Virginia lawmakers in the state House of Delegates — mostly Democrats but reportedly some Republicans, too — walked out of an invocation prayer on Tuesday because its themes were notably anti-LGBTQ and anti-abortion.
Reverend Robert Grant, of The Father’s Way Church in Warrenton, Virginia, led the prayer and spoke about the importance of lawmakers to “stand for what is right” in the eyes of God, lest they face the “wrath” of the Almighty, Newsweek reported.
“Please do not provoke [God’s] anger and bring wrath upon this state by what you create as law. Biblical history is very clear his wrath upon the earth is documented. We are not exempt,” Grant said.
The pastor singled out the abortion stances of some lawmakers in the chamber, stating that “all life is precious and worthy of a chance to be born.” He then suggested that abortion was a means to destroy the black population in America.
“Why are there so many abortion clinics near African American communities? This is planned urban genocide, and you can change this,” Grant said.
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Grant moved onto attacks on marriage equality and LGBTQ rights in the state. The Democratic-controlled legislature, along with Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, have passed many laws intended to promote LGBTQ rights for Virginia citizens, including banning conversion therapy and ensuring civil rights to people based on sexual orientation and gender equality, LGBTQ Nation reported.
Grant suggested those laws were abhorrent in God’s eyes. “Marriage is to join a biological male and a biological female in holy matrimony, not to provoke the almighty God,” he said.
The pastor’s words disturbed many in the legislative chamber, with some pointing out the invocation prayer is meant to be a blessing more than a long sermon. “In many ways it felt like condemnation,” Del. Delores McQuinn said.
Democrats began to walk out of Grant’s speech before he had finished it. Some Republicans joined them in their protest. One delegate shouted out, “Is this a prayer or a sermon?”
Eventually, Speaker Eileen Filler-Corn started banging her gavel to stop Grant from speaking more. He continued to try to speak over the gavel banging but soon relented.
Afterward, while speaking to the press outside the chamber, Grant defended his actions. “What do you expect from me? If you don’t want to hear what a pastor has to say, then don’t invite one,” he said.