May 20, 2003
JEFFERSON CITY – Kenny Qualls, the "family czar" of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) who serves the statewide body as associate executive director, has a heart for families. Whenever he hears about any family breaking up, Qualls cares.
The story of a dead wife, a dead son in her womb and a husband on trial for the murder of both is something that has grabbed his attention.
Scott Peterson, 30, of Modesto, Calif., is on trial for murdering his pregnant wife, Laci, and their eight-month-old son, Connor. Under California’s fetal homicide law, Peterson is being charged with two counts of murder and has pleaded innocent in Stanislaus County Superior Court.
"That’s one case that reflects the great need of Christ to be in the hearts and in the lives of people in this nation," Qualls said.
The Peterson case has been on television since April 18, when San Francisco Bay yielded the body of Laci and her unborn son. Just as it hit the TV news networks the circumstances became politicized over the fetal homicide issue, which is relevant in 23 states. (Missouri and California are two of the 23 states that have fetal homicide laws).
The pro-abortion National Organization for Women immediately fretted: With a fetal homicide statute already on the books, what would a double-murder charge do? Could it help the pro-life forces who are trying to make tangible gains through the legislative process? A lone murder charge against Peterson would be better than a double-murder charge, NOW activists reasoned.
Conservative pro-life supporters countered that prosecutors have often sought double-homicide charges when an unborn baby is killed.
"The death of that child is just as heinous as the death of his wife," said Rodney Albert, president of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s Christian Life Commission and pastor of Hallsville Baptist Church.
In fact, said State Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra, not only do prosecutors have a right to pursue two counts of murder in such instances, it is their duty to do so in the name of justice. This is what Bringer learned while serving as an assistant prosecutor in Marion County from 2000-2002.
"As a former assistant prosecutor, anytime someone intentionally takes the life of an unborn child, as was the case here, prosecutors are glad to have the tool in the law to charge that," said Bringer, a member of South Union Baptist Church in Maywood. "As an assistant prosecutor, our primary concern is justice for the victim. An unborn child of a homicide is just as much a victim as another homicide."
Susan Klein, legislative liaison for Missouri Right to Life and a member of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Sedalia, said that NOW has blown this issue out of proportion by questioning whether it is one murder or two. By trying to turn this into an abortion issue, NOW has not been sensitive to the grief of the family, Klein said.
Klein summarized the Right to Life position on the matter.
"A baby lost his life there," she said.
Qualls said it is "heartbreaking that some in our nation are more concerned about their political agenda going forward than the fact that a little baby named Connor was murdered."
Short of reformation and revival, which would create a climate in our land where life would be championed from conception, tragedies like the Peterson case are bound to keep occurring, he added.
"We cannot help families unless we first introduce them to the Creator of the family. For a family with a religion about Jesus, the religion is their way of life. For a family with a saving relationship with Jesus, Jesus is their way of life."