Virginia lawmakers have hit out at a pastor who delivered an opening prayer on the House of Delegates floor urging them not to induce God’s “anger” and “wrath” while pushing through a series of liberal bills.
Reverend Robert M. Grant Jr., pastor of The Father’s Way Church in Warrenton, was invited to deliver the opening prayer on Tuesday morning and used the opportunity to speak out against a number issues including gay marriage and abortion.
During the prayer, Grant insisted lawmakers “stand for what is right” in the eyes of God.
“Please do not provoke his anger and bring wrath upon this state by what you create as law,” Grant said. “Biblical history is very clear his wrath upon the earth is documented. We are not exempt.”
The Virginia General Assembly is under control of the Democrats for the first time in decades.
Over the past few days, Democrats have been pushing through dozens of bills previously ignored or voted down by the GOP on issues such as tackling climate change, raising the minimum wage, a ban on the sale of assault firearms and decriminalizing simple marijuana possession.
He also reminded those in the chamber that “every one of you sitting here today can guarantee these rights to these little innocent children of Virginia.”
Grant added: “And why are there so many abortion clinics near African American communities? This is planned urban genocide, and you can change this.”
Both the House and Senate passed bills to repeal a GOP-imposed state law requiring that women seeking an abortion must undergo a mandatory ultrasound 24 hours beforehand.
Grant then urged the lawmakers to protect the biblical definition of marriage as they prepared to continue to push through a number of bills ahead of the deadline.
“Marriage is to join a biological male and a biological female in holy matrimony, not to provoke the almighty God,” Grant said.
“Is this a prayer or a sermon?” one delegate on the Democratic side of the chamber could be heard shouting as the prayer became increasingly political, reported The Virginia Mercury.
Grant’s prayer was eventually stopped by Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn banging her gavel while he continued to speak out against gay marriage before the Pledge of Allegiance was performed.
By this point, most of the Democrats had walked out and even a few Republicans withdrew to the back of the chamber, reported The Washington Post.
Delegates on both sides of the chamber have criticized Grant for his prayer.
“It was totally disrespectful to all of us, all of us in this House,” Del. Luke Torian (D-Prince William), who is also a pastor, told the Virginia Mercury.
“Most of the clergy that come here have been very respectful of the opportunity extended to them,” Torian added. “And every now and then you get someone that goes off the rail.”
“I don’t know if he was ill-instructed or didn’t realize what he was here to do,” Del. Matt Fariss (R-Campbell) added. “This wasn’t the place or the time to do all of that…This is a time we need to be working together and not being divisive.”
Grant is reported to have been invited to deliver the prayer by Del. Michael Webert (R-Fauquier). Defending his remarks, Grant said: “I think that the statehouse belongs to all the citizens. And all the citizens have a voice.
“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.”
Webert has been contacted for comment.