Landon Schott wasn’t scheduled to preach on Sunday.
But 48 hours after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned federal abortion access, leading to an effective abortion ban in Texas, Schott took to the pulpit at Fort Worth’s Mercy Culture Church.
“Now, June will no longer be Pride month,” Schott said to his congregation. “June is life month.”
The high court’s ruling Friday in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a seismic decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, reverberated across America over the weekend, sparking debates around kitchen tables, protests in city streets and celebrations among abortion opponents. And in some churches, the significance of the moment became a central part of Sunday morning’s sermons.
At six large churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, church staff directly addressed the overturning of the landmark 1973 ruling. At two of those churches, the pastors focused on abortion throughout their sermons.
The Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs handed abortion rights decisions to each individual state. More than a dozen states already had so-called “trigger laws” in place, which were designed to take effect and ban abortion as soon as Roe was overturned.
Texas is one of those states, with both a pre-Roe abortion ban still on the books and a trigger ban set to take effect within a month of an official court judgment.
Recent polling from NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist showed that 56% of Americans oppose the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe. And in a Pew Research Center survey conducted in March, 61% of Americans said they think abortion should be legal in all or most situations.
But in Texas and across the country, evangelical churches have been a powerful force in pushing to end abortions in America. So in some North Texas churches, Sunday was a day of celebration.
‘Lord, we thank you’
At Gateway Church — which is based in Southlake but has campuses across the country and boasts a weekly attendance of tens of thousands — guest Pastor Tim Ross opened his sermon with a story about his mother. While pregnant with him, Ross said, his mother was advised to receive an abortion after her pregnancy was deemed dangerous. She chose not to.
“Forty-nine and a half years later, Roe v Wade has been overturned,” Ross said. The congregation clapped, before a large portion moved into a standing ovation. After the cheers had quieted, Ross called on the church to care for “those babies that have been born.”
At Fellowship Church, which is based in Grapevine with locations across Texas, abortion was not brought up during the sermon itself. But before the sermon, a church staff member named Tianne Moon mentioned the ruling by name.
“Today we are celebrating the decision that our Supreme Court made to overturn Roe v Wade,” Moon said, to cheers from the congregation.
After the sermon, Moon returned to the stage and, similarly to Gateway Church, called for action. She said Fellowship Church will be collecting donation of clothes, diapers and more for “moms and families in our area who are choosing life.”
At First Baptist Church of Dallas — a megachurch known in part for its senior pastor, Robert Jeffress, who’s also a Fox News contributor and was a member of former President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisory board — this weekend was the annual “Freedom Sunday” service.
After the worship team sang patriotic songs and the national anthem in front of screens showing waving American flags, Pastor Ben Lovvorn stood at the pulpit and thanked God for the Supreme Court ruling.
“Lord, we know that in our country the preservation of the life of the unborn is seen as a constitutional issue and a political issue, but we know it to be an important moral issue, a spiritual issue and a Biblical issue. One that has been in the prayers of so many in our church and throughout the nation,” Lovvorn said. “And so this morning, Lord, we thank you for answering those prayers.”
At Birchman Baptist in Fort Worth, which has also discouraged congregants from receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, senior Pastor Bob Pearle also opened his Sunday sermon by thanking God for the Roe v Wade reversal.
“First and foremost, we want to thank God that abortion now — at least as a federal law — is not anymore,” Pearle said.
Pearle also took aim at “the left” and suggested that the local pregnancy support center and workers will need protection now.
“You and I know — I believe it’s without controversy — that the left is lawless, the left does not respect our laws, our Constitution and so forth. So they riot, they plunder, they intimidate,” he said to his congregation. “And so we need to pray for our pregnancy help center.”
‘A war on innocence’
But two North Texas churches took the discourse a step further. At Kenneth Copeland’s Eagle Mountain International Church north of Fort Worth and at Mercy Culture Church, the topic of abortion took over much of the sermon.
Schott is the founding and lead pastor of Mercy Culture, which has waded into debates about topics such as critical race theory and has backed church leaders in local political races. Schott, who oversees Mercy Culture with his wife Heather, is also a critic of LGBTQ rights.
In an hour-long sermon on Sunday, Schott repeatedly tied together the concepts of reproductive rights and LGBTQ rights.
LGBTQ advocates and lawyers have warned that the overturning of Roe could be the first step to a rollback of other rights, including gay marriage. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in his opinion last week that the court should review other decisions, including the legalization of same-sex marriage and the legalization of contraception.
Schott, who’s active on social media, told his church that he’s been called a wide range of names over the past week, including a “white nationalist.”
“My favorite one was, ‘Oh yeah, another white guy telling women what to do with their bodies,” Schott said. “I’m sorry, I guess I’ll identify as a female swimmer so I can have an opinion.”
Schott was referencing debate over transgender rights, most recently in the wake of a partial ban on trans swimmers competing in women’s races.
Schott moved through a range of arguments and pushed his congregation to resist tolerance. He talked about “a war on innocence,” denounced public displays of Pride month and encouraged his congregation to forcefully oppose people whose beliefs don’t align with theirs.
“’Oh, Pastor, that’s hateful, that’s mean, that’s not Christ-like,’” Schott said. “No, no, no, what you really mean is you’ve never raised your voice in disapproval to the nation’s sin, you only raise your voice against other Christians that are bold and not timid like you.”
“What you really mean is you’re lukewarm. What you really mean is you’re compromised.”
At Eagle Mountain International Church northwest of Fort Worth, the pastor also talked at length about abortion.
Copeland, the founding pastor, is a televangelist often referred to as the wealthiest pastor in the U.S., and he’s been in the news for both his $7 million estate and his COVID-19 misinformation. He is not the church’s typical Sunday preacher anymore.
But this weekend, he paced around a clear pulpit and spoke for an hour and a half. Like Schott, Copeland’s talking points ranged widely. He repeated disproved “cures” to COVID-19, referenced another Supreme Court decision about public funding for religious schools and the power of prayer.
But he returned time and again to abortion.
“How many apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, anointed men and women of God over the last almost 50 years have been killed?” Copeland said. “It is murder, any way you cake it.”
He said that not being able to afford a baby is “no excuse.”
“You don’t kill it. You adopt it out.”
At one point, Copeland read a verse about a city that’s become full of “murderers,” and then followed the reading immediately with a comment about abortion.
“Personally I don’t hold the women totally responsible,” Copeland said. “But the doctors. They know better than that.”