Marriage, Abortion Ban, Video Lottery Repeal Supporters Rally in Pierre
By Bob Ellis
PIERRE--A "Gideon's Army" of pastors, priests and lay Christians gathered in the South Dakota capitol of Pierre Thursday evening to take a stand for some of the most important issues of this election season.
Hundreds of the faithful from all over South Dakota gathered in the name of Jesus Christ to honor His gift of life, His sacred institution of marriage, and the values that founded a great state and a great nation.
The first rally of the evening was at Community Bible Church in Pierre where several pastors and pro-life leaders spoke. Several state and federal officials, and candidates for office were present, including state District 33 senate candidate Dennis Schmidt, Rep. Larry Rhoden (Union Center), U.S. House of Representatives candidate Bruce Whalen (Pine Ridge), and United States Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas.
After some hearty, upbeat praise and worship, Pastor Harvey Friez, Senior Pastor of Community Bible Church, commenced the evening and Pastor Dale Bartscher, formerly of First Christian Church in Rapid City and currently working for the South Dakota Family Policy Council, officiated the rally.
Geri Riggs of Sturgis spoke to the crowd about her rape and subsequent pregnancy several years ago, a pregnancy she ended in abortion. Riggs said she had made a terrible mistake in that abortion, and if she could, she would speak in every corner of South Dakota to tell people that abortion is not the answer.
Sylvia Rhoden of Union Center then recounted the abortion ban bill of 2004 which almost passed, and how that had helped her break the bondage of silence over the abortion she and her husband John had several years before.
Barb Frick of Sioux Falls sang a song about the baby she once aborted. The song recounted her sorrow for what she’d done, and in it, she asks Jesus to tell her child that her mother loves her. The song lamented all the childhood things “Johanna” would never do.
“Jesus, tell Johanna I’m sorry
As you gently hold her hand
Please make her understand
That I love her very much.”
Steve Noble of “Call to Action,” a Christian grassroots action group from North Carolina, then spoke. He said that while South Dakota loses 800 children each year to abortion, they are losing 30,000 in his home state of North Carolina, and this is why his state is praying for us.
Noble said that Joshua 1:9 was his response to any pastors who have been fearful of speaking out on this issue (“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”). Noble said he had been a member of the “Christian Camouflage Club,” but had finally come out of hiding to answer God’s call to action. He said people shouldn’t be discouraged if others condemn them for standing up for truth, reminding the crowd that Jesus said “Blessed are those who are persecuted in my name.”
When Senator Brownback spoke, he asked rhetorically what there was to disagree with in the statement that all life is precious. He said that he had asked some people at Harvard during a meeting, “Who in this room doesn’t think your life is unique and precious?” Brownback said no one raised their hand.
Brownback also mentioned that those who want to experiment on human embryos, as is being considered in Missouri right now, must first consider whether the embryo is a person or a piece of property. He called himself a “recovering lawyer,” but said that even he could figure that out. He said that when some scientists tried to parse words over the issue, saying, “Well, it’s alive, but it isn’t a life,” he had to tell these scientists that they were starting to sound like lawyers.
Senator Brownback enumerated some of the scientific advances since Roe v. Wade was adjudicated in 1973--advances which shed light on the humanity of the unborn child. Some of these advances include a greater understanding about fetal development, and the ability of the unborn child to feel pain, the pain of abortion being “something you wouldn’t do to a dog,” Brownback said.
Brownback said the pro-life position would triumph on November 7, but admonished the crowd to get involved and stay involved to make the victory happen.
Pastor Dan Kent of Calvary Temple Assembly of God in Spearfish closed the meeting at the church in prayer, and the gathering then moved to the steps of the state capitol building.
Despite the chill of a late October South Dakota evening, the lawn of the capitol building was full. Kitty Werthman, President of South Dakota Eagle Forum, was in the front row at the foot of the capitol steps; Werthman has worked tirelessly for many years to end abortion in South Dakota. Others present were Matt Lockett and Lou Engle of Bound4Life, a prayer and intercession group working against abortion.
