Missouri Baptists swept into office
Nov. 2 voters form moral values juggernaut
By Allen Palmeri
November 9, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Missouri Baptists will become governor and hold the top two seats in the state House of Representatives in January thanks to a juggernaut of “moral values” voters who swept them into office Nov. 2.
The same voters also contributed mightily to the re-election of President George W. Bush and Missouri U.S. Sen. Christopher “Kit” Bond in large part because they were viewed more in touch with their moral values, particularly when it comes to abortion, homosexual marriage and stem cell research.
Also, Republican U.S. Reps. Sam Graves, (Sixth District) and a member of First Baptist Church, Tarkio, and Roy Blunt, (Seventh District) and a member of First Baptist Church, Branson, both were easily re-elected.
In statewide races conservative Republicans, many of whom profess saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, now control the state Capitol and the Governor’s Mansion for the first time since 1921. Matt Blunt, who attends Second Baptist Church, Springfield, became the governor-elect in part because he campaigned as a pro-life, pro-biblical marriage candidate. And like-minded Missouri Baptists Rod Jetton and Carl Bearden, who were elected by GOP colleagues Nov. 3 as Speaker of the House and Speaker Pro Tem respectively, will set the agenda for their fellow lawmakers in the state House.
“I think Missouri Baptists had a huge influence in the election,” said Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) President Mitch Jackson. “The exit polls said the No. 1 thing that influenced people’s votes was moral values. Evangelical Christians turned out in huge numbers and I think they swayed the election. I’m excited that our convention is taking an active role in the political process in a way that is legal.”
Charlie Burnett, pastor, Harmony Heights Baptist Church, Joplin, and chairman of the MBC Executive Board’s Administrative Committee, said that Missouri Baptists set the stage for Nov. 2 by pulling together in August to vote for a constitutional amendment supporting biblical marriage and against an amendment for a proposed casino in Rockaway Beach.
“The voters that we got out for that stayed true to their conscience and basically tipped the scale for Matt Blunt,” Burnett said. “I don’t think he would have won if we hadn’t organized for the primary.”
MBC Executive Director David Clippard agreed with Burnett’s assessment that Missouri Baptist voters who helped make the difference in the primary election had the same effect in the general election.
“I believe it was the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage that really gripped America’s heart,” Clippard said. “I believe the moral response was primary.”
For Kerry Messer, lobbyist, MBC Christian Life Commission, the election seemed like the crowning moment of 20 years of legislative involvement. Messer began his work in an era where Christian lobbyists in Jefferson City were as rare as whooping cranes, with representatives in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly saying things like, “You’ll never last. Your kind never does.” Now, with a 97-66 GOP majority in the House and a 23-11 edge in the Senate, evangelical Christian lawmakers who hold to a biblical worldview tend to be the rule, not the exception.
“More and more Christians are voting their convictions rather than their currency,” Messer said. “The biblical, social conservative values are winning the day.”
Blunt defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate Claire McCaskill by carrying rural Missouri, much of which is covered with more than 2,000 Missouri Baptist churches. He signaled that he cares about Missouri Baptist values at a Nov. 3 press conference when he said the state needed a law banning human cloning. That statement will help provide some political cover for another Missouri Baptist, Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit, a deacon at First Baptist Church, Raytown, who for months has been leading the charge against human cloning only to be called an obstructionist by some in both political parties.
Blunt also signaled Nov. 4 that he cares about values voters when he named his boyhood Sunday School teacher, Ken McClure, to head his transition team. Darrell Decker, a Greene County Commissioner who serves on the MBC Executive Board, said McClure will be the first of several good choices that Blunt will make as he surrounds himself with “very capable people” who are committed to governing as a team. In addition, two members of Second Springfield, Charlie Denison and Brad Roark, are newly elected state representatives and Blunt friends who will be part of this moral change in state government, Second Springfield Pastor John Marshall said.
Meanwhile Jetton, a member of New Salem Baptist Church, Marble Hill, will be sworn in as House Speaker Jan. 5. Jetton is a graduate of Southwest Baptist University and a leader who is in step with the conservative resurgence of the MBC. His deputy in House leadership, Bearden, is a member of First Baptist Church, Harvester. Another member of the House leadership team, Rep. Jack Goodman, R-Mt. Vernon, attends First Baptist Church, Mt. Vernon.
In the Senate, Bartle will continue to work with Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin and a member of Ballwin Baptist Church, to defend the unborn. Loudon’s bill imposing civil liability for violating Missouri’s informed parental consent law, which would save an estimated 800 lives a year, died in the 2004 General Assembly. With a 2-to-1 Republican majority in the upper chamber, a supportive Jetton prioritizing it in the House and a pro-life governor eager to sign it, the bill has every opportunity to succeed in 2005, Loudon said.
Messer pointed to the election of two more Republicans, Peter Kinder as lieutenant governor and Sarah Steelman as state treasurer, as two more examples of evangelical Christians who are riding this moral values wave. Messer said an evangelical Christian is someone who proclaims the name of Jesus as Lord and Savior, attends church regularly and reads the Bible.
“That community (of voters) is maturing and recognizing their civic responsibility,” Messer said.
There is no doubt Missouri Southern Baptists played an important part in the Nov. 2 results. The Pathway printed 26,000 voter guides that wer