Religion

Missouri Businesses Oppose Religious Freedom Bill

| by Nicholas Roberts

Several business leaders in Missouri have formed a coalition to oppose a proposal protecting businesses' right to discriminate against same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

The proposal is a constitutional amendment which would ban the government's ability to penalize businesses which cite religion as a reason to deny goods or services "of expressional or artistic creation" for same-sex marriages.  This includes occupations such as florists, photographers and bakers.

More than 60 businesses have joined the coalition named Missouri Competes, including Square, Express Scripts, Nestle Purina, Google Fiber and Monsanto, according to The Associated Press.

An official at the St. Louis Regional Chamber of Commerce argued that the measure threatens Missouri's reputation and could put a burden on businesses seeking out job candidates.

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The larger Missouri Chamber of Commerce has pointed to similar legislation in Indiana which produced a massive backlash from business, losing the state some $60 million in hotel profits and tax revenues after Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed religious freedom legislation in 2015.

Supporters of the measure argue that it is narrower in scope than Indiana's law and is necessary to protect certain businesses from being forced to violate their owners' religious beliefs.

According to the Associated Press, the Missouri Catholic Conference wrote in testimony to Missouri House committee members, arguing that "no person should be forced to personally attend and participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony if this violates their sincerely held religious beliefs."

Pastor Phil Hopper, who backed the measure, said:

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"We cannot give one group of people certain rights and take away the rights of others that they've had for generations."

Monsanto lobbyist Duane Simpson noted that his company has gender identity and sexual orientation in its non-discrimination policy and supports adopting similar policies at the state level.

"We have employees who are members of the LGBT community, and, frankly, we're going to stand up for them," said Simpson at a hearing on the subject.

Sources: Associated Press via News Leader, AP via ABC / Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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