JEFFERSON CITY — Senate Leaders are calling it a big win for religious freedom in Missouri. After a record setting filibuster and days of non-stop debate, the Missouri Senate advanced a bill that will ask Missouri voters to approve a Constitutional Amendment to protect religious freedom, the cornerstone on which our country was founded.
Sponsor Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, said the measure is entirely defensive.
“This is a shield, not a sword,” said Onder. “No one should be forced to do something they do not believe in or be discriminated against because of their religious beliefs. This measure does NOT discriminate. It only protects religious organizations that are currently vulnerable, including churches, clergy and their employees, and wedding vendors who provide goods or services of an expressional or artistic nature. We are fighting for fairness and the right for people to freely live out their faith while not infringing on the rights of others.”
Senate Joint Resolution 39 asks Missouri voters to consider a new Constitutional Amendment protecting religious organizations and certain individuals from being penalized because of their sincere religious beliefs concerning marriage. It allows the people of Missouri to freely practice their faith according to their conscience.
It is also very narrowly targeted. In scope, it only protects religious organizations and some wedding vendors. A wedding vendor is protected only if the vendor does not want to be forced to be a participant in a wedding ceremony or reception by providing goods or services of an expressional or artistic nature.
With approval from the Senate, the amendment now moves to the House for consideration. If approved, Missourians will get a chance to have their voices heard when they vote on the measure in August or November.
“The Supreme Court decision, Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), has left some Missourians vulnerable in expressing their First Amendment rights related to their religious beliefs,” said Senate Leader Ron Richard, R-Joplin. “As representatives of the citizens who elected us, we believe we have the right and the duty to protect our religious liberties. This is about liberty; it’s not about discrimination.”
Majority Floor Leader Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, said the Amendment gives an important balance in a post-Obergefell world.
“Our efforts on this measure will ensure people of faith can freely exercise their religious liberties in a pluralistic nation,” said Kehoe.
For more on this measure and others, visit www.senate.mo.gov.