Views expressed in community voices do not represent opinions of The Gazette-Virginian or staff members.

Writers need critics if for no other reason, to help us see when we have failed to communicate the main thing. The Nov. 11 and 18 editions of community voice, a response to my Nov. 4 piece on the Virginia Values Act titled “Velvet covered tyranny,” served that purpose for me.

So, allow me to be blunt. The Democrat-controlled legislature and Virginia’s executive branch are stripping your first amendment rights of free speech and religious liberty. 

It does not matter if you consider yourself conservative or liberal, libertarian or progressive, or agree with me on same-sex marriage or anything else.

My critics and I are coming from such completely different worldviews that I’m sure any topic I address, be it the right to life, legalized recreational marijuana, legalized gambling, etc., would provoke similar disagreement.

The point is that we have the constitutionally protected freedom not only to express those opinions in the public square but also do our jobs, run our businesses and churches, and non-profit ministries, all while following the dictates of our religiously informed consciences. The Virginia Values Act denies those rights. 

Here is the second and equally important point. If a state government can strip my first amendment rights, it can strip yours. If it can deny our first amendment rights, it can revoke any of the others. 

Those are the main things. But four other items need clarification.

First, I am a Christian and a pastor, not a therapist. My article, “I’m not gay and you probably aren’t either” (see under the LGBTQ category) is not an attempt at “conversion therapy.”

Instead, it is my testimony and invitation to any young person struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction to know that there is another way. They have the right to hear that. But if people like me are silenced, they will not hear it.

Other memoirs, like Rosaria Butterfield’s “Secret thoughts of an unlikely convert” and Dennis Jernigan’s “Sing over me,” tell similar stories and offer identical hope.  

Second, regarding pushing my views and values on others, the shoe is on the other foot. I would not publicly address this issue except for two things. LGBTQ activists intend to deny all biblical Christians the rights mentioned above and have been for many years. Many sources validate that statement.

But for starters, look up Jonathon V. Last’s “You Will Be Assimilated: The Same-Sex Marriage Bait and Switch,” published in The Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner, June 22, 2015.

Or see lesbian conservative radio talk-show host Tammy Bruce’s response to the 2014 Arizona Religious Freedom Bill, where she coined the phrase Gay Gestapo. 

Third, I was happy to learn that Alliance Defending Freedom had $55M for their work. They earned Charity Navigator’s Platinum Seal of Transparency for 2020. I commend them to you. See ADFLEGAL.ORG. For perspective, the ACLU, which usually argues opposite ADF, reported $202M in total assets for 2019 reporting.

Fourth, the Regnerus study I referenced has taken up too much time and was not the main point. As for its funding, “You get what you pay for” applies to all such research.

But it was not flawed or debunked. It was disputed and discredited by people who disagreed with the findings. But his sample size was larger than any other study of its kind at the time. Fifteen thousand people between ages 18-39. Only when the results were found politically incorrect did his department chair and others disavow it.

Here’s what Regnerus said about the study in an interview with Warren Smith. “It’s never been retracted. I haven’t retracted it. The journal hasn’t retracted it. It’s hard to debunk what is basically an overview snapshot of a fairly large, complex dataset. Other people analyze the data and say, ‘Hey, Mark, it’s all about the instability in these families,’ which would be illuminating if I hadn’t already said that. I said that years ago. Likely, the key variable here is the profound instability of the households in which the parents had same-sex relationships. People want to say, ‘Oh, today it’s going to be … There’s more of a gay or lesbian bourgeois family that will be much more stable.’ It’s possible. I say, ‘Show me the data.’ Some of this stuff we’ll have to track for a decade or two before we get a good sense of it.”   

Evangelicals like me are the canary in the coalmine for America. Start paying attention to what your government is doing. Stand up for your constitutional rights. Do not stop when it gets hard and people insult you. If we fail, our freedoms are going to evaporate. 

Skelton is the pastor at Faith Community Church in South Boston.