Senator Brownback again spoke briefly at the capitol, and Rapid City businessman Robert Fischer, a key organizer of the rally, announced that Dr. James Dobson of Focus on the Family had just agreed to come to an important rally at Mount Rushmore on Saturday, November 4. This was met with enthusiastic applause from those gathered.
Pastor Don Brendtro of Restored Life Outreach in Rapid City addressed the crowd, declaring, “Abortion will stop in South Dakota. Abortion will stop in the United States.”
Pastor Jeff Anderson of First Assembly of God in Rapid City then spoke about Initiated Measure 7, the repeal of video lottery in South Dakota. Referring to the revenue the state stands to lose from video lottery, Anderson said $112 million was “'pocket lint' to God.”
Anderson said video lottery is a moral issue that needs to be addressed by God’s people because it oppresses the poor, and violates several of God’s principles. He said that those who do win at gambling are able to do so because many others lost.
Pastor Anderson said that video lottery is theft, stating that if two men play dice together, both are looking to take the other’s money. He pointed out that our money says, “In God We Trust,” and that gambling violates the principle of trusting God for provision.
Pastor Steve Hickey of Church at the Gate in Sioux Falls and Pastor Gabriel Medicine Eagle of the Rosebud Indian Reservation then took to the steps together, and Hickey acknowledged that the Native peoples had taken the lead on the issue of life, having it in their tribal law that life is sacred. Medicine Eagle said that many Native Americans live on reservations, and said that he believed God had "reserved" or set aside the Native peoples for “a time like this.”
Medicine Eagle told of how Oglala Sioux president Cecilia Fire Thunder had tried to put an abortion clinic on the Pine Ridge Reservation a few months ago, but the tribal council, “along with the help of our next congressman Bruce Whalen,” impeached her, making the statement that they would not kill any babies within reservation boundaries.
“Now if us uncivilized savages can make that declaration,” Medicine Eagle said, tongue-in-cheek, “then you civilized white people should be able to do the same thing here in the state of South Dakota.”
Hickey said that sometimes God calls on his people to do some things that may seem strange, in order to make a point. He recounted the passage from the Bible where Gideon had gone up against a vastly superior army with a small band of 300. In that encounter, they came up on the enemy Midianites stealthily at night, then suddenly broke clay pots, raised up torches, and blew the shofar horns, throwing the Midianites into confusion.
Hickey and Medicine Eagle re-enacted this scene on the steps of the capitol, complete with the blowing of the shofar and trumpets, and the crowd roared its approval.
Pastor Michael Brandt, Senior Pastor of Abiding Savior Free Lutheran Church in Sioux Falls and father of Kayla Brandt, one of the faces of the VoteYesForLife.com campaign logo, said Christians are good at rallying, but “this can’t stop at the rally.” Brandt called on people to volunteer for VoteYesForLife.com, to help on the phones, to talk to people about Referred Law 6. He said, “If you don’t put feet under your prayers, it’s no prayer at all.”
All the pastors in the crowd joined Pastor Bartscher on the steps at the end of the rally, and as the crowd sang, a spirit of peace settled on the capital lawn, and the faces of those gathered reflected a calm assurance that the Spirit of the Lord was in that place.
In a brief interview after the rally, Bruce Whalen commended the pastors and people of South Dakota for coming together as they had at the event, and as they have on the critical issues of abortion, marriage and video lottery. When asked if he believed Referred Law 6 would pass on November 7, Whalen said he did, but that people were definitely going to have to fight for its passage.
Some are saying South Dakota has an opportunity to be, as Ronald Reagan was fond of putting it, “a shining city upon a hill,” quoting the earlier John Winthrop. And just as Winthrop said in the colonial days of America, it could be said of South Dakota right now that “the eyes of all people are upon us.”