Lachina roundly denounced Initiative 26, which will appear on the Nov. 8 statewide general election ballot, and said, "I wish to say quite clearly that I am both an evangelical Christian and I am committed to a woman's right to her own reproductive choices.... I consider myself both pro-choice and pro-life, and I see no conflict in those two convictions."
Strange as that sounded to the crowd at the hearing, Lachina's choice of garb was even more mystifying. He was dressed in a lavender shirt with a clerical collar -- the first time any of the Mississippi Baptists at the hearing could remember seeing such an outfit on a "Southern Baptist minister."
Jacob Dawson, assistant new media director for AFA.net, a division of American Family Association in Tupelo, was attending the hearing and grew suspicious. As Lachina continued to speak, Dawson opened his laptop computer, connected to the Internet through a local wireless network, and conducted a search.
Dawson would tell the crowd a few minutes later that the Vincent Lachina standing at the podium in Tupelo was actually Vincent Lachina from Seattle, a homosexual activist and chaplain for Planned Parenthood, the nation's largest abortion provider.
The website of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest in Seattle did indeed contain a profile describing Lachina as its chaplain -- at least until shortly after his exposure in Tupelo. The organization swiftly deleted information about Lachina but David Schmidt, writing on the pro-life website LiveAction.org, was able to locate the original text on a cached Google page.
While Lachina claimed in Tupelo to be an ordained Southern Baptist minister, the deleted Planned Parenthood webpage dug up by Schmidt revealed that, "He is now aligned with the more progressive American Baptist Conference and Church of Christ."
In addition, Lachina personally identifies himself as an "American Baptist clergyperson" in a video on YouTube.com.
Thus, the Planned Parenthood webpage and YouTube video indicate that Lachina abandoned Southern Baptists for the American Baptist Conference and the Church of Christ and is no longer actively involved in a Southern Baptist ministry.
Staff at the Executive Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn., confirmed to LiveAction.org that Lachina is not listed in convention records as serving as a minister for any Southern Baptist church or organization. Records at the Mississippi Baptist Convention Board in Jackson, Miss., likewise do not contain a ministerial listing for Lachina.
"This revelation means that a Planned Parenthood chaplain traveled from Washington State to Mississippi and made false religious claims to influence Mississippi voters against a pro-life ballot measure," Schmidt wrote. "Questions now are being raised over Planned Parenthood's involvement in Lachina's appearance in Mississippi. Did Planned Parenthood, as his employer, plan and pay for this religious manipulation of voters?"
An attempt by the Mississippi Baptist Record to contact Lachina through Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest went unanswered. Virtually none of the information Lachina presented on his personal life at the hearing in Tupelo can be verified without his assistance.
Such deceptive actions are not surprising in the lead-up to the election in regard to Planned Parenthood's intention to defeat Initiative 26, said Jimmy Porter, executive director of the Mississippi Baptist Christian Action Commission.
"As of Oct. 10, Planned Parenthood affiliates from states like California, New York, New Jersey and Ohio have contributed over $130,000 to defeat the initiative, according to records in the Mississippi Secretary of State's office," Porter said. "They are committed to spreading half-truths and lies about the Personhood Amendment."
Supporters of Initiative 26 have pointed out that Planned Parenthood does not have a single abortion clinic in Mississippi, yet is committed to the defeat of the initiative.
In her message, Richards urged abortion supporters to "help to stop this dangerous ballot initiative."
"Planned Parenthood has funneled thousands of dollars to fight this initiative," Porter said, "because they understand that if the unborn are declared persons, then the abortion revenue stream that helps keep them afloat will be severely disrupted."
A feature written by Claudia Rowe in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper on Jan. 20, 2006, titled, "Planned Parenthood enlists help of clergy," describes Lachina's duties as a chaplain to Planned Parenthood staffers.
"Some staffers struggle to reconcile their pride in providing quality medical services with their employer's larger mission -- ensuring that all women have safe, unfettered access to birth control and abortion. Others wonder if they can confide in a priest about where they work, and what to tell patients who come in desperate, unable to care for a child but believing they will 'burn in hell' for ending their pregnancies.
"Into this mire dives Vincent Lachina, a Baptist minister raised Southern and conservative, who spends much of his time telling the staff that God is a loving presence and that they are forgiven," the article states.
The article goes on to describe Lachina telling a Planned Parenthood staffer that God will not judge her for participating in abortions, adding, "His cleric's collar, so similar to those worn by the priests she'd been raised to obey, was especially comforting."
William H. Perkins Jr. is editor of The Baptist Record, newsjournal of the Mississippi Baptist Convention.
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