Signatures sought for Washington vote
SOUTH BEND, Wash. — Concerned pastors statewide, including a pastor in this southwest Washington coastal town, are calling other church leaders to help reverse a recently ap-proved state law that they say endangers children.
The pastors, in a grassroots group called Just Want Privacy, have filed Initiative 1552 to repeal section 162-32-060 of the Washington Administrative Code. Adopted in 2015 by the state Human Rights Commission, this statute allows people to use facilities restrooms or locker rooms that are in line with their gender identity, rather than their birth gender.
That state mandate alarms Aaragon Markwell, pastor of First Baptist Church in South Bend.
“As a pastor I share this with you, not out of compulsion; rather, I hope to encourage you … to prayerfully consider how God is calling you to respond to our own cultural and spiritual challenges,” Markwell wrote in an email to clergy across the state. “Today, we are confronted with a rudimentary threat to the faith, a wholesale rejection of the God-ordained natural order.”
According to Markwell, the existing statute makes it permissable for men who are confused about their gender to shower with young girls. Fur-thermore, it also made it illegal for businesses to maintain sex-specific facilities, and also took away parents’ reasonable expectations that their children’s privacy and safety will be protected while using public school restrooms and locker rooms.
On the other side, defenders of the new law blast I-1552 on their website, www.washingtonwontdiscriminiate.org, as singling out “our transgender neighbors, family and friends for discrimination. If opponents of equality gather enough signatures, this dangerous initiative will be on the ballot in 2017. Discrimination isn’t who we are in Washington, and it has no place in the state we all call home.”
But Markwell poses a question to each pastor — what if even one little girl from their church was victimized and violated by a predator who chose to exploit loopholes in this new statewide rule?
“I believe the answer is clear,” Markwell wrote. “The very thought of not doing something to counter a law that would allow men such unfettered access to little girls strikes terror in my heart. If it’s not our duty to defend the vulherable, whose duty is it?”
He then calls the pastors to get behind the “Herculean task” of collecting 330,000 signatures of registered Washington voters by July 7 so as to qualify the initiative for a statewide vote in November; at least 259,000 valid signatures are needed, but the goal has been set higher to allow for rejection of invalid signatures. Markham urges the pastors at minimum to hold a “Signature Sunday” in their churches on June 4, at which they would make petitions available to their congregations.
Markwell notes that so far less than 10 percent of Washington churches have been willing to take petition sheets. He said it is likely because a “spirit of fear has swallowed the hearts of many in our pulpits,” who are withdrawing from controversies in an effort to be inclusive.
But a “bold defense of truth and the dignity of women” is not a political issue, but a spiritual one, he contended.
“Our congregations look to us to model the boldness and courage we seek to inspire in them,” Markwell wrote. “If each of us did our part, we could have this done in a single Sunday.”
Joseph Backholm, president of the Family Policy Institute of Washington and chair of Just Want Privacy, stated in an email that the petition drive so far is doing much better than a similar effort that failed last year.
“The good news is that we are far ahead of last year’s pace,” Backholm wrote. “We have nearly 50,000 signatures on hand and tens of thousands more that have already been gathered but have not yet been turned in. This time last year we had fewer than 5,000 signatures.”
For more information, go to JustWantPrivacy.org or phone Markwell at 360-942-7847.