With two weeks to go until Election Day, Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin hosted a meeting for Christian pastors and leaders from across the state Monday in the Governor’s Mansion.
It was at least the second time in the last two months the Republican governor, who is seeking another four-year term, has welcomed Christian leaders to his public residence near the Kentucky Capitol.
The meetings have come in the midst of a tight race for governor between Bevin and Democrat Andy Beshear, Kentucky’s attorney general. Voters will have their say at the polls Nov. 5.
Several dozen pastors, some with their spouses, filed into the mansion Monday morning for an hour meeting with Bevin and his running mate, state Sen. Ralph Alvarado.
About 145 had met there with Bevin and other Republican candidates for statewide office in early September.
When asked if the gathering was sponsored by Bevin’s campaign, the state or someone else, a spokeswoman for Bevin’s press office said only that it was a private event. A spokesman for Bevin’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.
Several pastors who attended declined to identify themselves to reporters. Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation in Lexington, was among those Monday who attended and declined to comment.
Richard Sams, pastor of Calhoun Baptist Church in McLean County, said after Monday’s meeting that it was “a religious event — an opportunity to worship God and pray and ask God’s blessing on our great commonwealth,” said Sams.
He said the campaign was mentioned “a little bit” by Bevin and Alvarado, “asking God’s blessings on what is best for our state.”
“We heard about their faith and background and who they are as individuals,” he said.
Thomas Hall, pastor of Church of the Living God in Winchester, said “it’s fortunate in the United States that we can have both a religious and campaign event. Today was a great meeting of hope and progress.”
Asked what Bevin talked about, Hall said the govenor “shared his views on abortion, which I think ran along with what most of the people there think.”
Bevin has pushed several controversial laws to curtail abortion. Beshear, as attorney general, has refused to defend some of them in court, saying they are clearly unconstitutional. It has become a major issue in the fall race.
Rick Curry Ministries, based in Pensacola, Fla., distributed invitations to Monday’s meeting. Its website said Curry is a revivalist, speaker and a story teller of past revivals. A native of Richmond, he started the King’s Way Church in Manchester.
Curry did not return a phone message seeking comment for this story.
His website said Bevin “has invited Kentucky pastors to meet with him at the Governor’s Mansion. If you have never had an occasion to hear first hand from our governor and be challenged as a pastor and minister, this is your opportunity.”
The invitation said Bevin “seeks to inspire the pastors of Kentucky to awaken and motivate a sleeping church. This time with Gov. Bevin will be a very spiritual time.”
The invitations asked attendees to register and “dress appropriately. Men; a suit. Ladies; Sunday best.”
It also asked attendees not to record “any aspect of the gathering. There should be an opportunity to take a picture with governor for your social media.” They were also asked to bring a photo ID.
The Rev. Nancy Jo Kemper, interim minister of Bridgeport Christian Church in Franklin County and former executive director of the Kentucky Council of Churches, attended the September meeting with pastors in the Governor’s Mansion.
She said it “definitely was a campaign event.”
“The message was clear that the pastors present were encouraged to vote for and work for Bevin’s re-election” said Kemper, who lost a Democratic bid for Congress in 2016 against Republican incumbent Andy Barr.
But the sponsor of the September forum, Pastor Jeff Fugate of Clays Mill Baptist Church in Lexington, said it was not a campaign event.
“It simply was an opportunity for pastors to meet with the governor and hear directly from him,” said Fugate.
Beshear, while campaigning, met this summer in Western Kentucky with several pastors. He attends and is a deacon at Beargrass Christian Church, a Disciples of Christ church in Louisville. Bevin attends Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, an independent church.