Sen. Dave Schatz’s Weekly Column for March 10

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Religious freedom is one of the founding values of our nation. A person having the right to worship and associate with fellow worshipers goes back hundreds of years, before the founding of the United States, to when religious refugees fled persecution in Europe to find freedom in America. These freedoms are just as important today as they were then and I will fight for them.

This week our conservative majority stood up for religious freedom and spent 39 straight hours – from about 4:00 p.m., Monday to 7:00 a.m., Wednesday – waiting out a filibuster on Senate Joint Resolution 39. This was exhausting for senators and staff as we were unable to get much sleep on Monday or Tuesday night. Senate Joint Resolution 39, if approved by voters, would prohibit penalizing clergy, religious organizations or certain individuals, such as business owners, for their religious beliefs concerning marriage between two people of the same-sex.

Senate Joint Resolution 39 would refer to Missouri voters a possible constitutional amendment laying out clear protections for anyone opposed to same-sex marriage. In essence, it would bar the state from imposing “any penalty” on those entities — including clergy, churches, other houses of worship and individuals “with sincere religious beliefs” — who decline to officiate or otherwise participate in same-sex marriage celebrations.

This legislation is a shield for Missourians of faith, not a sword. It protects the religious rights of all Missourians, including those who do not believe in homosexual marriage. For instance, the measure would prevent the state from attacking a wedding planner who refuses to provide services for a same-sex couple. There’s nothing stopping the same-sex couple from going to a different wedding planner. This proposal simply protects that planner’s right to follow and practice their own religious beliefs.

The legislation creates a blanket of constitutional safety under which citizens can hold to their religious beliefs. I do not think it is right to make a person break those principles in order to cater to a couple getting married. This legislation would protect them under the law. Again, it in no way prevents homosexual couples from planning for their marriage. Instead, it’s about protection and guaranteeing the religious rights of churches, the clergy and business owners.

Thank you for reading this weekly column. Please contact my office at (573) 751-3678 if you have any questions.