Prairie Village pastor among clergy to visit Topeka in show of opposition to ‘religious freedom’ bill

Jay Senter - February 17, 2014 8:00 am
Aaron Roberts greeted members of the Colonial Church congregation after services Sunday.
Aaron Roberts greeted members of the Colonial Church congregation after services Sunday.

The timing of Aaron Roberts’ February sermon series seemed especially relevant to the Colonial Church pastor last week as he read the reports about the Kansas Legislature’s consideration of HB 2453, the “Protecting religious freedom regarding marriage” bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples.

Just the Sunday before, Roberts had been behind the pulpit exploring the topic of marriage equity. Now, the Kansas legislature was prepared to put into law a bill that would in Roberts’ view strike at the very heart of the concept.

“When I saw that it was using religion as the basis for discrimination and bigotry, as a Christian, I found it abhorrent,” he said.

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So last week Roberts joined two fellow members of the local clergy — Chad Herring, the former Southminster Presbyterian pastor who recently took a position at John Knox Kirk in Kansas City, Mo., and Kate McGee, of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Topeka — to make a tour of the capitol in a show of opposition to the bill.

The group visited the offices of Reps. Susan Concannon and Melissa Rooker, both of whom voted against the bill, as well as that of Senate President Susan Wagle, who told them the bill has a grim prognosis for moving forward in the upper chamber.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this,” Roberts said. “Normally I don’t get involved in issues like this, but the topic had definitely been on my mind, and I think that the bill could hurt us all. Particularly for LGBT families, this could put them at risk. I’m supposed to be a shepherd for my congregation, and I couldn’t let something that I thought could hurt them move forward without saying something.”

While Roberts said he had “already gotten some nice hate mail” from the bill’s proponents, the response from his congregation has been very positive, he said.

“We had a Valentine’s dinner [Friday night], and I had a lot of people come up and thank me for going,” he said.

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