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Missouri Family E-NewsMay 17, 2011

 

Missouri Congressmen Vote to Ban Abortion Funding

 

Members of Missouri's Congressional delegation joined their colleagues recently in voting to prohibit all federal funding for abortion.  Five of Missouri's nine U.S. Representatives voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, sponsored by Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey.  The House approved the abortion funding ban by a decisive vote of 251-175.

 

Congressman  Smith's legislation would prohibit taxpayer subsidies for abortion in any federal budget appropriation.  The bill codifies provisions long known as the Hyde Amendment to apply to every federal department and program, including President Obama's federal health care initiative.

 

"Abortion is lethal violence against children and exploitation of women," says Congressman Smith.  "For decades, a patchwork of short-term policies have prevented abortion funding in many programs.  However, it is time for a single, government-wide permanent protection against taxpayer funding for elective abortion."

 

Missouri Congressmen Todd Akin, Sam Graves, Billy Long, and Blaine Luetkemeyer, and Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler voted for the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.  Missouri Congressmen William "Lacy" Clay, Emmanuel Cleaver, and Russ Carnahan voted for taxpayers to underwrite the destruction of unborn children.  Congresswoman JoAnn Emerson was not present for the vote, but was an original co-sponsor of the bill.

 

Congressman Smith's bill faces a less welcome reception in the U.S. Senate, where pro-abortion forces still hold a majority.  Even if the measure were to be endorsed by the Senate, President Obama has promised to veto the legislation, saying it would "restrict women's reproductive freedoms."

 

The American public doesn't see it that way.  Regardless of people's views on the legality of abortion, polls show that nearly two-thirds of Americans don't believe they should be paying for other people's abortions.

 

While the legislation faces a major uphill battle in the Senate, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt is among those taking a stand for life.   Senator Blunt has joined with 21 of his colleagues to co-sponsor the Protect Life Act, which would also strike abortion subsidies from the federal health care bill.  The Protect Life Act would also restore conscience rights for pro-life health care workers recently weakened by the Obama Administration. 

 

 

 

State House Honors Work of Pregnancy Support Centers

 

The Missouri House of Representatives has adopted a resolution recognizing the work of pro-life agencies providing services to women with unintended pregnancies. 

 

The House adopted the resolution, sponsored by Representative Thomas Long of Battlefield, by an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 122-25.  The resolution applauds the "life-affirming impact" of the more than 65 pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes around the state.

 

The resolution acknowledged the efforts of pregnancy resource centers to encourage pregnant women "to make positive life choices" by serving their "physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual needs...with integrity and compassion." 

 

During the most recent fiscal year, according to the Missouri Department of Social Services, pregnancy resource centers and maternity homes served about 38,000 clients.  Services included free pregnancy tests, ultrasound services, and prenatal assistance.  PRC's also provide tangible support to pregnant women through baby and maternity clothing, child care and parenting classes, and  referrals to government and community resources in the areas of health care, education, housing, and job training.

 

The State of Missouri has extended support to pregnancy resource centers through a generous tax credit program.  Donors to PRC's and maternity homes receive a 50% state income tax credit for their contributions.  Since these agencies are non-profit entities heavily reliant on private donor support and skilled volunteers, the availability of tax credits is a very helpful fundraising tool.

 

The PRC tax credit expires on August 28, 2012.  Efforts to extend the sunset on the law establishing the tax credit were unsuccessful during the recent legislative session.  While both chambers of the General Assembly strongly support the program, the extension of the PRC credit became embroiled in a larger debate over the wisdom of non-benevolent tax credit programs geared for economic development purposes.

 

The good news:  The Legislature did reauthorize funding of $1.5 million for the Alternatives to Abortion (A2A) Program.  A2A funds are primarily allocated to pregnancy resource centers for the services described above.

 

Religious Liberty Amendment Sent to Statewide Ballot
 

Advocates for religious freedom won a long-sought victory during the recent legislative session when the Missouri General Assembly endorsed a proposed religious liberty constitutional amendment.  If approved by Missouri voters, the amendment would strengthen the language in Missouri's Constitution protecting the religious free exercise rights of Missouri citizens and schoolchildren.

