Missourians who cherish religious freedom are one step closer to securing it after the Missouri Senate endured 39 hours of frivolous filibustering by eight Democrats to pass Senate Joint Resolution 39 (SJR 39), otherwise known as the Missouri Religious Freedom Amendment, by a vote of 23-9, on March 9. The amendment now awaits two committee hearings, floor debate and a vote in the Missouri House of Representatives, which is expected to pass it by an overwhelming majority. Once passed it will be placed on the statewide ballot for voters to approve, probably on Aug. 2. It will provide protection for pastors, churches, institutions like schools, universities and children’s homes as well as a few businesses in the wedding industry.
SJR 39 is the culmination of months of work by faith leaders, lawmakers and legal scholars from across Missouri and the nation. Much of the work was accomplished in a series of private meetings at the Baptist Building. An effort of this magnitude takes the dedication of a lot of committed and talented people. Missouri Baptists have been privileged to help lead this fight for religious freedom just as we have through the ages. Indeed Baptists played a key role in persuading James Madison to write the First Amendment.
The First Amendment has faced many challenges in its 250-year existence, but perhaps none greater than is being mounted by LGBT advocates following last year’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling redefining marriage.
Since that time LGBT advocates, buoyed by Wall Street and some corporations like Monsanto, Apple, MasterCard, Home Depot, Delta Airlines, Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola have launched a fierce nationwide attack on the First Amendment, aiming specifically at free speech and free exercise of religion. Private businesses, mostly involved in the wedding industry, have been harassed and in some cases driven out of business by state governments because their owners wish to operate according to their religious conscience. LGBT advocates are also starting to target churches and other faith-based institutions with the goal of forcing their view of marriage on people who disagree.
The LGBT movement has always said their quest was for “marriage” equality. Well, five U.S. Supreme Court justices rewrote the Constitution and granted their wishes. But it seems now their goal is no longer about so-called “equality,” but rather crushing any dissent.
Just last week the Missouri Chamber of Commerce shocked many by announcing its opposition to SJR 39. They say it will cause an increase in litigation and hurt the state’s economy. Nothing could be further from the truth. The Chamber claims the amendment would expand employers’ liability to employees refusing to do their job. This false claim drew a sharp rebuke from Carl Esbeck, professor emeritus, University of Missouri Law School and considered among our nation’s top First Amendment scholars. Plain and simple it was an attempt by the Chamber to deceive Missourians and to get their attention away from the true goal of the amendment: marriage protection and religious freedom.
Of course the Chamber offered no credible evidence to back up any of its outrageous claims. We’ve seen this type of economic blackmail before in Indiana where pro-LGBT businesses claimed the economic sky was falling, only to learn later that it was not. The Missouri Chamber claims to represent 50,000 businesses, but it is obvious they couldn’t care less about the consciences of Missouri’s small business owners.
This is crony capitalism on full display. Missouri businesses have always been free to embrace any definition of marriage, to even bake wedding cakes for gay “marriages.” Many do, but now the Missouri Chamber and its anti-conscience stance wants the government to force everyone in Missouri to do the same. Get ready, because in coming days the supportive, liberal media is going to flood publications, the internet and airwaves with articles threatening boycotts, travel bans and relocations of businesses. When a Kansas City official suggested that the NCAA may pull its basketball tournament out of Missouri, State Sen. Mike Kehoe, R-Jefferson City, challenged the official publicly and debunked his groundless assertion.
The hypocrisy on the part of various Chambers of Commerce jumping into this debate in other states is well documented. Businesses, who claim to be pro-LGBT, have been exposed doing business with nations that behead LGBT people and throw them off rooftops. Yet they continue to do business with such nations, gladly taking their money.
Why are the Chambers bullying free Missourians into accepting their misleading point of view and opposing the right of every Missourian to vote on the matter? For the Chambers it is all about money, the conscience of a person be damned.