A source has provided another letter from Sen. Jason Rapert expressing his unhappiness with Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s statement that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling requires county clerks to issue marriage licenses to all qualified, including same-sex couples.
In a letter sent to Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, which was copied to other senators, Rapert expresses his unhappiness with the governor, Jeremy Hutchinson’s uncle, and suggests the governor should be guided on public policy by Ronnie Floyd, the Arkansas preacher who is president of the Southern Baptist Convention.
I’ve sent a note to Rapert for comment. No response yet. He is unhappy that I printed an earlier letter yesterday. He said it was private communication that neither he nor recipients had authorized to be released. Demonstrably, a recipient released the letter. To send a letter to dozens of people with an expectation it will be kept confidential (I’m sure Rapert hoped the governor and his advisors would get the message) is unrealistic, of course. Particularly when that letter is written by an elected public official with a propensity for headline grabbing who’s trying to influence public policy on a matter of national interest.
The letter, with my emphasis on the money quote (and printed in full because Rapert often complains about being taken out of context when I quote his own words):
Subject: Re: Same Sex Marriage
That sounds just fine to me. But please know, I have been communicating with the governor directly, including back during the session. I have reached the conclusion after several direct meetings that he is getting very poor counsel from someone.
I have done all I can do to be supportive and help him be successful – many of you know that personally. These terrible lapses in judgment on an issue that involves people’s core beliefs and their faith is not an issue to take lightly. I have met or spoken directly with him multiple times to urge him to reconsider the weak positions and statements. After awhile you have to conclude that actions speak louder than words.
The president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest denomination in our state the last time I looked, has boldly declared on a national level that they will all refuse to submit to this unjust ruling and urged civil disobedience – why on earth would anyone not understand that message? GOP governors around the country are taking stands in support of the will of their people – why is he not doing that. People are not stupid. You can say you disagree with this unjust ruling all day long, but if you don’t do anything to oppose it, you are letting everyone know you really don’t care.
This is mortally wounding my friend Asa Hutchinson and his office refuses to help him understand he is losing the conservative base we all worked so hard with to help him win. I endured the backlash during the session on RFRA, but I’m not doing it again.
A change of tone, course and messaging must occur now to salvage anything. As elected officials know – we are running for election full time because every decision we make is creating a record with voters. The willingness to take a stand on these critical social issues important to so many people that elected Asa to office must become important to him.
Sen. Jason Rapert
Speaking of Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church, a Northwest Arkansas megachurch with multiple outposts: I don’t think it’s quite accurate to indicate Floyd encouraged civil disobedience. You can find here a report on his statement in which he urged member churches to continue to stand against same-sex marriage. Here’s Floyd’s most recent blog post, with five strategies for response, none of them explicitly urging civil disobedience. And here’s the statement signed by Floyd and other past SBC presidents. It says in part:
…we will not accept, nor adhere to, any legal redefinition of marriage issued by any political or judicial body including the United States Supreme Court. We will not recognize same-sex “marriages”, our churches will not host same-sex ceremonies, and we will not perform such ceremonies.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling made it plain that no church is required to recognize, host or perform same-sex marriages. The Baptists may continue their fight to have civil law embody their religion, of course, just as it fought integration for so long.
In Rapert world, we apparently must turn governance over to Ronnie Floyd. More Baptists in Arkansas than any other flavor. Majority rule, right?
I still prefer government by elected representative. But if religion is to call the shots, I wish we could get on the committee the pastor of the Unitarian Church, the Episcopal bishop, the rabbi at Temple B’Nai Israel, my Presbyterian pastor or one of the renegade Methodists working for change in that church, among many other people of faith who don’t take their orders from Ronnie Floyd.
Rapert is flat on fire on Twitter today. Interspersed among many messages are several expressing his unhappiness with the Arkansas Blog. On Twitter, he sends those who want to disobey the law to the Liberty Counsel, a Christian legal ministry with ties to Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University and a track record that includes a reported lawsuit threat against a library that rewarded children for reading a Harry Potter book. (Witchcraft.)
A snippet of Rapert’s tweets today.
I did note in yesterday’s post that Rapert’s letter was sent to other senators.
PS — I’ve sent a note to Jeremy Hutchinson to see if he’d share the note to Rapert that apparently prompted this reply. I’m guess he was defending Uncle Asa to at least some degree. UPDATE: He declines the offer saying the correspondence was intended only for the Republican caucus.