MONA is an acronym for the cruelly misleading Missouri Nondiscrimination Act. MONA represents a menacing domestic threat to religious freedom. If it passes it could serve as a mechanism for LGBT people to claim discrimination in a variety of ways, triggering lawsuits against religious organizations and people of faith who want to run their businesses according to the dictates of their faith.
Think about a baker who refuses to bake a wedding cake for same-sex couples, a photographer who refuses to take wedding photographs of a same-sex couple or a florist who refuses to make floral arrangements for same-sex “weddings.” All refuse because they feel their involvement constitutes an endorsement of same-sex “marriage,” which their faith forbids. Note an important distinction in each case: The baker, photographer and florist are willing to provide services to LGBT people – just not for a same-sex “wedding.” None of them makes distinctions based on sexual orientation.
In his ruling on same-sex “marriage,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy said “animus” was the motivation behind denying same-sex couples to “marry.” The examples I just cited bare not a hint of animus. To the contrary, they represent how citizens live out their faith due to a robust “free exercise” clause contained in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. “Free exercise” means just that. No restrictions.
Lawsuits under MONA could extend far beyond such examples. LGBT lawyers argue allowing people of faith to reject service to same-sex “weddings” gives them license to masquerade as bigots. Nothing could be further from the truth. Such so-called “bigots” care for the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, give shelter to the homeless and tell them Jesus loves them so much He died for their sins.
Rep. Kevin Engler, (R-Farmington), says he has a commitment from Republican House leadership that LGBT advocates will get a hearing on MONA come January. No word on the Senate or how Gov. Eric Greitens views the matter. Greitens opposed Senate Joint Resolution 39 (SJR 39 would have strengthened the religious freedom language in the state constitution) last year because he felt businesses should serve everyone, otherwise it hurts the state’s economy.
No doubt liberal media will soon start clamoring for MONA. Hollywood and New York “elites” will descend on Missouri like locusts to condemn our “bigotry.” LGBT advocates and their allies will trumpet horror stories about Missouri being a haven for discrimination. Economic collapse looms, MONA supporters will warn, if the state does not succumb to LGBT demands. (Illinois has a MONA, and their economy is a wreck.)
The governor has declared Missouri open for business. It is hard to see where a MONA law enhances that. Increased litigation is sure to follow its passage and Missouri already has a reputation of being too litigious. Business opposes MONA, but big corporations might threaten to pull jobs out of Missouri.
It will be interesting to see how the Missouri Chamber of Commerce reacts. In the past they have opposed MONA, but the big corporations carry weight. The Chamber issued a recent Action Alert to its members, urging them to pressure state representatives to pass a tort reform bill known as Senate Bill 43 (SB 43). Last year the Chamber opposed the religious liberty bill SJR 39 which would have protected small business owners from service discrimination claims and awards. Yet the Chamber backed SB 43, not because of religious freedom, but to protect large businesses by limiting employee discrimination claims and awards. As a friend pointed out to me, “Interestingly, state Chambers – and the anchor members who underwrite their legislative priorities – seem to have no qualms about protecting themselves when profit aligns with principle.”
The faith community needs to organize. The recent passage of SB 43 only restores the religious exemption to the Missouri Human Rights Act that protects religious nonprofits against employment discrimination. It does not protect any other First Amendment rights if MONA becomes law.
Missouri Southern Baptists hold no ill will against LGBT people. Our Savior tells us we are to love them. Nevertheless, true love means telling the truth – even if they do not want to hear it.
We would be delighted to sit down with our LGBT neighbors, listen to their concerns, share ours and then try to reach an accommodation that respects everyone while allowing freedom of conscience. Everyone deserves to be treated with the respect due to one created in the image of God. No one should experience discrimination, but MONA is bad law.