abortion, advocate for traditional marriage, and warn against God’s wrath if the state legislature goes against Biblical principles.
“I pray that you may understand that all life is precious and worthy of a chance to be born. God is the giver of life and people have no right or authority to take life. The unborn have rights and those rights need to be protected. They should never be denied the right to exist, the right to develop or the right to have a family,” he said from the podium.
“The word of God has given us a warning: woe to anyone who harms an innocent child," he added, telling state lawmakers that “every one of you sitting here today can guarantee these rights to these little innocent children of Virginia."
“Please do not ignore their little voices. I pray for a heart change today, and may the Lord God have mercy upon this leadership,” he went on.
Grant then switched to gay marriage.
“We should never rewrite what God has declared,” he continued, praying that the state would “always protect the biblical definition of marriage” between one man and one woman.
“Is this a prayer or a sermon?” one delegate yelled during the invocation. Others walked out of the chamber altogether, while Democratic Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn ended the prayer by banging her gavel and shifting immediately into the Pledge of Allegiance.
Democratic Del. Luke Torian called the prayer “totally disrespectful to all of us, all of us in this House," while Del. Delores McQuinn said it "felt like condemnation.”
Grant, on the other hand, defended his prayer, saying he was simply speaking truth.
“I think that the 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.”