Steve Viars


February 3, 2022

Does the West Lafayette City Council have animus towards people of conservative religious faith?

- Transcript -

The Lafayette citizens for freedom have asked me to address the question of whether the West Lafayette city council's proposed ordinance 31- 21 is yet another example of the animus on the part of some council members to people of conservative religious faith. Hey, that's a tough question, but in light of the facts and the history, the straightforward answer is for some members, it certainly could be.

Now, if you're not familiar with 31-21, I want to encourage you to go to the Lafayette citizens for freedom website at Read it along with a number of blogs and videos that explain all the problems with this piece of legislation.

And am trying to be as charitable as I can because the Bible commands us to both pray for, and also honor our governmental leaders. But honestly, if the West Lafayette city council had sat down with blank legal pads and said, let's draft the worst possible piece of legislation we possibly can. I'm not sure that could have come up with something much worse than this. And the bottom line is regardless of what some city council members may be saying, a plain reading of this ordinance criminalizes faith-based ministry to minors with the threats of fines by the police of a thousand dollars per day.

And while some people on the council may not fully understand that, the people pushing these pieces of legislation nationally, and even internationally, they know exactly what they're doing. And people of faith, along with anybody who believes in principles like individual freedom, people want to be able to choose their own counselors - not the government. Or people who believe in parental rights, since this ordinance discusses minors, those are decisions parents should make, not the government. And people who believe in religious liberty - faith-based counselors must be able to counsel people based on the Word of God. And people who believe in the separation of church and state, the government should never seek to involve itself in such matters. Such persons ought to unite to try to defeat this measure.

So there's no question that this ordinance doesn't protect minors; it attempts to shame and harass and punish people who counsel others using the Bible, or Koran, or other religious document as their source of truth and counseling. And remember we do it voluntarily. We don't believe in coercion in counseling. People are coming to us. We're very honest about the fact that our council is based on the Word of God. People sign a form that says, I understand that the counsel I'm about to receive is based on the counselor's interpretation of the Bible. They're told that, if you're ever uncomfortable with what we're saying, all you have to do is raise your hand, we'll automatically stop.

Well, if we're being honest about the kind of counsel that we're providing, why should the government care about that? So where is this ordinance possibly coming from? Well, without question, the West Lafayette city council has a historic pattern of animus toward people of conservative religious faith.

And I realized somebody might say, wow, you're going to have to prove that assertion. Friends, that's like shooting fish in a barrel. I have a copy in my hand of the city of West Lafayette common council meeting minutes from June 4th, 2012. That was the infamous final hearing for the bond issue for Faith West at 1920 Northwestern Avenue. That's the one that had to be moved to the West Lafayette public high school auditorium to hold the crowd of people who wanted to attend. It's the one where I offered the mayor at the time, that Faith would bring Culver's in the ice cream place and have a ice cream social in the parking lot afterward, whether we won or lost. I just wanted to be sure that everybody knew - we love our community, and we're trying to have a positive impact here. Do you know what the mayor told me about that? He said, you know, that that's a fine idea, but I want to ask you not to do that, because we can't ensure everybody's safety. Wow. It had to be one of the most contentious development projects in the last 25 years in the history of west Lafayette.

Why was that? What was our crime? And the answer is because we're a, we're a Bible-believing church. That meeting, one council member cited a survey suggesting that 62% of young adults don't like conservative Christians.. And their dislike of our religion should be the basis of the city denying our bond request. He went on to suggest that if we built Faith West, our religious views would have, and I'm quoting, "a negative effect on the long range, economic health of the city." Can you imagine that? He went on to say that that our presence as a conservative Christian group would discourage entrepreneurs from locating here. He said that our religious views would make it harder for businesses to recruit employees. He even proclaimed that, that our presence would have a negative impact on the environment. I never understood that one. Other council members chimed in behind him about how they didn't like our view of men and women, although those views are based on our understanding of the Bible. Or they didn't like our views of human sexuality. In other words, what they were saying was, that they don't like the Word of God, because that is the source of truth on which all of our views are based. And they have been for the last 58 years of our church's history.

They went on to, to criticize publicly - the room was full, a bunch of our church members, a bunch of people from the community - that they criticized our view of science, which is really curious, because historically many of this community's best scientists have been members of Bible-believing churches that even today, as we're managing this pandemic, there's been four physicians that have led our community's effort to put down COVID-19. One from St. Elizabeth, one from IU Health, one from Purdue University and our county health officer. Did you know that two of those leading scientists are members of Faith Church? One of those physicians has been a long time counselor at our church's biblical counseling center.

