For Julie Yamamoto, her faith has always been at the center of her politics.
“First and foremost, I’m a believer in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior so I feel like my first duty is to make sure that whatever I say and do that I honor him,” Yamamoto said. “Everything goes through that.”
As she contemplated running for elected office last year, she consulted her family and her husband. She also asked the Lord if that was something she should do. She prayed that if she was supposed to run for the legislature, she would be able to go to sleep that night and that if she wasn’t meant to, she wouldn’t be able to fall asleep.
“I slept through the night,” Yamamoto said. “It wasn’t that I thought, “Oh, I’m gonna win.” It wasn’t that. It was just that I knew that it was okay to run.”
Yamamoto is one of 28 representatives freshman legislators who recently finished their first legislative session. During the session, Yamamoto said she spent a lot of time studying Psalms and Proverbs and asking for wisdom, discernment and the courage to do what’s right.
One issue Yamamoto has received a lot of pushback for is the debate over regulating content in public schools and public libraries. Whereas most of her Republican colleagues have voted in favor of bills such as HB 314 requiring public schools and community libraries to take reasonable steps in restricting children’s access to obscene or harmful materials, Yamamoto has voted against these bills.
“There are people who are questioning my Christianity, questioning whether or not I literally have been saved or not because we’re having a debate over action school or public libraries,” Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto serves as the chair of the House Education Committee, having a background in education as a teacher and principal. However, she said the role has been challenging in some ways.
“People have a tendency to say, well, you either agree that there should not be pornography in the library, or you think there should be pornography in the library,” Yamamoto said. “To me, that is a disingenuous argument, because I can very much not think there should be pornography in the library and not support the bill as it is written. That is my issue with how it was written. It’s such a subjective thing. What is harmful to a child in one parent’s eyes and what is harmful to a child and another parent’s eyes can be very different things.”
Yamamoto also took issue with the penalty of $10,000 per harmful material and that the bill didn’t allow schools and libraries to recover costs from lawsuits.
Yamamoto critiqued those who suggested that those who voted against the bill want pornography in schools.
“We’re adults, and children are watching us, young people are watching us, taxpayers are watching us and to always put things into this false dichotomy to use arguments that are to me, I just I can’t think of a better word for it, disingenuous,” Yamamoto said. “There are a lot of reasons why somebody might vote against a bill. That doesn’t mean that they support whatever the person is trying to outlaw or you know the issue they’re dealing with.”
Instead, she hopes that debates on even the most polarizing issues can remain civil and centered on truth and facts.
“I think our debate needs to be civil and our debate needs to be based on truth and that we should not be deciding somebody else’s intentions or motivation for them and then casting them to this poor light …”
To people of faith who are seeking to get involved in politics and run for elected office, Yamamoto says to make sure their faith is strong and that they know who they are in the Lord and to put their trust in Him. However, Yamamoto said this is easier said than done.
“What I do believe to be true is whether you’re male or female if you’re very thoughtful in your approach and that you when you speak that it is clear to others that you have given thought to what you’re saying and that you’re speaking from a spirit of truth and trying to be a reasonable caring human being, I do think that sets you apart in some ways from others because you aren’t trying to call attention to your self, but you’re trying to call attention to the issue at hand and for it to be dealt with in a way that that is honorable,” Yamamoto said.
Yamamoto expressed gratitude for the support she’s received from loved ones and encouraged those wanting to run for elected office to build a similar support system.
“I would just make sure that I would have the support of all the people who love you and that you’re working through things because nothing is harder for the people who love you and to see you struggling,” Yamamoto said. “Really the most they can do is tell you that they love you and that they’re praying for you.”
To learn more about Yamamoto, visit her website.