Leaders with the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma urged state legislators to have a public vote on a proposed legislative measure that its authors said was intended to be a statement that life begins at conception.
Expressing his disappointment over the fate of Senate Bill 1433, the convention's president on Friday asked Oklahoma Baptists to contact their legislators and demand a public vote on the House floor.
The Rev. Doug Melton's prepared statement came as a response to the House Republican caucus' private vote on the bill on Thursday. House Speaker Kris Steele said Thursday that the bill would not be given a hearing on the House floor. The bill escalated fears that it could lead to restrictions on abortions, birth control, in-vitro fertilization and stem cell research.
“Surely voters deserve to hear where their elected house members stand on this historic, pro-life legislation,” Melton said in his statement on Friday.
“I am extremely disappointed that the state House Republican caucus is refusing to allow such a crucial piece of legislation to be heard.”
The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma represents the state's 1,800 Southern Baptist churches — Oklahoma's largest denomination.
Friday, Steele, a Southern Baptist preacher serving as an associate pastor at a United Methodist church in Shawnee, stuck to the Republican caucus' stance on the private vote.
“The caucus reached its position after careful consideration and with deep appreciation for the position of the bill's supporters,” Steele, R-Shawnee, said. “We all remain committed to life and are continuing to advance pro-life legislation as we have consistently done for the past eight years.”
Baptist convention President Melton, pastor of Southern Hills Baptist Church in south Oklahoma City, said he is calling on Oklahoma Baptists “to rise above the miscommunication” used by opponents of the bill to derail it.
Heidi Wilburn, public affairs consultant for the Baptist convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty committee, said the committee issued an email informational alert to all pastors and directors of missions at Southern Baptist churches throughout the state.