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Grayson County BOS Public Hearing on “Unborn Sanctuary”
Speech by Rev. Laura George, J.D
December 14, 2023

Seal of Virginia

My name is Rev. Laura George and I am the lead minister at Oracle Temple, a multi-faith church.I also serve as Executive Director of The Oracle Institute, an interfaith educational charity. Both are located at the Peace Pentagon, 88 Oracle Way in Independence, Virginia.

As an emissary representing ALL faith traditions and as a former attorney, I am singularly focused on protecting the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,which reads:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion
or prohibiting the free exercise thereof ....”

There is no question that the proposed “Unborn Sanctuary” Ordinance is religious in nature and that it is based on a minority, Evangelical Christian view of when personhood begins. The evidence of this religious motivation is overwhelming:

  • First, the Ordinance was brought to us by two Baptist pastors: David Osborne of Mountain View Baptist Church, and Mark Lee Dickson from Texas Right to Life. 
  • Second, the Ordinance was drafted by the Federalist Society, a right-wing think tank that endorses Christian Nationalism and seeks to undermine universal religious rights.
  • Third, the Evangelical proponents of the Ordinance never fail to remind us that they view abortion as a sin. They base this religious argument on their erroneous interpretation of the Jewish Old Testament, since the Christian New Testament has Jesus silent on the issue.

Freedom of Religion became the FIRST Amendment to the Constitution because it was deemed the most important AND least controversial. Many of the Founding Fathers were Deists – not Christian – which means they believed in a Supreme Being but not the God of ancient peoples. In fact, Thomas Jefferson took a razor to his Bible and excised everything but the actual quotes of Jesus, in order to focus on his moral lessons – not his later deification by the Catholic Church.

In sum, our founders sought separation of church and state. Yet, for the past ten months:

  • Grayson County has suffered the invasion of religious zealots from Texas who seek to trash the most hallowed principle of our nation.
  • In addition, we’ve endured their attempts to gut the Virginia Constitution, which also pledges religious neutrality.
  • And we’ve borne witness to their assault on the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom – which just happens to be the Mission Statement of The Oracle Institute. This Act was authored by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Virgina General Assembly in 1786.

“Whereas, Almighty God hath created the mind free; That all attempts to influence it ... only beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a departure from the plan of the Holy Author ... who, being Lord both of body and mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions ... as was in his Almighty power to do;

That the impious presumption of legislators and rulers ... being themselves but fallible and uninspired men, have assumed dominion over the faith of others ... and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through all time; ...

That Truth is great and will prevail, if left to herself; that she ... has nothing to fear ... errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contradict them:

Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That no man shall be compelled to ... support any religious worship ... nor ... be restrained ... in his body ..., nor otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess ... their opinions in matters of religion .... 

We are free to declare ... that the rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind; and that if any act shall be hereafter passed ... to narrow its operation, such act will be an infringement of natural right.

Why did Jefferson bother to pen this state statute, given the protections at the federal level? Because he wanted all Virginians to grasp not only the innate right of Religious Freedom, but also God’s greatest gift to humanity: FREE WILL.

Free Will is our birthright from the Creator, which is why every faith tradition has a slightly different view on God. Each religion also has a unique wisdom story about Free Will and when its exercise crosses a line that offends their God. Simply put, every religion has a moral code, but NONE of them – as Jefferson reminds us – may claim absolute Truth:

  • Thus, Free Will allows Evangelical Christians to believe that abortion is a sin because personhood starts at conception.
  • Free Will also permits the vast majority of Christians to see God as merciful. They therefore weigh the needs of the mother and her family situation and conclude that abortions are acceptable if performed early or the mother’s life is in peril.
  • Free Will allows Jews to believe in a God named Yahweh, to trust the stories contained in the Old Testament, and to conclude that life starts at first breath and, therefore, that abortion is not a sin.
  • Free Will permits Muslims to worship a God named Allah, to read the Quran for inspiration, and to conclude that fetal ensoulment occurs within 120 days of conception and, therefore, that abortion is acceptable during the first four months of pregnancy.
  • Free Will allows Hindus and Buddhists to believe in reincarnation – where each soul experiences multiple lives until we reach enlightenment – and to conclude that abortion is a karmic act that simply impacts the timing and context of rebirth.
  • And Free Will grants Atheists the right to believe that science has failed to prove either the existence of a God or a soul, and that abortion is therefore a private matter.

Today, science and spirituality are merging to create new, more sophisticated belief systems. At Oracle Temple, where I teach, we believe humanity is slowly evolving, and that as we evolve, so does our concept of the Godhead.

So, we don’t believe God is a man, as the Church of England recently decreed. Nor do we think God is a Woman. We view Source as both genderful and genderless. And we believe this unified force defies the human characteristics ascribed to God by our ancient ancestors. Simply put, we believe God is an energetic force comprised of TRUTH, LOVE, and LIGHT.

In sum, this Ordinance is based on one religion’s view of God. It is based on a Christian myth that is out of step with the arch of history and the trajectory of human evolution. Certainly, people have the right to believe ancient stories and craft any belief system they wish.

But they do NOT have the right to force their religious beliefs on the rest of us.

So says the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
So says the Virginia Constitution.
And so says the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom.