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Missouri Family E-NewsApril 19, 2010
 

Federal Judge Strikes Down National Day of Prayer 
 
The attacks on the religious liberties of Americans continue at an unprecedented and unabated pace.  Now a federal judge in Wisconsin has ruled that the National Day of Prayer is unconstitutional.  U. S. District Judge Barbara Crabb has decreed that the National Day of Prayer amounts to an establishment of religion, and thus violates the First Amendment to the Constitution.  
 
Judge Crabb says that the national observance goes beyond acknowledgement of religion because its purpose is to encourage citizens to engage in prayer, which she says serves no secular purpose.  The suit was filed by the atheist organization The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which challenged Congressional action designating the national prayer observance. 
 
The legal history of the National Day of Prayer goes back to 1952, when Congress passed a joint resolution signed into law by President Truman authorizing the President to declare an annual National Day of Prayer.  In 1988, Congress amended the law, signed by President Reagan, establishing the first Thursday in May as the formal date for the National Day of Prayer.
 
Virginia Congressman Randy Forbes called Judge Crabb's ruling "atrocious."  "This decision represents a movement we are seeing across the country of a small minority who want to exclude faith, religion, and morality from the marketplace of ideas, and who seek to unravel the very foundation our nation was built upon."
 
Attorneys for the Alliance Defense fund are calling on President Obama to appeal the judge's ruling.  ADF attorney Joel Oster says,  "The National Day of Prayer provides an opportunity for all Americans to pray voluntarily according to their own faith--and does not promote any particular religion or form of religious observance."  ADF had previously succeeded in having Shirley Dobson, the chairwoman of the private National Day of Prayer Task Force, excluded from the lawsuit.
 
Congressman Forbes is hopeful that Judge Crabb's decision will lead to more participation in this year's National Day of Prayer on May 6th.  "I think you're now going to see a greater intensity level this May on the National Day of Prayer--and perhaps that will turn into a very good thing."
 
This latest outrageous court decision reinforce the need for stronger religious liberty protections to be written into both the federal and various state constitutions.  We are trying to accomplish that here in Missouri with a religious freedom constitutional amendment sponsored in the House by Representative Mike McGhee and in the Senate by Senator Delbert Scott.  
 
Both bills have been passed by their respective committees in each chamber, but neither bill has yet been approved by the full House and Senate. The House bill is HJR 62. You can contact your State Representative to urge his or her support by clicking this link:
 
The Senate bill is SJR 31.  You can contact your State Senator to urge his or her support by using this link: 
 
 
 
 
 
 
State Senate Endorses Bill to Protect Students From Sexual Predators 
 
The Missouri Senate has expressed overwhelming support for legislation which would help protect public school students from sexual predators in the classroom.  Known as the Amy Hestir Student Protection Act, the bill would make it easier for public school officials to know of prior sexual misconduct by public educators and public school employees.
 
The proposal has been championed by Senator Jane Cunningham of Chesterfield.  It is named after a Missouri woman who was repeatedly molested and assaulted by her junior high school teacher during her youth.  The alleged perpetrator is reportedly still teaching in a Missouri school district today.
 
A key provision of the bill would allow school districts to share information about employee job performance with hiring officials in other school districts, and to do so with civil immunity.  School districts would also be liable for damages if they dismiss an employee or allow an employee to resign for reasons of sexual misconduct and fail to disclose those reasons in an information request from another school district.  
 
Under current employment law in Missouri law, school districts are reluctant to share adverse information about the separation of former employees for fear of lawsuits.  As a result, teachers who engage in sexual abuse or misconduct with students are able to float from one school district to another with the new school district unaware of their prior record.  
 
Senator Cunningham's proposal would also require that any individual seeking a state teaching certificate must complete not only a criminal background check, but also a check of the state sexual offender registry and the state child abuse registry.  An audit released in 2007 by State Auditor Susan Montee concluded that "public school students were at risk because of inadequate teacher background checks."
 
A nationwide study conducted by the Associated Press in 2007 revealed that 87 Missouri teachers lost their credentials in a four-year period because of sexual offenses, ranking Missouri 11th worst in the nation.  Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is reportedly reviewing the cases of more than 60 additional teachers in the public schools who have been accused of sexual misconduct with students.
 