During the bond process, our attorney from Ice Miller down in Indy, he made what I thought was a very sad observation. He said it appeared that there was a level of animus. That was his exact word, that there was a level of animus on the part of members of the West Lafayette city council, toward people of conservative religious faith. You know, isn't that sad. I mean, we can have disagreements with one another. But does it have to digress to animus and hatred? Isn't it terrible that a professional gentleman who does bond issues for non-profits all over the state of Indiana, he could set foot in our community and within a couple of hours, he could feel it. He could sense it. He could hear it. Animus, again, his word, on behalf of some members of the West Lafayette city council, toward people of conservative religious faith.

Well, what leaders do in moderation, others are going to do an excess. And it got so bad right after we moved into Faith West that a gay couple from Chicago began harassing our staff. They became so belligerent, we had to get the West Lafayette police department involved because we feared for our staff safety. And frankly, I hold the West Lafayette city council, um, partially responsible for that because of the environment that they have created.

Well, how did we respond to all of that? We just tried to love our neighbors, because see, we counsel ourselves the same way we way we counsel other people. So let's say you don't act on all of your feelings or urges that you may be experiencing in the moment; you submit your desires to the Word of God, and you only act on the ones that please Him.

So we've tried to love our neighbors. And one interesting irony is that some of the same council members who were most critical of us publicly are more than happy to use our amenities at Faith West today. So they rent some of our rooms or. Um, work out in our fitness center, they use our restaurant and, and I just want to be clear.

We're absolutely glad for that. We just want to love everybody in our community and serve them any way that we can. Well, we've been at it at Faith West now for about nine years. Has that softened the city council's stance toward people of conservative religious faith? I'm afraid not.

I would encourage you to go to the Lafayette citizens for freedom website. Again, the address is, and watch a video that they have posted of council member David Sanders who's interacting with a pro-life group. Mr. Sanders is one of the sponsors of ordinance 31-21. If you have any trouble finding that video, just email me, [email protected] - I'll send you the link. It is an incredibly incivil and, frankly, infantile attack on people of conservative religious faith. If you take the time to watch it, I think you'll conclude that a person like that should not hold public office. And why anybody on the city council would follow his lead on a piece of legislation like this is a complete mystery to me.

So that's one of the many questions that needs to be posed to each member of the West Lafayette city council. Do you have animus toward people of conservative religious faith? Because I have no doubt that if they pass this piece of legislation, it will be tested. It would be tested quickly by people who are trying to harass us.

I just hope it's an attack on me as opposed to somebody else on our staff. And you understand, if the city council passes the ordinance, we're not going to obey it, because we already have a God and it's not them. We're going to continue to do what we've done for the last 45 years with our biblical counseling center.

We're going to counsel people who voluntarily come to see us by the word of God. And if the police come and they try to stop us with a threatened fine of a thousand dollars, we're not going to pay the fine. And so then the city council might just want to decide, what are you going to do next? I would recommend that the city council not allow this piece of legislation to move forward.

Or as I suggested the first week I heard about their efforts, they should put meaningful religious exemption language in the ordinance. Not, by the way, like what was proposed so far that, well, the ordinance won't infringe on anyone's first amendment rights - that's true of any ordinance that's ever been passed by a city council.

And for those councilors who were saying, well, this doesn't really apply to you, you're misreading it. Well, then what would stop you from putting meaningful religious exemption language into the ordinance so there's no question now or there's no question in the future? If they won't either defeat the ordinance or putting meaningful religious exemption language into it, honestly, that tells you all, you need to know about the animus that exists between some members of the council toward people of conservative religious faith.

Well, what should you do? I would encourage you to visit, familiarize yourself with the ordinance. If so inclined, I would encourage you to sign the online petition. I would encourage you to share these videos and blogs and social media images on your social media platforms and encourage your friends to do the same. Our community needs to be aware of what's going on. Sign up to receive legislative updates. I would encourage you to write to the city council members, encourage them to vote no on this ordinance. Let your voice be heard. Plan to attend the next public hearing. Pray that the Lord would be glorified in all of this. And let's just all decide now, we're not going to allow animus to gain a stronger foothold in this community.

Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

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