Missouri Passes Controversial Religious Freedom Bill

| by Sean Kelly
Missouri State Capitol buildingMissouri State Capitol building

Despite a 39-hour filibuster from Democrats, the Missouri Senate passed a religious freedom bill that could reportedly change the state's constitution.

Senate Joint Resolution 39 passed through the Senate 21-11, after Republicans used a procedure to end the almost two-day debate.

The bill, if it becomes law, would amend the Missouri state constitution to include language about the "protection of certain religious organizations and individuals from being penalized by the state because of their sincere religious beliefs or practices concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex."

Similar religious freedom bills have been enacted in other states where Republicans are the majority, including Indiana and Georgia. Missouri's law is different than others because of the requirement to amend the constitution, CNN reported.

"We spent a lot of time writing it to avoid the controversies we've seen in other states," Senator Bob Onder said. The Republican senator told his colleagues that the measure "protects churches, pastors, religious organizations in a very well-defined class of individuals from being penalized, targeted, persecuted on the basis of their religious beliefs."

ACLU Missouri director Jeffrey Mittman expressed concern over the legislation's ability to permit discrimination.

"This bill would enshrine discrimination in our state constitution by allowing taxpayer-funded organizations like adoption and foster care agencies and homeless shelters to refuse serving LGBT families, in addition to countless other harmful consequences," Mittman told NBC News.

Several LGBT advocates sent a letter to lawmakers last month denouncing the measure:

We are calling on you to reject anti-LGBT legislation, particularly SJR 39, in Missouri. Per a recent report from Visit Indy, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Indiana cost the city 60 million dollars and up to 12 conventions. The backlash from these bills passing would make Missouri a less appealing place to work, travel, and live, potentially costing the state millions of dollars.

We are committed to diversity, inclusion, and above all the Golden Rule. These dangerous bills and potential constitutional amendments only succeed in showing people Missouri is not a welcoming state. We should focus on keeping Missouri competitive, not keep people away.

The people of Missouri deserve better than this type of legislation. They deserve to be respected as taxpaying, hardworking Missourians, nothing more, nothing less. Let’s keep hate out of the Show-Me State.

Together as small businesses, faith leaders, corporations, and nonprofits, we say #NotInMyState.

Sources: CNN, NBC News, ACLU Letter / Photo credit: Wikipedia

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