In Crawford County Pennsylvania, residents in the city of Meadville have petitioned their local city council to establish workplace protections for members of the LGBTQ community. According to local newspapers, organizers presented 75 signatures to the city council and close to 50 people attended a council meeting – a so called rarity for the small town. This petition effort has generated a backlash from a local pastor who has been collecting petition signatures opposing the proposed ordinance at Valesky’s, the local supermarket.
The Meadville Tribune, has reported that “Rev. David McAfee, senior pastor of St. Paul’s Reformed Church, has spent several hours at Valesky’s grocery store in Meadville this week,” gathering signatures for his “Protect Our Religious Right of Conscience” petition. According to the pastor, “we’re a concerned group of citizens, churches and businesses,” and “this ordinance is not good for Meadville and definitely not good for the businessman, who we believe has the right to his moral convictions and to follow his conscience.”
This story also has political implications. Michele Brooks, who is the House Representative in the Meadville area, has Valesky as her maiden name, and when looking through her family tree, Representative Brooks is related to, and has received campaign contributions from, store owner Garth Valesky. The Meadville Tribune reported that Gath Valesky declined to comment for their story. The local news report went on to say that the pastor will be collecting more signatures at his church and at Valesky’s. The pastor’s petition reads:
We are residents of the City of Meadville and the surrounding communities who shop in, do business in and worship in the City of Meadville. As such, we object to the passage of any anti-discrimination ordinance in the City of Meadville which specifies sexual orientation, gender identity or expression and marital status. Such an anti-discrimination law would seek to force citizens, employers and property owners to violate their consciences and would be in violation of the religious freedom granted to us in Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Declaration of Rights.”
Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution’s Declaration of Rights reads: “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; no man can of right be compelled to attend, erect or support any place of worship, or to maintain any ministry against his consent; no human authority can, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience, and no preference shall ever be given by law to any religious establishments or models of worship.”
As reported above, Michele Brooks, who is running for state senate, is family members with the store owners, and, to no one’s surprise, she has a slanted legislative outlook against those in the LGBTQ community. Brooks has signed on to House Representative Daryl Metcalfe’s HR 891, which would urge the “executive branch participants in the Whitewood case to appeal the decision in order to preserve the right of the citizens of this Commonwealth to exercise their constitutional and historical prerogative to define marriage.” This resolution was drafted day’s after Judge Jones overthrew Pennsylvania’s ban on same-sex marriage, and urges Governor Corbett to appeal the decision. Brooks has also signed onto Daryl Metcalfe’s House Bill 1349, which is a Joint Resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, providing for marriage.”
Michele Brooks was contacted for this story, but did not reply for comment.