A pro-life Republican state representative lost his leadership position for saying that abortion is the fruit of the “Church of Satan.”
North Carolina State Representative Keith Kidwell (R-Beaufort) responded to a Democratic representative who tried to justify her decision to have an elective abortion by citing her church membership and belief in the “power of God.”
The exchange came during the General Assembly’s debate over whether to override the veto by Governor Roy Cooper (D) of a bill to protect most unborn babies from abortion beginning at 12 weeks.
State Rep. Diamond Staton-Williams (D-Cabarrus) said she and her husband decided to abort their third child “after much consideration, thought, and, of course, prayer.”
She did not say whether she had an abortion before or after 12 weeks. Yet she said the bill would remove a “God-given right.”
She then implied her Christian faith endorsed her decision to have an abortion. “I am someone who has grown up in the church and believes in the power of God. I know that I go through trials and tribulations. I know we all will,” said Staton-Williams. “And I know that, ultimately, I have been given the freedom of mind to make decisions for myself.”
Rep. Kidwell reportedly said privately to another Republican on the floor that any church that supports abortion sounds like the “Church of Satan.”
The Satanic Temple does, in fact, teach that “The Satanic Abortion Ritual” is “a sacrament which surrounds and includes the abortive act.” The rival Church of Satan, founded by Anton LaVey, eschews the term “sacrament” but declares that abortion “should be within the rights of the pregnant person.”
“I think it’s using the Lord’s Name in vain to say you would make a decision to have an abortion as a result of prayer,” North Carolina Values Coalition Executive Director Tammi Fitzgerald — who was in the chamber when the exchange took place — told The Washington Stand. Lawmakers should only present their stand as biblical “if it conforms with Scripture.”
Invoking her childhood church membership seems “an apparent attempt to shield herself from criticism” for embracing harmful policies, David Closson, director of the Center for Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand. He noted that Staton-Williams has also “touted her progressive views on LGBTQ issues,” such as membership in an LGBT pressure group’s “Electeds for Equality,” a group of politicians “who publicly align themselves with the larger movement for LGBTQ” political power.
“Let’s be clear what is happening here: The representative is cloaking anti-biblical views, positions that directly contradict the Bible’s clear teaching, into religious-sounding language in an attempt to find a middle way. But there is no middle way when it comes to these issues. You are either on the side of Scripture or against it,” Closson told TWS.
Democrats have increasingly attempted to shroud their support for abortion-on-demand and LGBTQ issues in religious rhetoric. U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), who calls himself a “pro-choice pastor,” has said, “I think that human agency and freedom is consistent with my views as a minister.” The Bible tells Christians, “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God” (I Peter 2:16).
Other Democrats regularly speak of abortion-on-demand only in religious language. “The right to have an abortion is sacred,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) last June. “The right to an abortion is non-negotiable. Reproductive freedom is sacred,” said the Twitter account of Senator John Fetterman (D-Pa.).
But “the Bible’s teaching on life, marriage, and sexuality is straightforward, and no attempt to find a middle way on these issues will ultimately prove successful,” Closson told TWS.
House leaders proved more successful in leveraging outrage over Kidwell’s comments to wrench him out of House leadership. “To challenge a person’s religion when they share a deeply personal story … that is beneath the dignity of this House, and that is beneath the dignity of any elected office,” fumed House Minority Leader Robert Reives (D).
Yet Bell’s decision did not mollify local Democrats, who demanded Kidwell step down from office altogether. Dare County Democratic Party Chair Susan Sawin said Kidwell’s belief that Christianity does not endorse abortion renders him “unfit to serve.” Kidwell, one of the founders of the state’s House Freedom Caucus, has regularly drubbed his Democratic opponents at the polls, carrying more than 60% of his district in both of his elections.
After Staton-Williams’s comments, the Republican-controlled legislature voted to overturn Cooper’s veto of the life-protecting bill, which the Democrat vetoed at a massive outdoor rally on May 13, the day before Mother’s Day. Republicans needed exactly 60% of the total vote to uphold the Care for Women, Children and Families Act (S.B. 20). The GOP held exactly that margin — 72 out of 120 members of the General Assembly and 30 out of 50 senators — after Rep. Tricia Cotham (R-Charlotte) switched parties in April. Both chambers enacted the pro-life protections by overriding Cooper’s veto on May 16 in separate, party-line votes.
“I’d just like to thank the heroic efforts of Republicans in the House and Senate of finding common ground and passing historic legislation that will save thousands of unborn babies. It was no less than a miracle that they were able to pass a bill,” Fitzgerald told TWS.
Yet the dueling narratives and continuing fallout over the debate “reminds us that worldview is always just beneath the surface of the day’s headlines,” Closson concluded.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.
EDITORS NOTE: This Washington Stand column is republished with permission. All rights reserved. ©2023 Family Research Council.
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