Over two dozen religious leaders and elected officials came together Aug. 26 to talk about the role of government and religion, as well as major issues facing the community. Hosted as part of the One Loudoun Revival series, the event allowed officials from local government up through state and congressional candidates to share their views on these problems.
Representative Barbara Comstock of Virgina’s 10th Congressional district talked continuing the legacy of former congressman Frank Wolf’s commitment to fight human trafficking. She also talked about efforts, along with Loudoun County sheriff Mike Chapman, to combat the heroin and opiate epidemic in the area.
Loudoun County Board of Supervisors Chair Phyliss Randall followed Comstock’s comments by reminding elected officials to not just focus on heroin and opiate, but that resources should be more focused on treating and prevent the addiction issues as a whole. Using her background as an adult therapist specializing in substance abuse, Randall said she was worried about the “hyper focus” on opiate abuse.
“Until we start talking about the disease of addiction holistically, and until we start talking about the disease of addiction as a mental health issue, we’re going to fight these issues individually drugs every five years to 10 years and not address the issue of addiction,” Randall said.
Randall also talked about the issue of teen suicide in Loudoun and Fairfax County. She said it would be important for the government to partner with faith groups in that regard, especially since suicide can beget increased suicides.
Leesburg Mayor Dave Butler talked about record low numbers of participation in religious groups by millennials. He said it was important for youths to turn to religious leaders and organizations to help fill missing needs as a way to fight the void that leads to drug abuse and suicide.
“In Loudoun County there is a spiritual hunger that the government can’t fix,” Butler said.
Loudoun County NAACP president Philip Thompson spoke on the importance of understanding the power of the current climate of hateful speech, and asked the audience to make sure to welcome all people of all faiths and backgrounds.
“It’s important for everybody to be treated the same and for everybody to have their rights protected.” Thompson said. “You don’t have to agree with their lifestyle, but you have to agree they have the same rights under the constitution as everybody else.”
LuAnn Bennett, a candidate for the District 10 seat, talked about the importance of faith and government, encouraging both groups to work together.
“In my 62 years I’ve never seen a time that’s been more important that we really start focusing on changing people’s hearts,” Bennett said. “Because until we do that, we will never really move this country forward and pass some of the obstacles this country is facing now.”
Leesburg mayoral candidate Kevin Wright honed on the importance of unity of all groups. Wright said that in order to stop people from tearing groups apart, people of all background need to stop viewing attacks on one in a compartmentalized fashion and instead come together.
Justin Fairfax, speaking as a candidate for Lt. Governor in Virginia and a surrogate for the Hilary Clinton presidential campaign, talked about the significance of holding oneself to a higher standard and modeling behavior to younger generations. He also talked about the importance of criminal justice reform and creating more economic opportunities for all people.
Leesburg Council candidate Ron Campbell concluded the event by discussing how faith allows people to question their governments and leaders.
“Promises are good. Parties may be pretty. But at the end of the day, our country is in need,” Campbell said. “Our country is in need of leadership, courageous leadership, and willing to say and do things differently.”