Dean Welty is Director of the Valley Family Forum, a network of families in the Shenandoah Valley that helps build Faith, Family, and Freedom in the culture and in the public square.
He leads numerous seminars on America’s Godly Heritage and Capstone: The Christian’s Role in Culture and Public Policy. He also hosts a weekly television program entitled Valley Faith in Action.
He is a former public school teacher, overseas missionary, and career diplomat. He and his family have served at US Embassies in East Asia and Jamaica, at the State Department in Washington, as a Congressional Fellow on Capitol Hill, and as a political advisor with the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.
Born in Indiana, he attended college in Harrisonburg, VA, and has degrees from Goshen College in Indiana and from the University of Oregon, with post-graduate work at the National Defense University in Washington, DC.
Dean and his wife Janet have been married for 44 years, have two adult children and five grandchildren, and now live in Harrisonburg. His hobbies are tennis, golf, and travel.
Deputy Director Rita Dunaway
Rita has been on the front lines with the Forum from the very beginning in 2003 when she and her husband Scott helped lead the drive against sexually oriented businesses in Harrisonburg that eventually led to a new city ordinance in 2005 which limited the time, manner, and place of such operations. It was also Rita who led the drive in 2006 to force Cargill to reinstate Luis Padilla after they had fired him for supporting the one-man, one-woman marriage referendum in Virginia.
In recognition of her outstanding leadership, the Forum granted Rita its very first annual William Wilberforce Award in 2010. But the list of her remarkable achievements continued to grow.
It was Rita who drafted and then led the drive for passage of a landmark pro-life bill in the Virginia General Assembly in 2012. She has frequently defended the First Amendment rights of street preachers; personally argued before the Ohio Supreme Court to overturn a lower court ruling against a science teacher who had been fired for encouraging his students to examine critically the competing theories of evolution and intelligent design; and submitted an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a successful effort to defend the freedom to pray before official meetings.
She also led the public outcry against the Tilted Kilt in the Valley Mall; developed a case for impeaching Virginia’s Attorney General for failing to defend Virginia’s marriage law; and helped urge Eastern Mennonite University to maintain its hiring policy that recognizes marriage as between only one man and one woman.
Rita graduated summa cum laude from WVA University and then cum laude from Washington and Lee University School of Law. Following several years as a full-time staff attorney with The Rutherford Institute in Charlottesville, Rita became Vice President for Public Policy with the Virginia Christian Alliance in Richmond and later a leading advocate for the Convention of States initiative. She lives in Harrisonburg with husband Scott and their two children.
Chaplain Emeritus John Sloop, Dr. of Ministry
Born and raised in Brazil by missionary parents, John came to N. Carolina as a high school student, did his undergraduate studies in Mississippi, then to Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in Boston, and finally to Columbia Theological Seminar in Atlanta where he received his Doctor of Ministry degree.
His work with the Forum has included helping to rid Harrisonburg of sexually oriented businesses (SOB’s); to win support for a Virginia constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between only one man and one woman; to fight for religious liberty in the case of Luis Padilla; to promote Biblical values in our state legislature; and to identify and support “Values” candidates for public office.
John has a passion for restoring our early Founders’ vision of an America that stands out to the world as a shining “City on a Hill”, for reaffirming the Judeo-Christian values and Constitutional principles on which America was founded and has prospered, and for encouraging Valley pastors, civic leaders, elected officials, and “We the People” to help lead this effort.
In recognition of his bold leadership, the Forum presented John with our first “Daniel” award at our annual Forum dinner in 2013. Shortly after that, he retired from serving for the past 27 years as Senior Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church on Court Square in Harrisonburg and became the Forum’s first Chaplain. He has since retired but is still honored as “Chaplain Emeritus” in recognition of his past service.