Kentucky Bars Longtime Prison Minister for Maintaining Biblical Position on Sex

A faithful pastor who cares deeply for imprisoned youth has been banned, and the Supreme Court's same-sex 'marriage' ruling may usher in more of the same in other states.

By Mat Staver & Keith Fournier Published on August 6, 2015

Like Christian ministers across the confessional spectrum, David Wells takes seriously the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew: “I was in prison and you did not visit me.” Minister of evangelism of Pleasant View Baptist Church in McQuady, Kentucky, he has been visiting and mentoring juveniles in the Warren County Regional Juvenile Detention Center for 12 years.

Not any more. On July 7th, the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) revoked his volunteer credentials and permanently barred him from visiting, counseling or leading worship services for juveniles. He was found in violation of a newly revised departmental policy on “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity” because he could not sign a state-mandated statement that he would not use the word “sinful” when talking about homosexuality. The policy states that volunteers:

shall not refer to juveniles by using derogatory language in a manner that conveys bias towards or hatred of the LGBTQI community. DJJ staff, volunteers, interns, and contractors shall not imply or tell LGBTQI juveniles that they are abnormal, deviant, sinful, or that they can or should change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The acronym “LGBTQI” stands for “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning, and Intersexed.”

The facility’s superintendent told Wells that even if a child asked him about sexual activity, he couldn’t discuss it. “You can give a scripture reference to the kids, and let them look it up, but you can’t read it in their hearing. You can’t say ‘sinful’; you can’t discuss sexual orientation — heterosexual or homosexual — period.”

In fact, Wells has never used derogatory language in referring to any of those to whom he ministers. No one has even accused him for doing that. To the contrary, he always respects the human dignity of each inmate. Having been sexually abused himself as a young boy, he knows that Jesus can break the chains of bondage and bring healing to the wounds caused by abuse. Many he served were sexually abused. They often wondered if there was hope for them.

In his work at the facility, children often talk to him about sexual behavior. He has dealt with everything from a young man who sexually abused his sister, and then killed her; to young girls who are pregnant at the age of thirteen by men twice their age; to children who have been molested and sodomized by adults and older teens, and who have then gone on to do the same to younger children.

These children feel hopeless. They ask Wells, as a chaplain, if there is any hope for them in this life and in the life to come. He tells them that Christ can and will forgive them, if they repent and believe the Gospel. This message has given them hope. He can’t give them the good news that liberates them if the state prevents him from discussing the bad news of human sin. These children know about sin. The state is doing them no favors by making sure they don’t hear about it from a chaplain. Quite the opposite.

The Real Issue

The issue really isn’t the way Wells speaks to the juveniles he ministers to. The issue is what he says. In effect, the DJJ wants to remove the Bible from his hands. The policy equates the teaching of Biblical morality with derogatory and hateful speech.

Removing the Bible from a pastor’s hands is like taking a scalpel from the hands of a surgeon. The policy effectively deletes passages such as Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and 1 Tim 1:10 from the New Testament. The words of Scripture are the gifts a pastor has to offer. He’s not there just to counsel the young people. He’s there to tell them the good news of Jesus Christ. That’s not hate speech, it’s love speech.

Wells is represented by Liberty Counsel. In a letter to the commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice, Liberty Counsel explained that the new policy creates an unconstitutional religious test for access to the DJJ. The First Amendment prohibits the government from discriminating on the basis of viewpoint. This detention center may not prohibit the expression of biblical morality because DJJ policymakers object to the Bible.

That’s what the American Constitution says, but the authorities in other states and in federal and military prisons have begun imposing similar restrictions on religious speech. This may become one more aftershock of the Obergefell v Hodges decision. The homosexual equivalency movement wants to insert homosexual activity into the category of a protected class under State and Federal law in order to use the police power of the State against those who disagree with them. It’s one more example of a growing soft persecution underway in the United States.

This teaching crosses Christian confessional lines. Pastor Wells is a Baptist. The Catholic Church also teaches in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” and “contrary to natural law.”  In a statement On the Pastoral Care of Homosexual Persons, the Church refers to homosexual activity as a “moral disorder.” This kind of language was used as part of an effort to care for those struggling with same-sex attraction and bring them the Gospel. Nevertheless, it’s exactly the kind of language the Kentucky Department of Juvenile Justice seeks to forbid. What happened to Pastor David Wells is a shot across the bow. Soon Christians may be getting shots aimed at the waterline.

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