BIG STONE GAP — A Thursday church rally advertised during an anti-transgender law rally in Wise focused more on voter registration and participation.
Kenneth Sturgill, pastor at Spirit and Truth Worship Center near Big Stone Gap, brought Wise County and Norton Republican Party Chairperson Kim Mullins and, virtually, First District state Del. Terry Kilgore and county Commonwealth’s Attorney Chuck Slemp III to talk to the approximately 90 attendees.
While attendees at Tuesday’s anti-transgender rights law rally at the Wise County School Board office encouraged the 120 people there to come to Sturgill’s church, Thursday’s event gave little mention of the transgender issue.
Signs for Republican state gubernatorial candidate Glenn Youngkin flanked the church compound’s entrance, and a projection screen of the church website homepage inside included an image of Youngkin, Republican lieutenant governor candidate Winsome Sears and attorney general hopeful Jason Miyares.
GOP chair Mullins, however, made no direct mention of the three candidates.
“This isn’t a political meeting,” Mullins told the gathering, adding that having an opinion was political.
“We have failed as a society,” Mullins said, referring to various laws passed by a Democratic-controlled General Assembly and governorship. “We’ve been asleep at the wheel.”
While not specifically mentioning transgender rights policies adopted by the Wise County and Norton school boards in July, Mullins said it was parents’ job to teach children morals while school systems should focus on academics and teaching practical life and job skills.
Mullins called on the group to pray, be informed about government and legislative affairs and “Get out and vote.”
Mullins said that getting involved in politics was not necessarily mixing religion and politics.
Delegate Kilgore, speaking to the gathering via Zoom while traveling to Richmond for Monday’s General Assembly special session, told the gathering that rural areas of the state need to increase voter turnout. He pointed to recently passed state laws that allow voter registration efforts at churches and civic group meetings.
“Vote early,” Kilgore said, adding that allows opponents of a Democratic-controlled state government to identify and encourage voters before the November election.
“Nowhere does it say we can’t participate in the process,” Kilgore said, citing potential criticisms about church and state separation.
Slemp called on voters opposing Democratic-passed changes to sentencing and criminal justice laws to get involved, claiming those changes “make us less safe.”
“We need common sense to prevail in Richmond,” Slemp said. “We need a new governor and a new General Assembly … I believe the pendulum will swing back in due time.”
Sturgill said he wants to get all churches in Wise County and across the state to align in opposition to what he said was a government and social effort to strip Christians of their freedom of speech.
“I want you to start a new volunteer army,” Sturgill said, later adding that it would not be terrorist or violent. “We have rights. The Constitution gives us rights.”
While not specifying the school board’s adoption of transgender rights policies, Sturgill asked the audience, “Same-sex marriage, homosexuality, gays, lesbians, do you think god condones that?”