Senator David Sater’s Capitol Report for the Week of Feb. 29: Protecting Religious Freedom

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Last summer, five justices of the United States Supreme Court fundamentally changed perhaps the most basic and important institution in our society and our history: marriage. Those five unelected judges, who are not accountable to anyone and hold lifetime appointments, stole the issue from the people and imposed their own view of marriage as a matter of constitutional law. This is a gross overstep of the court’s authority.

Prior to the Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, voters in 31 states chose to ban gay marriage in one form or another. More than 70 percent of Missourians voted to define marriage as between one man and one woman, and even states like California and Oregon voted in defense of traditional marriage. The court’s decision ignores the will of the people, is at odds with the Constitution and the principles upon which this country is built and, as Justice Thomas wrote, “exalts judges at the expense of the People from whom they derive their authority.” In a nutshell, Obergefell is poor jurisprudence with an anti-religious moralism that flies in the face of 200 years of our understanding of the First Amendment and thousands of years of Christian doctrine and religious belief. The Left now vilifies anyone with religious conviction or a viewpoint counter to theirs as a bigot instead of recognizing the fact that some things, like faith, rise above conformity to this world and what others try to impose on us. When such a flawed and ridiculous decision is rendered, it is our responsibility to uphold the Constitution and our First Amendment right to free expression of religion, not fall in line with judges who don’t share our values.

When you get past all the rhetoric and soundbites, it becomes all too obvious that there is a new threat to the religious liberty of Americans who don’t want to participate in gay weddings. From bakers to pastors, florists to photographers, the fear of being brought to court or punished by the IRS unless they participate in gay weddings, despite their religious beliefs, is a genuine fear. Liberal interest groups and opponents of traditional marriage have already begun to argue that the IRS should review the tax status of churches and nonprofit organizations that oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

In response, the Missouri Senate is considering Senate Joint Resolution 39. This is a proposed Missouri constitutional amendment that the people of Missouri would have the chance to vote on in either August or November. It would protect the First Amendment rights of pastors, ministers or clergy to refuse to perform, solemnize or facilitate a marriage ceremony because of their religious beliefs. The proposal would also ensure that church buildings or facilities could not penalized if they decline to make their facilities available for a marriage ceremony that does not correspond with their religious beliefs about gay marriage. Those who say such things would never happen should only look back a short time ago when aborting children was illegal across the country and any chance of its legalization was laughed off. We know what happened in that story and we’ve been dealing with the ramifications of it for the last four decades.

The Obergefell decision is not the end of the discussion, as Americans and Missourians alike, who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman, continue to live as believers of their faith and are true, in conscience. They need their elected officials to represent their values and stand up to false charges of bigotry and discrimination that are distractions from the true discussion. Senate Joint Resolution 39 is about defending religious liberty and freedom and the people deserve the chance to have their voice heard on this issue. I am proud to be a co-sponsor of Senate Joint Resolution 39 and am ready to fight for it on the Senate floor.

As always, I welcome your ideas, questions and concerns about Missouri government. You may contact me at the State Capitol as follows: (573) 751-1480, or by writing to Sen. David Sater, Missouri State Capitol, Room 419, Jefferson City, MO 65101.