General Assembly on Feb. 11, 2020

Many Democrats walked off the floor of the Virginia House of Delegates Tuesday as a pastor condemned abortion and gay marriage during the opening prayer. 

Courtesy of Virginia Mercury

Democrats walked off the floor of the House of Delegates Tuesday morning as a Warrenton pastor invited by Del. Michael Webert 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-41st, of Fairfax, ultimately ended the prayer by banging her gavel and moving right into the Pledge of Allegiance.

Democrats were sharply critical of the prayer’s tone, calling it a breach of the normal protocols for guest clergy.

“It was totally disrespectful to all of us, all of us in this House,” said Del. Luke Torian, D-52nd, of Prince William, who is a pastor himself.

The pastor, the Rev. Robert M. Grant Jr. of The Father’s Way Church in Warrenton, had been invited by Webert, R-18th, of Fauquier County.

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

“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.”

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.

Even some Republicans said they felt the tone was inappropriate.

“I don’t know if he was ill-instructed or didn’t realize what he was here to do,” said Del. Matt Fariss, R-59th, of Campbell County.

“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.”

Under Democratic control for the first time in decades, the General Assembly is advancing legislation to roll back restrictions on abortion and strengthen laws protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination.

Other Republicans didn’t appear upset by the prayer. Socially conservative Del. Dave LaRock, R-33rd, of Loudoun County, posed for a photo with Grant afterward in the Capitol rotunda.

Webert declined to comment.

Del. Delores McQuinn, D-70th, of Richmond, a pastor, said most prayers are delivered as blessings for legislators and the work they’re undertaking.

“In many ways it felt like condemnation,” McQuinn said of Tuesday’s prayer.

“Most of the clergy that come here have been very respectful of the opportunity extended to them,” Torian said. “And every now and then you get someone that goes off the rail.”

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(15) comments


Where is abortion outlawed in the bible? It isn't. In fact there are circumstances where it is encouraged.

Besides, last time I checked, the government was meant to be secular. Just do away with the prayer.

Tom Fitzpatrick

Wow. Talk about Fascism. Here is a real, live example.

Censuring an invited member of the clergy, for citing the Bible.

Where is ANTIFA when fascism rears its ugly, totalitarian head?


This has nothing to do with fascism, he was supposed to give an opening prayer but instead went on in a tirade against gays, and abortion along with other political nonsense. People use the bible to justify slavery and wife-beating so evangelical speak is just that empty nonsense.


He wasn't citing it or ready a passage from it; he was expressing an opinion.


Va , keep voting Democrat and liberal, you will soon end up like California.


Why don't you talk about and focus on DC instead of focusing on areas you don't live or reside nor pay taxes in.


Because we pay taxes to the state of Virginia centered in Richmond and the paper doesn't represent DC.


I was replying to someone else, the guy I was responding to has the username of "Omarndc72" indicating he is not a Virginia resident.


Democrats and liberals dont want god i ln their lives.Hope people see the truth and what happens when you let a racist white kkk governor and a rapist lt governor stay in office.


I’m a Democrat and I love God. Sorry that your assumption is all off.

Tom Fitzpatrick

How do you reconcile the silencing of the invited clergyman with loving God, when he spoke God's Word?


Because he was not speaking God's word. He was expressing church opinions formed in about the 5th century and nothing to do with the bible. Now if Republican's would only start reading the bits about caring for the poor and the strangers, maybe we'd have more kindness.


this goes to show the level of hate that is now evident in our political system, everyone now has to take their shots at one another and the citizen is left holding the bag for the politicians inactivity. it's not a political process, it's a side professional wrestling where everyone has a team and we all root for pummeling the opposing side. it's disgusting and they ALL should be ashmamed of themselves.


Level of “hate”? There was actually bipartisanship conducted here. I think this Crossover Session is going to be the best in decades!!


It’s good to know that the disagreement in the way the “blessing” was given was bipartisan.

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