Jason Rapert and these Christian lawmakers restore American values

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Ten years ago, Jason Rapert – founder and president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers – was in a hotel room in Destin, Florida at the end of a ministerial conference.

The minister and missionary, who at the time also worked for a brokerage firm, felt called to be a candidate. He had prayed for weeks about whether or not to throw his hat in the political ring.

The answer came to him that night at a Florida Hilton. “God said to me, ‘Why don’t you sacrifice to serve at home, the same way you serve abroad, when your country is in trouble? Rapert recalled recently.

Despite having a young family to support – his children were ages 8 and 10 at the time – he quit his job and entered the race for the Arkansas State Senate. And then he won.

Shortly after Rapert took office in 2011, he discovered a loophole: There were religious freedom groups doing important work. There were different secular associations for lawmakers like the American Legislative Exchange Council. But there was no association specifically for Christian lawmakers. Rapert felt that Christian lawmakers across the country needed a way to connect with each other so that they could “work together to restore a more godly nation.”

Surprised that someone hadn’t already answered this need, he continually asked his fellow Conservatives across the country, “Why don’t we have an association of Christian lawmakers? No one could tell him why but they all thought it was a great idea.

So ultimately – after several successful re-election campaigns and nearly a decade in power – Rapert decided to launch one himself.

Anti-abortion activists converge outside the Washington Supreme Court on Friday, January 27, 2017, during the annual March for Life.
Andrew Harnik, Associated Press

Create a movement

Last year, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, a group of lawmakers from across the country gathered at this same hotel in Destin, Florida, where Rapert believes God has answered his prayers on politics. .

They launched the National Association of Christian Lawmakers – NACL for short, the chemical name for salt and a very intentional reference to the biblical concept of Christians as salt and light – with Rapert at the helm as president and founder. They also created an organizational structure.

“At our charter meeting, we installed 23 state presidents,” said Rapert, adding that today, “we have elected officials from 25 states and we have donors and supporting institutions from 46 states. States ”.

The organization, which will hold its first political conference in Dallas, Texas next week, hopes to do nothing less than remake the country. Or, as Rapert and others say, they want to take America back to its roots.

“Our ultimate goal and intention is to restore the Judeo-Christian foundations of our government that were laid out from the start,” Rapert said.

Florida State Senator Dennis Baxley, who is the president of the Florida National Association of Christian Lawmakers, said the organization was responding to “a need for a network of like-minded people of faith.” . It also tries to direct the attention of lawmakers “to what policies and what bills would impact our states and our nation.”

In addition to giving conservative Christian lawmakers a way to connect with each other, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers has two very specific policy goals: Members want to help each other pass values-based laws and perform public office. with Christians.

We allow “local, state and federal officials to discuss and debate the major political issues of this nation from a biblical worldview,” Rapert said, adding that the organization is also arming Christian lawmakers with “a model legislation that can be applied in their districts. ”

The organization will only be successful if it can work “to build constructive elements of policy” in addition to providing a space for dialogue, Baxley said.

The National Association of Christian Lawmakers also wants to staff public offices across the country with Christians.

“We strive to have Christians running for every elected office in this nation from scratch,” Rapert said.

He added, “We devised the vision to incorporate elected officials at all levels – whether you are elected to a school board, mayor, quorum tribunal or county judge.”

Florida Senator Dennis Baxley listens during a legislative session on Tuesday, April 27, 2021 at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Florida.
Wilfredo Lee, Associated Press

Model legislation and campaign support

Rapert and other state senators involved with the National Association of Christian Lawmakers have all pointed to the so-called Texas Heartbeat Bill – which was signed by the governor in May – as the type of legislation model that they would like to see duplicated in other states.

The Texas bill prohibits abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected. It also allows Texas residents to bring civil action against doctors who perform abortions after a heartbeat.

Texas is actually the 14th state to pass such legislation, noted Rapert. Arkansas came first with a Heartbeat Bill it sponsored in 2013. Although The Rapert law is adopted, it was later rejected by a federal judge who found it unconstitutional.

Next week, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers will vote on whether to formally pass the Texas Heartbeat Bill as the first model bill.

Rapert and other members of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers said they would also seek ways to support religious freedom.

“We believe that without (religious freedom) there is a huge loss in the foundations of what America is,” Baxley said.

He described the goal of sharing successful legislation as an effort to put “tool sets” in the hands of lawmakers.

Build a support network

In addition to promoting model legislation and helping Christian candidates get elected, the National Association of Christian Lawmakers aims to boost the morale of conservative lawmakers. Vermont State Representative Vicki Strong said it was done for her.

Before the organization was formed, she said she felt “on a desert island” as a Christian conservative in a liberal state often associated with Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders.

“I need it,” Strong said of the organization. “I have really been encouraged and encouraged to get in touch with other more active Christian lawmakers (across the country) who are trying to make their voices heard in their states.”

Vicki Strong from Albany, Vermont, talks about her deceased son at the Statehouse in Montpellier, Vermont on Friday March 2, 2007.
Toby Talbot, Associate Press

As the Vermont state president of the National Association of Christian Lawmakers of Vermont, she reached out to other conservative Christian lawmakers in her state to try and get them involved.

In Vermont, Strong noted, much of the legislation promoted by the organization is unlikely to actually be passed. But it helps to get it on the official record after being offered, she added.

Strong also believes that having a stronger Christian presence in the legislature could have the ripple effect of encouraging other Christians to come forward.

Likewise, Rapert said the networking opportunities created by his organization would further his goal of getting more Christians in power.

“We are starting to network people in their state so that they can run for office,” he said, adding that “people have already told us about the formation of super PACs so that we can be more engaged in the elections of 2024.. ”


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