Faith Leaders Urge Missouri Not to Create “Rush Limbaugh Day” - Word&Way

Faith Leaders Urge Missouri Not to Create “Rush Limbaugh Day”

As Missouri lawmakers consider creating a day to honor Rush Limbaugh after his death last month, a group of three dozen faith leaders mostly in St. Louis submitted testimony opposing the bill. Rep. Hardy Billington, a Republican and a Baptist deacon, authored a bill two days after Limbaugh’s death to declare each Jan. 12 — Limbaugh’s birthday — as “Rush Limbaugh Day.”

Missouri Capitol on Jan. 11, 2021. (Brian Kaylor/Word&Way)

Billington’s bill received a public hearing on Wednesday (March 3) in the Missouri House’s Special Committee on Tourism. Although no witnesses appeared in person, the state legislature is allowing individuals to submit written testimony this year due to COVID-19. The group of faith leaders submitted a joint statement as official testimony ahead of the hearing.

“Limbaugh’s hateful rhetoric and relentless attacks on marginalized communities and minorities are not our Christian values and are opposite of what we teach and minister every day,” the faith leaders wrote. “Jesus teaches that the Greatest Commandment of all is to love God and to love our neighbors. Rush Limbaugh’s career sowed generations of fear and anger between neighbors. He is not an exemplary Missourian worthy of this type of state-wide recognition.”

“We believe strongly that no matter one’s religious denomination, identity, or cultural background, defaming and attacking our neighbors are not Missouri values,” the faith leaders added. “Missouri should show love, healing, and cooperation in these days, and resist carrying forward hate and division. Hate has no place here.”

Among the three dozen faith leaders mostly in the St. Louis area are Baptist, Catholic, Disciples of Christ, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and United Church of Christ ministers. Signers included Deborah Krause, president of Eden Theological Seminary; Antona Brent Smith of Missouri Faith Voices; Matthew Vandagriff, senior pastor at Kirkwood Baptist Church; and Linda Gastreich, lead pastor at Webster Groves United Methodist Church.

Noting Limbaugh has already been honored in numerous ways in Missouri — including with a bust in the Capitol — the faith leaders urged lawmakers not to create a “Rush Limbaugh Day.”

“Given his divisive rhetoric — particularly in this time of political tension in our nation — we voice our concerns about further statewide honors for him,” the faith leaders wrote. “Limbaugh’s style was grievance filled, shock-jock entertainment, as he strove to become a national conservative voice. His radio program promoted disdain for women, racial-ethnic minorities, Muslims, queer people, people with disabilities, and impoverished people. That group represents more than half of the population of Missouri!”

“For years Limbaugh despised and attacked immigrants, refugees and those in poverty while celebrating and mocking the deaths of AIDS victims as well as those with debilitating diseases, including actor Michael J. Fox,” the faith leaders added. “This rhetoric does not represent all the people of Missouri. We find none of this ‘entertaining’ and recognize the great pain Limbaugh caused many people and families throughout his career. Proposing a special day in remembrance of Limbaugh would give license for his messages of division to prosper just at the time we need to be about the work of healing.”

While more than 70 other individuals submitted testimony opposing the bill, only three persons turned in testimony in support: Republican U.S. Rep. Jason Smith, conservative Christian activist Ed Martin, and Michael Flynn, who briefly served as Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor and pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI (though he later received a pardon from Trump).

A committee vote on the bill has not yet been scheduled.