Senate Bill 749 was passed by the Missouri General Assembly to provide additional freedom of conscience and religious liberty protections against ObamaCare, but with one swipe of his veto pen Gov. Jay Nixon swept it all away July 12.
Nixon’s politically calculating move was as surprising to some as it was disappointing to most. Even Republicans have to acknowledge that for the first 42 months Nixon has been in office, he has – at least to some extent – governed in bipartisan fashion. People of faith had no reason to believe that Nixon was antagonistic toward religious liberty. That has now changed and so has Missouri’s political landscape.
Is this the sort of radical left-wing policymaking Missourians can expect if Nixon is re-elected? Because of this veto, Nixon can no longer be seen by independents as being non-partisan. Instead he has become a political ideologue rather than a statesman who defends freedom of conscience and religious liberty. Nixon has succumbed to the pressure of Planned Parenthood and others who believe the mythical “right” to kill the unborn is more sacred than freedom.
Until now, many believed Nixon was assured of re-election. Not anymore. We are now guaranteed a costly September veto session of the Missouri General Assembly. With it the stakes for the fall elections rise exponentially. If there were concerns about an apathetic voter turnout by people of faith in November, those have been washed away by the ink in Nixon’s veto pen. Even if a September veto override is successful, Nixon’s intentions are going to energize people of faith to not just vote, but work toward increasing November turnout. A five percent increase in evangelical turnout could mean the difference between a narrow Romney victory in Missouri and mixed results down the ticket (including a Nixon re-election) and a Republican landslide.
Nixon said he particularly objected to a provision in the bill that would have given insurance companies the power to deny contraception coverage. The governor said insurers would have new authority “even if that position is inconsistent with the rights and beliefs of the employee or employer.
“The moral, ethical and religious beliefs of Missourians that are currently honored should not become secondary to the will of an insurance company,” Nixon said in his veto message. “Such an effort would signal a retreat from the liberties enjoyed by employers and employees under the current law.”
But no one is denied contraceptive coverage under SB 749, which only makes it optional for employers who would be paying for that option. Contraceptives are available at any drug store. The issue is not contraceptives, but abortions, freedom of conscience and religious liberty.
From a political point of view, there are varying theories as to why Nixon chose this course. Some pundits think he feared campaign contributions might dry up from a pro-choice Democrat base already suffering from a lack of enthusiasm. Others think he eyes national office, perhaps challenging U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt for his seat in 2016. This much is known, the veto places Nixon alongside President Obama and his national health care plan, just days after suggesting it wasn’t for Missouri. That’s indecisiveness.
The Missouri Baptist Convention, along with other faith organizations, lobbied for SB 749 and we will lobby hard for a veto override. The Pathway will be reporting – and people of faith will be watching – the vote of every General Assembly member in the veto session. The stakes are high. Overriding Nixon’s veto is important to religious entities like Southwest Baptist University, Hannibal-LaGrange University, Missouri Baptist Children’s Home and possibly even the Missouri Baptist Convention staff. Without it each will be forced to offer abortion-inducing drugs in their employee insurance coverage, contrary to the teachings of their faith. ObamaCare represents a grave threat to religious freedom. Without SB 749, that threat grows significantly.
The chances of a veto override appear good. Overriding requires two-thirds support in the Senate and House. The Senate passed the measure with 26 votes, three more than needed for a veto override. In the House, however, the measure passed with 105 votes, four short of the 109 needed. But 25 House members were absent the final day of the legislative session when the measure passed, and party leaders said many of those 25 supported SB 749.
From colonialists Roger Williams and John Leland to today, Baptists have championed religious liberty. We had better not abandon that legacy at this critical moment. Nixon is unwilling to protect the lives of the unborn. Three weeks ago in an historic, but private meeting of more than 850 Missouri pastors held in Kansas City, Historian David Barton made this observation: Politicians who will not protect life, will not protect our money, our property, our families or our freedom. That is a thought people of faith should ponder as a veto session and the November elections approach.