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Two Lawrence churches vandalized ahead of Aug. 2 vote

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Two Lawrence churches were vandalized overnight with pro-choice messaging on the eve of Kansas’ vote on a constitutional amendment that would allow the state Legislature to ban abortion.

Victory Bible Church, 1942 Massachusetts St., was defaced at around 11:30 p.m. Sunday, pastor Leo Barbee Jr. said.

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A security camera captured what “looked like a man and a woman wearing masks” before they spray-painted the church, Barbee said. “Protect choice,” “vote no,” and “no forced birth” were painted in large letters across the front and sides of the church. 

Calvary Temple Assembly of God, 606 W. 29th Terrace, also was defaced. Pro-choice messages were spray-painted in red on three sides of the church. “My body, my choice,” was spray-painted across the church front. 

Rev. Don Goatley and his wife discovered the vandalism Monday while on an early morning walk. 

“In our 51 years here, this has never happened,” Goatley said. “It is sad that our society has come to this point. We are going to have to do a lot of painting.” 

Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Calvary Temple Assembly of God, 606 W. 29th Terrace, was defaced ahead of the Aug. 2. election. It is pictured early Monday, Aug. 1, 2022.
Molly Adams/Lawrence Times Calvary Temple Assembly of God, 606 W. 29th Terrace

The Lawrence Police Department did not immediately respond Monday to a call seeking information about the vandalism.

Barbee suggested that his church was targeted because of its stand in favor of the abortion amendment. 

“We have not taken stands to be controversial,” Barbee said. “We’ve taken stands to be biblical.” 

He said he did not think the vandalism was done as a hoax by people who also favor the amendment.

In an open letter published Saturday, Barbee and about a dozen other local faith leaders asked readers to vote “yes” to the amendment, which would eliminate Kansans’ constitutional right to abortion. 

“Many people seem to make the argument of a woman being raped or being involved in incest is a valid reason for an abortion; however, is this a valid reason for taking a life; I think not. This is the argument that the abortion industry gives for having an abortion, however, you and I know that most abortions are not due to these arguments but for convenience sake,” the letter stated.

letter

Most Victory Bible congregation members support amending the state constitution that currently protects the right to abortion, and it is their right to share that opinion, Barbee said.

“It shows the hatred in people when you disagree with them,” Barbee said. “We aren’t angry and we aren’t mad. We just want to pray for them.” 

Abortion is already highly regulated in Kansas, but the amendment on Tuesday’s ballots would give politicians the power to ban abortion in the state. One bill is already written that would criminalize all abortions, regardless of whether the patient was a victim of rape or incest, or if the pregnancy could kill them. The only exceptions in that bill are for miscarriages, stillbirths and ectopic pregnancies. The bill died in committee during the most recent legislative session because it was unconstitutional; however, if the amendment passes (a “yes” vote), proponents have recently reminded the public that the bill is written and ready to go.

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Chansi Long (she/her), a contributor to The Lawrence Times, has a bachelor of science in mass media from Baker University and a master’s in nonfiction writing from the University of Iowa. She’s been published in the Washington Post, River Teeth and Brevity. She was honored to be named Kansas Writer of the Year by the Winfield Arts and Humanities Council in 2016 for her essay “Lovesick.”

Read more of her work for the Times here.

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