By Bob Allen
Georgia Baptists’ new lobbyist made headlines his second week on the job, testifying in the state’s General Assembly in support of legislation that would allow guns in churches.
“Really, it’s a sanctity of human life issue as far as I’m concerned,” Mike Griffin, senior pastor of Liberty Baptist Church of Hartwell, Ga., and public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Convention, told the House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee Feb. 6.
“The protection of innocent human life is paramount,” Griffin said. “It’s the most important protection we can have in our country. If we don’t have life, we don’t have liberty. If we don’t have liberty, we don’t have property rights. So that’s very important that we protect, and I think among law-abiding citizens as qualified in this legislation, no one would have any reason to fear having more people like that around you.”
The bill, approved 8-4 along party lines and now headed to the House Rules Committee, would remove a current ban that does not allow people with concealed carry permits to bring guns into public venues including bars and churches.
Griffin told lawmakers he was there on behalf of 1.3 million Georgia Baptists in more than 3,600 churches across the state.
“As Georgia Baptist churches, we believe in a long-cherished belief in the autonomy of the local church, and that means the local [church] having the right to determine its government, its polity, its policies,” he testified. “We talk about Southern Baptists and Independent Baptists, well, there’s nothing more independent than any Baptist anywhere.”
“They won’t let anybody tell them what to do,” he said. “They don’t want even the Southern Baptist Convention telling them what to do. So we believe in the autonomy of the local church.”
Griffin said he wasn’t there to speak on “every nuance” of the bill, introduced by Rick Jasperse, R-Jasper, a member of First Baptist Church in Jasper, Ga. “I know there’s a lot of things in this bill, but when it comes to the opportunity for a local church to be able to decide for itself something that we believe is a constitutional right already, we believe that the state should give us that opportunity.”
“I want to be careful,” he said. “I don’t want to go beyond my statement for Georgia Baptists. I can give my own personal opinion. I can speak to you as a pastor myself. It’s not the absence of guns that makes us safer. It’s guns that are [possessed] by law abiding citizens that bring about the protection. So we don’t have anything to fear from our Second Amendment rights.”
Asked if all Georgia Baptists are in favor of the bill, Griffin said, “I am representing them as I was given the responsibility given by the convention, by the executive director, yes, so we do speak on their behalf.”
“I wouldn’t be here if they didn’t want me here,” Griffin said.
Robert White, executive director of the Georgia Baptist Convention, announced Griffin’s appointment in the Feb. 6 issue of the Christian Index.
“I am very pleased that Mike Griffin has agreed to serve as the public affairs representative for the Georgia Baptist Convention,” White said. “As pastor of Liberty Baptist in Hartwell, Mike has had a great impact not only in Hart County, but all across Georgia as well.
“His ministry has extended all the way to the State Capitol where he has been a highly effective lobbyist for Georgia Right to Life. Mike is well known and well loved under the Gold Dome where the Lord has blessed his many efforts to represent the lives of the unborn.
“Mike will be registered as the lobbyist for the Georgia Baptist Convention. His outstanding personality and well-connected relationships will enhance our efforts to speak out on matters of public affairs and moral issues.”