Baptists Rule in Kentucky's Legislature

Wednesday, 16 Apr 2014 10:51 AM

By Melissa Clyne

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The Baptist influence in the Kentucky legislature is responsible for the Bluegrass State’s positions on social issues such as gay marriage and gambling, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer.

Forty percent of the General Assembly – nearly half the Senate and more than a third of the House – identify as Baptists, much higher than the 25 percent figure statewide, according to research by the 2010 Religious Census by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies, the Kentucky Baptist Convention, and Legislative Research Commission, the Enquirer reported.

Nationwide, Baptists make up 17 percent of the adult population and 13.7 percent of the U.S. Congress.

Kentucky banned gay marriage in 2004, a decision reversed by a federal judge earlier this year.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn found that government cannot "impose a traditional or faith-based limitation [on marriage] … without a sufficient justification for it."

Paul Chitwood, executive director of the 750,000-member Kentucky Baptist Convention, at the time characterized the decision as "tragic and disappointing," according to NBC News. Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, whose father is a Baptist preacher, is appealing the ruling.

Many Baptist ministers told the Enquirer that defending traditional marriage is the most important issue to them.

"I want to see a stronger stance on preserving marriage between a man and woman," said Russell Noss, pastor of Highland Hills Baptist Church in Fort Thomas, Ky.

The Baptist contingent has also put the brakes on expanded gambling, according to the Enquirer, despite having the support of both parties in both chambers. To compete with nearby states, Kentucky horse tracks want to operate casinos.

The measure has died in the Republican-controlled Senate. Baptist organizations and legislators have come out strong against the legislation.

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