Baptist Democrats work hard to defend the poor
By Allen Palmeri
March 2, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – Rep. Trent Skaggs, D-North Kansas City, articulated some of the driving philosophy that holds together a group of representatives in the state General Assembly that he calls the Baptist Democrat Caucus.
“Jesus hung out with the strippers, the drunks and the poor," Skaggs said. “That’s who He witnessed to. He wasn’t witnessing to the insurance companies and the lobbyists and the fat cats. He was with the lowest of society, trying to help them and preach to them. That’s what we need to do."
The “caucus" was formed last year when Baptist Democrats came together to speak out on an alcohol bill that would have opened up sales at 10 a.m. instead of noon in Kansas City.
“We really made a stand as Baptist Democrats on how damaging that would be for the state and for society," said Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra, a member of South Union Baptist Church, Maywood.
House Ethics Committee Chairman Jason Crowell, R-Cape Girardeau, is charged with certifying an official caucus, which must have at least 10 members. In that regard, the Baptist Democrat group falls short with seven. However, Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton, who also serves as assistant pastor and ministry director of First Baptist Church, Belton, can see some good in what the group is attempting to do.
“I think that Rachel and Trent are good people, and we agree on some socially conservative issues," Baker said. “I would hope that the Democrat caucus would embrace pro-life and pro-family legislation that would span across both aisles."
Skaggs, a deacon at First Baptist Church, North Kansas City, is co-sponsoring a bill that would cut down on the number of billboards for an adult cabaret or sexually oriented business within one mile of any state highway.
“If we’re going to talk about family values in the state of Missouri then we have to talk about our roadways and advertisements and the image that we project to people when they enter our state," Skaggs said. “Between Kansas City and Columbia going east, there are 23 explicit billboards. Westbound (on Interstate 70), there are 22."
Democrats who stand with Skaggs and Bringer are: Mark Hampton, D-Summersville, First Baptist Church, Summersville; Belinda Harris, D-Hillsboro, Morse Mill Baptist Church, Dittmer; Jeneé Lowe, D-Kansas City; Wes Shoemyer, D-Clarence, Oak Grove Baptist Church; and Betty Thompson, D-University City, Northern Missionary Baptist Church. Lowe does not include a church in her official General Assembly biography.
Skaggs and Baker are friends who are working together on bill that would help small businesses. As Christians on opposite ends of the political spectrum, they try to respect each other.
“When it comes to salvation, what being a Christian is, we agree," Skaggs said. “Politically, it might be hard to find a lot of common ground, but when it comes to witnessing and the Great Commission, I don’t disagree with Brian at all, and he doesn’t disagree with me. That’s more important common ground than political.
“I respect Brian. He lives what he preaches."
Bringer said it is fair to say that Baptist Democrats are “very united" on defending the poor. Skaggs put a passage of Scripture to that: Matthew 25:31-46.
“It doesn’t say when times are good, be compassionate," he said. “It’s mandated that we take care of them, no matter what."