In a rousing speech that no politician should ever have to give, Michigan State Sen. Mallory McMorrow denounced an attack against her by a conservative Christian politician who falsely accused her of being a “groomer” because she supports LGBTQ rights and schools teaching a comprehensive version of U.S. history instead of the white-washed, dumbed-down kind favored by Republicans.
State Sen. Lana Theis, a “Christian Constitutional Conservative” and chair of the Senate Education Committee, made the unfounded allegations as part of a campaign fundraiser, using extremist language that the GOP has adopted in an effort to further radicalize its voting base. She claimed McMorrow and her allies are “outraged they can’t teach can’t groom and sexualize kindergarteners or that 8-year olds are responsible for slavery.” (Yes, that bad grammar and lack of punctuation comes courtesy of the Republican chair of the Senate Education Committee.)
But earlier today, McMorrow fought back with a speech for the ages, specifically calling out Theis’ religious hypocrisy while referencing what her own faith taught her.
I didn’t expect to wake up yesterday to the news that the senator from the 22nd district had, overnight, accused me by name of grooming and sexualizing children in an email, fundraising for herself. So I sat on it for a while wondering: Why me? And then I realized: Because I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can’t claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of “parental rights” if another parent is standing up to say no.
So then what? Then you dehumanize and marginalize me. You say that I am one of them. You say: She’s a groomer. She supports pedophilia. She wants children to believe they were responsible for slavery and to feel bad about themselves because they’re white.
Well, here’s a little bit of background about who I really am: Growing up, my family was very active in our church. I sang in choir. My mom taught CCD. One day, our priest called a meeting with my mom and told her that she was not living up to the Church’s expectations, and that she was disappointing. My mom asked why. Among other reasons, she was told it was because she was divorced, and because the priest didn’t see her at mass every Sunday.
So where was my mom on Sundays? She was at the soup kitchen. With me.
My mom taught me at a very young age that Christianity and faith was about being part of a community, about recognizing our privilege and blessings and doing what we can to be of service to others—especially people who are marginalized, targeted, and who had less, often unfairly.
I learned that service was far more important than performative nonsense like being seen in the same pew every Sunday or writing “Christian” in your Twitter bio and using that as a shield to target and marginalize already-marginalized people.
I also stand on the shoulders of people like Father Ted Hesburgh, the longtime president of the University of Notre Dame, who was active in the Civil Rights movement, who recognized his power and privilege as a white man, a faith leader, and the head of an influential and well-respected institution, and who saw Black people in this country being targeted and discriminated against, and beaten, and reached out to lock arms with Dr. Martin Luther King when he was alive, when it was unpopular and risky, and marching alongside them to say, “We’ve got you,” to offer protection and service and allyship, to try to right the wrongs and fix injustice in the world.
So who am I? I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom who knows that the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense.
No child alive today is responsible for slavery. No one is this room is responsible for slavery. But each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history. Each and every single one of us decides what happens next, and how we respond to history and the world around us.
We are not responsible for the past. We also cannot change the past. We can’t pretend that it didn’t happen, or deny people their very right to exist.
I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom. I want my daughter to know that she is loved, supported, and seen for whoever she becomes. I want her to be curious, empathetic, and kind. People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape after decades of disinvestment, or that healthcare costs are too high, or that teachers are leaving the profession.
I want every child in this state to feel seen, heard, and supported, not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, white, and Christian.
We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise, to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they’re not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people’s lives.
And I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen.
So I want to be very clear right now: Call me whatever you want. I hope you brought in a few dollars. I hope it made you sleep good last night.
I know who I am. I know what faith and service means—and what it calls for in this moment. We will not let hate win.
That wasn’t just a speech against one Republican bigot. It was a takedown of the kind of conservative Christian propaganda that is regularly spouted at megachurches around the country every single week. McMorrow called out the Christian bigotry of those who use the label to make themselves feel good while using their privilege to make others suffer because of who they are.
She’s not anti-religious. She’s a religious progressive whose faith calls on her to help “the least of these.” That’s what she’s doing in elected office, while her conservative Christian counterparts waste their time fighting against civil rights, promoting ignorance in classrooms, and stigmatizing LGBTQ people.
Every single elected Democrat should take a lesson from what McMorrow did today. Don’t let Republicans get away with their faith-based lies. Call out their bullshit at every turn, call them out by name, and let the world know that you’re on the side of morality, decency, and goodness. Because the Republicans who call themselves Christian sure as hell aren’t.