CLC eyes 12 legislative priorities for ’05
Convention’s effort to be ‘salt and light’
By Allen Palmeri
November 23, 2004
JEFFERSON CITY – The Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is going into the 2005 General Assembly with a 12-point moral values outline that is being sent to governor-elect Matt Blunt and the leaders of both the state House of Representatives and state Senate.
“These 12 items make up our early legislative priorities, but our overall focus will remain fluid,” said Rodney Albert, chairman of the MBC’s Christian Life Commission. “We invite all lawmakers who share our Christian worldview to join us in fighting for these issues.”
The 2,000 MBC churches with approximately 600,000 members are concerned about such issues as abortion, underage drinking, embryonic stem cell research and pornography. They seek to reform ungodly public policy in areas like hate crimes, gambling and foster care. As part of a “moral values juggernaut” that swept Republican politicians like Blunt and lieutenant governor-elect Peter Kinder into office, the MBC plans on being a consistent advocate for biblical citizenship in Jefferson City.
Albert said he is confident that these 12 legislative priorities will be handled well by the leading pro-family lobbyist at the Capitol, Kerry Messer, the author of the CLC agenda. Messer, a member of First Baptist Church, Festus-Crystal City, is a 20-year veteran of legislative lobbying through the organization he founded, Missouri Family Network, and is entering his second year as the MBC’s lobbyist. Starting in the early 1980s, Messer led the fight to rid St. Louis of pornography and in the process has since become known as the state’s No. 1 expert on obscenity law.
“Kerry has the passion, skill and patience to work with all 197 lawmakers,” Albert said. “Even those who do not share his Christian worldview respect his work. As Kerry launches out into this historic era with new legislative leadership including a governor who will complement that leadership, he will advance our priorities with dignity, poise and humility.”
The 12 legislative priorities for 2005 identified by the MBC are as follows:
• Abortion. While several bills may end up powering their way toward the governor’s desk, the centerpiece pro-life measure ought to be the civil liability parental consent bill sponsored by Sen. John Loudon, R-Ballwin and a member of Ballwin Baptist Church. This bill, in tandem with “next friend” legislation, is important because together they could save about 800 lives a year.
• Foster care. In a state where 71 percent of voters chose to define marriage as only one man and one woman, the law should not allow homosexual couples to become foster parents.
• Gambling. Authorization of a comprehensive and credible, non-casino-influenced impact study of gambling on Missouri’s economy is necessary for the future decisions that will make Missouri a strong, healthy culture for our families and churches. Retaining the $500 loss limit on Missouri’s riverboat casinos is an ongoing priority. Reducing the state Gaming Commission to a regulatory agency and advocating a moratorium on the number of casinos, tables and/or slot machines in the state are issues that need to be debated. “We will be pushing for the Legislature to review the state’s keno operations,” Messer said. “In the past, Gov. Bob Holden has hindered that review process.”
• Embryonic stem cell research. Education is the primary goal as pro-business conservatives continue their discussions with pro-life purists who must work to win over the governor. Banning all human cloning in Missouri, a bill that is once again being championed by Sen. Matt Bartle, R-Lee’s Summit and a deacon at First Baptist Church, Raytown, is worthy of serious consideration.
• Church legal relief. Right now in Missouri, churches are open to devastating lawsuits based on federal law. Statutory relief from this practice would be a major issue as lawmakers investigate the state’s ability to moderate or protect churches from such egregious federal law.
• Underage drinking. State standards addressing teen-age intoxication and making it tougher on adults who are involved is another important legislative priority. This builds on the interim committee on underage drinking created by Sen. Majority Floor Leader Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood. The MBC also plans to address the concern, although greatly diminished in recent years, of the abuse of alcohol in the state Capitol.
• Hate crimes. Law on the books in Missouri grants higher levels of protection to politically correct victims of crime, including homosexuals. Reforming this law and making it equitable towards all citizens is vital.
• Pornography. Creating new tools for prosecutors and law enforcement, while finding incentives to motivate law enforcement, is a top priority.
• Medicaid. Though it may be a controversial issue that can divide evangelicals and other church groups, Rep. Brian Baker, R-Belton and assistant pastor and ministries director, First Baptist Church, Belton, said that stewardship of Medicaid is a moral value. Lawmakers are being asked to reform such programs so there is less fraud and abuse, thereby freeing up more benefits for the truly needy. “Part of my responsibility is to help both lawmakers and churches understand the dangers of government socialism while advocating a return to true biblical benevolence,” Messer said.
• Judicial activism. With citizens expressing concern over renegade judges recklessly making laws that run contrary to the state and federal constitutional guarantees of a republican form of government, the CLC may enter into a multi-year lobbying project to constitutionally and/or statutorily reform elements of the state’s judiciary.
• Family rights. The homosexual community has been circumventing parents and spouses in hospital and health care rights as well as funeral designation rights. The rights of family members in Missouri must be re-established and strengthened in these areas.
• Biblical marriage. Lawmakers ought to initiate a full-scale study of marriage in Missouri, identifying all areas of public policy, from business law to the tax code and beyond that can be viewed as negative toward marriage. That research then could be applied toward formulating long-term strategies to encourage and support biblical marriage (lifelong, monogamous unions).
“Before the Nov. 2 election, I warned our people that the government was heading toward total censorship of the church,” said MBC Executive Director David Clippard. “The results of the general election indicate that God has given us a reprieve. While we are not advocating a theocracy, by emphasizing these 12 priorities we hope to draw attention to the wisdom of obeying God’s law. We seek to preserve our society by being the salt and light God has called us to be.”