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A Look at the Faith-Based Arguments at the General Assembly

Lawmakers in Richmond hear lots of arguments about money and statistics. But they also hear arguments based in faith.

Politics and religion don’t mix at cocktail parties. But they sure do here at the Capitol. Lawmakers are hearing faith-based arguments on the right and left on everything from nondiscrimination to the minimum wage. On the right is Victoria Cobb at the Family Foundation. She says churches and religious institutions should be able to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. 

“There are lots of things that are matters of someone’s faith that we all wouldn’t necessarily agree with. But the beauty is we’re in a free society, and we want to keep Virginia free," Cobb says.

“So what about the freedom of the people that want to be identified as a certain gender," asks reporter Michael Pope. "They would say they have freedom too, right?”

Cobb responds, "Yeah. They don’t have to go to this private school. They don’t have to enter into this church. They don’t have to choose these places of business.”

But members of the religious right aren’t the only ones making faith-based arguments. Kim Bobo at the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy says lawmakers should raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour across Virginia, and they should require employers offer five paid sick days. 

“The intersection of religion and politics is really putting faith into action," Bobo says. "If we don’t exercise our faith in the public sphere then we have just a piety that is not putting faith into life.”

The New Democratic majority is moving forward with nondiscrimination, but the effort to raise the minimum wage now has a controversial provision that raises it more slowly in Hampton Roads and Southside than in Northern Virginia.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.