One of the central legal principles involving our First Amendment right to freedom of speech is that we not only have the right to speak our mind with regard to our thoughts and opinions, but that we also have the right not to speak. The government cannot compel us to speak words and voice sentiments that contradict our personal beliefs and convictions.
One of the central legal principles involving our First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion is that we not only have the right to engage in conduct and activities that reflect our religious beliefs, but we also have the right not to engage in behavior and actions which violate our religious convictions. The government cannot force us to participate in conduct that violates our individual rights of conscience.
Never before have these legal principles been put more to the test in our nation than in the environment following the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Obergefell v. Hodges. In that decision, issued in the summer of last year, a slim majority of the High Court ruled that states must redefine the sacred institution of marriage to include immoral same-sex unions.
In the wake of that decision, devout Christians who believe in the sanctity of true marriage have been the targets and victims of punitive government actions and private lawsuits. They have been charged with “discrimination” based on so-called “sexual orientation” because they have declined to participate in supporting or condoning the perversion of marriage.
The vicious attacks on the human rights and civil liberties of Bible-believing Christians have been aimed at individuals and organizations in both the religious and secular sphere. Pastors, churches, religious schools, and non-profit religious organizations have come under legal fire for their commitment to traditional marriage.
Private businesses such as bakers, florists, photographers, and other wedding vendors have faced excessive fines and penalties for declining to participate in same-sex union ceremonies and celebrations. In the worst incident, a Christian couple in Oregon were fined $135,000 for refusing to decorate a wedding cake celebrating a relationship God has declared to be an abomination.
Most politicians have responded to these attacks on the conscience rights of the Christian community by fleeing as far from the issue as they can. They are intimidated by and fearful of the hateful rhetoric and ugly tactics of “gay rights” activists and their collaborators in the corporate and media world.
In Missouri, there has been one most notable exception–State Senator Bob Onder of Lake St. Louis. Senator Onder introduced a proposed constitutional amendment this past session that would have enhanced religious liberty protections in Missouri’s Constitution. It was known as Senate Joint Resolution 39.
The constitutional amendment would have protected ministers and religious institutions from government penalties and private damages because of their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman. It would have provided similar protection to businesses in the private sector who provide services to weddings who are believers in the sanctity of marriage.
Senator Onder was successful in gaining approval of his proposal by the Missouri Senate. However, Senate Joint Resolution 39 died in the House when legislators yielded to pressure from bullies in the corporate community, the “gay rights” lobby, and their media agents. As a result, Missourians were denied the opportunity to vote on a measure which would have strengthened religious freedom in our state.
Because of his courage in leading the effort for this religious liberty measure, the Missouri Family Policy Council is honoring Senator Bob Onder as our
Missouri Family Champion for the year 2016. Throughout the debate and controversy surrounding this proposal, Senator Onder demonstrated that he is a man of both extraordinary integrity and selfless Christian conviction.
Senator Onder is one of those rare members of the General Assembly who is both a doctor and a lawyer. His medical practice specializes in allergy and immunology. He is a graduate of the Washington University School of Medicine and the St. Louis University School of Law.
Bob Onder’s public service career began in 2007 after he was elected as a member of the Missouri House from St. Charles County. After serving one term in the Legislature, he made an unsuccessful run for the U.S. Congress. He returned to public service in 2015 upon being elected to the State Senate from the 2nd Senatorial District, representing the western portion of St. Charles County. He currently serves as the Assistant Majority Floor Leader in the U.S. Senate.
Senator Onder has been a longtime leader in the pro-life movement. He has previously served on the Board of Directors of Missouri Right to Life, and was heavily involved in the statewide effort to combat Amendment 2, which legalized human cloning in the State of Missouri.
Bob Onder lives in Lake St. Louis with his wife Allison and their six children. Allison has been the primary home educator to their four sons and two daughters. They are members of St. Gianna Catholic Church.
We thank you, Senator Onder, for your valiant efforts to defend the religious liberties of clergy, churches, and citizens in Missouri who believe in God’s design for marriage and the family. We commend you for withstanding the mean-spirited attacks on your character this past year with dignity and grace.
We look forward to many more years of your conscientious and virtuous leadership in public life. You have distinguished yourself as a genuine champion of Missouri families.