Cunningham's bill was approved on a vote of 32-1.  Senator Jason Crowell voted against the bill.  Senator Dan Clemens was absent.  All other state senators voted for the bill.  However, in a highly unusual move, the Senate voted to reconsider the bill so that issues with the bill's fiscal note could be examined.  The Legislature's fiscal staff has estimated that the bill will cost public entities a total of $7 million, which is a highly dubious figure.  It is hoped that prompt action can be taken to rectify problems with the fiscal note and give final passage to this critical measure to protect Missouri schoolchildren.
Missouri Senate Gives Initial OK to Major Pro-Life Bill
 
The Missouri Senate has given initial approval to comprehensive pro-life legislation which will bolster the state's informed consent law and keep abortion out of health insurance policies.  The blockbuster bill adopted by the Senate combines separate pro-life proposals introduced by Senators Rob Mayer of Dexter and Senator Scott Rupp of Wentzville.
 
Mayer's bill establishes rigorous requirements that ensure that women considering abortion receive full information about the nature and risks of the abortion procedure.  Pregnant women would be shown pictures of the development of the preborn child and would be informed that abortion terminates the life of "a separate, unique, living human being." 
 
The legislation requires that the Department of Health and Senior Services prepare informational packets which must be presented to the woman in person 24 hours before the abortion procedure.  The packets would include information about the immediate and long-term risks abortion poses to the physical and mental health of the mother.  The written materials would also detail the names and contact information for agencies willing to support women who choose to give birth to their child.
 
Most significantly, the bill stipulates that women must be afforded an an opportunity to see an ultrasound of their child 24 hours before the abortion, and also hear the heartbeat of the child if it is audible.  Women with advanced pregnancies will also be advised that abortion may cause serious pain to their unborn child. Abortion clinics would not be able to collect payment for an abortion until 24 hours after the woman has been provided the information, and would be required to inform the woman that she is free to withdraw her consent to the abortion at any time. She must also be told that the father of the unborn child is legally liable to assist in the support of the child, even if he has offered to pay for the abortion.
 
Missouri currently has an informed consent law on the books.  However, it is not specific as to the information the woman is to receive, and as a result abortion clinics are under no legal burden to tell women the truth about the procedure and its consequences.   While the present law calls for consultation by the abortionist with the woman, it is clear that this "consultation" is often occurring over the phone. Under the proposed law, a qualified licensed professional would be required to meet with the woman 24 hours before the abortion to provide her with the state packet of information in person, answer questions she may have, and provide her with the opportunity to view an ultrasound.
 
Senator Rupp's bill addresses head-on the pro-abortion provisions of the recently enacted federal health care bill.  That legislation provides government subsidies to individuals to buy health insurance from health insurance exchanges established by federal regulation in each state.  With those taxpayer subsidies, individuals of low to moderate income would be able to purchase health insurance plans which cover abortion. Individuals who choose to purchase coverage within a health insurance exchange from an insurer who offers abortion coverage would be required to pay an abortion surcharge regardless of their age, sex, or family status.
 
Senator Rupp's measure takes advantage of a provision in the federal health care bill that authorizes states to opt out of the abortion coverage provisions of the law.  To do so, states must pass a law exempting themselves from the federal abortion mandate. The language endorsed by the Senate states that no health insurance exchange established in the state may offer health insurance policies that provide coverage for elective abortions.
 
Missouri law currently prohibits the sale of health insurance coverage for abortion unless it is offered through an optional rider for which an additional premium is paid.  Such riders would not be available under Rupp's bill if the health insurance plan is subsidized by federal taxpayer dollars or tax credits.
 
The Missouri Senate gave initial approval to the comprehensive pro-life bill on a voice vote.  A final recorded vote will occur this week.  Then the bill will move to the House, which has already approved its own bill including virtually the same informed consent sections. It is hoped that the House will ratify the Senate measure, or move quickly to a conference where any differences can be resolved. The ultrasound/informed consent bill died last year when the House and Senate could not agree on differences in the final language.
 
We ask you to be praying in earnest that this crucial pro-life proposal will be "truly agreed and finally passed" in these final four weeks of the legislative session.  Please also pray that legislators are able to separate fact from fiction as they reach conclusions about the best course of action which will result in ultimate passage of this bill. 
Joe's Signature
  
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