LITTLE ROCK About a dozen pastors toured the Capitol and met with legislators Tuesday as part of an effort by a religious advocacy group to connect lawmakers with Christian leaders.
Family Council President Jerry Cox organized the meeting, which served as the launch of the Pastors Prayer Assembly. The goal is to prompt pastors to meet monthly with lawmakers, Cox said.
Events included a news conference and tours of the building as well as public and private prayers.
“It’s not about pastors becoming lobbyists,” Cox said. “This is about pastors coming to this building during the legislative session to build Christ-centered relationships with lawmakers.”
Early in the morning, Cox met with a handful of lawmakers and pastors in the Capitol basement over biscuits and gravy.
He told a story of a similar meeting in Baton Rouge where pastors prayed over Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.
“This is how government is supposed to work,” he said. “There is no dotted line around this building that says pastors and Christians need not show up.”
Sen. Cecile Bledsoe, R-Rogers, said she, too, wanted pastors to play a more active role in legislators’ lives.
“I need you pastors to undergird me and the others with your prayers and your presence,” she said.
The wall between church and state in Arkansas isn’t a high one. The state’s constitution acknowledges “Almighty God” and bans atheists from holding office or testifying under oath. Many lawmakers list their religious affiliation on their online biography or in legislative guides. The House and Senate begin each day’s session with a prayer.
Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson, who was reprimanded by the Arkansas Ethics Commission after his campaign funds were illegally channeled into his then-girlfriend’s checking account, said he appreciates the ministers’ spiritual support. (Hutchinson, who was married at the time of the infraction, eventually divorced.)
“I made a lot of bad decisions in the last few years, I won’t go into all of them, and I’m not going to blame politics for it,” Hutchinson said told the pastors.
He said politicians face pressure to put on a perfect face on the campaign trail and while in office.
“You keep this fake image that life is good and you’re the perfect candidate for this,” he said. “That only continues when you get here to the Capitol.”
Hutchinson said it is difficult to find someone to confide in.
“I became very isolated spiritually. I had people all over the place, but it wasn’t that type of fellowship and accountability,” he said. “That’s a dangerous place to be, and I never saw it coming.”
He said a greater presence by pastors at the Capitol would make a difference.
“I’m begging you all to come and get involved,” Hutchinson said. “Having a spiritual leader to confide in and trust and pray for you, hold you accountable, would, I think, change not only our individual lives, but I think it would make a huge impact on the state and the type of leadership we get out of the Capitol.”