Last summer Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) Executive Director John Yeats asked me to organize a statewide effort to strengthen Missouri’s religious freedom laws following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that redefined marriage. For four months I had the privilege of leading discussions about the matter with lawmakers, State Capitol staffers and First Amendment scholars and attorneys. I am pleased to say that through hard work and much prayer a bill has been crafted and is being sponsored by Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis, in the Senate and Rep. Paul Curtman, R-Pacific, in the House of Representatives. It asks voters to approve amending the Missouri Constitution in order to strengthen religious freedom for every citizen, even those who wish to believe in nothing.
By the time you read this at least three of your Missouri Baptist leaders will have testified in support of the bill before a Senate committee. On Feb. 23 I was joined by Kansas City attorney Mike Whitehead, general counsel for the MBC, and David Krueger, pastor, First Baptist Church, Linn, and chairman of the MBC’s Christian Life Commission, in speaking for the bill. Also testifying in favor of the bill were leaders and pastors from other denominations as well as legislative leaders from the Missouri Farm Bureau, Missouri Eagle Forum and Missouri Concerned Women for America.
The next issue of The Pathway will provide in-depth coverage of the bill and what lies ahead. Already pro-homosexual groups like PROMO and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are criticizing the bill, mischaracterizing it as “anti-gay.” They are incorrect. It does not do – or deny – anything to anybody. It only provides additional religious freedom protections at the state level as guaranteed by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. In other words, it is a shield, not a sword.
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This week I joined several lawmakers along with leaders from the state’s faith community and pro-life movement in signing a cover letter asking Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to defend a Missouri law that requires physicians doing abortions to have staff privileges at a nearby hospital. It became necessary to defend the law after U.S. Circuit Court Judge Nanette Laughrey struck it down on Dec. 28. As a consequence of her ruling, Missouri law was circumvented and prevented the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services from revoking the Columbia Planned Parenthood license even though Columbia had no credentialed doctor. Koster’s office has filed a notice of appeal and those signing the letter asked Koster to “devote as much time and resources as is necessary to successfully defend and uphold Missouri law before the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.”
The letter goes on to say that the requirement for a physician “who performs abortions have staff privileges at a nearby hospital ensures that the physician can admit a patient into a hospital with which the physician is familiar and that the patient will gain immediate access to needed care. This requirement serves an important purpose, especially given the fact that the St. Louis Planned Parenthood facility has seen 30 calls for ambulance services since 2009.”
The cover letter was accompanied by a petition signed by approximately 9,000 Missourians. I am joining a group Feb. 26 that will personally deliver the letter and petition to the attorney general’s office.
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You have not seen or read much about it, but the Missouri presidential primary is March 15 and I hope you and members of your church have registered vote. It is the first of three elections in Missouri this year. The general election primary is Aug. 2 and the general election is Nov. 8.
With the death of Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia, the stakes in this year’s elections have never been higher. God has called us to be “salt and light” and to be good citizens. We are at our best when we participate in the election process, acting and voting in accordance with God’s Word. The Proverbial parable of the sluggard and the vineyard warns that unless the God-fearing contend for righteousness against the wicked, the wicked will prevail (Prov. 24:30-34).
By now each church should have received a voter registration packet with everything you need to get members registered. The registration deadline for the Aug. 2 primary is July 6. The registration deadline for the Nov. 8 general election is Oct. 12. If you have not received a voter registration packet, call The Pathway and we will get one in the mail immediately.