 

The proposal, House Joint Resolution 2, had been approved by the Missouri House earlier in the session by a vote of 126-30.  This was the fourth straight year that the House had adopted the religious liberty bill, sponsored by Representative Mike McGhee of Odessa.   As the clock was winding down on the legislative session, "the prayer amendment," as it is often described, was facing once again an anticipated filibuster in the Senate from Senator Jolie Justus of Kansas City.

 

However, in an amazing turn of events, Senator Justus abandoned her threatened filibuster.  When Senator Jack Goodman of Mt. Vernon, the Senate handler of the proposal, brought the bill up for debate, Senator Justus not only voiced no objection to the bill, she stunned observers by voting for the joint resolution.  The measure was approved unanimously by the Senate by a vote of 34-0. 

 

The religious liberty amendment now goes before Missouri voters in a statewide election next year.  The proposal will appear on the November 2012 general election ballot, unless Governor Jay Nixon decides to place the measure on the August primary election ballot instead.

 

Under the religious liberty proposal, students would be assured the right to pray and acknowledge God on a voluntary basis in public schools so long as their religious expression is not disruptive and conforms to the parameters placed on any other free speech in similar circumstances.  Students would also be guaranteed the right to share their religious beliefs in written or oral school assignments free from any recrimination based on the religious content of their work.

 

The proposed constitutional amendment also includes a major conscience clause for students and parents when it comes to school curriculums.  Students could not be forced to perform academic assignments or participate in educational presentations that violate their religious beliefs.

 

The religious freedom measure also declares that a citizen's right to pray and acknowledge God shall not be infringed in other settings.  Citizens would be guaranteed the freedom to pray individually or corporately in public settings and on public property so long as the activity does not disturb the peace or disrupt a public meeting or assembly. 

 

Government officials and employees would be assured the right to pray on government premises provided that those public prayers abide within the same parameters placed on other speech in the same circumstances.  The joint resolution also stipulates that the Missouri Legislature and all local government bodies in the state may allow ministers and clergypersons to offer invocations at their meetings and public proceedings.

 

While the proposed constitutional amendment would not and cannot override federal court interpretations of the First Amendment to the Constitution, it spells out in clear language the nature of prevailing federal court decisions on matters of controversy in the realm of religious expression.  The new language would also prevent state court judges from interpreting our state constitution in a manner hostile to religious freedom.

 

Should the language of the joint resolution be enshrined in Missouri's Constitution, it would provide school administrators and government officials with essential religious liberty guidelines when groups such as the ACLU threaten litigation in efforts to suppress the expression of religious values.  Senator Goodman correctly pointed out that our constitutional rights are of little value if they cannot be exercised without fear of intimidation and repudiation.

 

The religious freedom amendment had its genesis five years ago when former Representative Carl Bearden first sponsored a joint resolution dealing with voluntary prayer in schools.  During the 2008 legislative session, the proposal was expanded to become a broad-based religious liberty amendment with additional language drafted by the Missouri Family Policy Council.  We are thrilled to see this proposition now in the hands of Missouri voters.

 

Representative Mike McGhee deserves tremendous accolades for his perseverance in promoting the "prayer amendment" these last four sessions.  Representative McGhee is one of the most kind-hearted and benevolent members of the General Assembly, and the success of this measure is reflective of his good will and gentlemanly leadership.  We urge you to send a note to Representative McGhee thanking him for his valiant leadership on this issue at mike.mcghee@house.mo.gov

 

Senator Goodman deserves supreme commendation for his masterful efforts to finally navigate this proposal past the philosophical and procedural obstacles that have left it shipwrecked for five straight sessions.  Senator Goodman is universally regarded in the Senate as a man of extraordinary conscience, character, and class.  The unanimous support he obtained from the Senate for the religious liberty amendment is a testimony to the deep respect he commands from his colleagues.  Please send a note to Senator Goodman thanking him for his impressive efforts at jack.goodman@senate.mo.gov

 

Lastly but most importantly, we thank God for this momentous victory for the Christian community in Missouri and for all people of faith.   The manner in which this proposal was finally achieved can only be explained by God's intervening Hand.  We thank Him for his mercies on our state. 

 

The preamble to Missouri's Constitution reads as follows:  "We, the people of Missouri, with profound reverence for the Supreme Ruler of the Universe, and grateful for His goodness, do establish this constitution for the better government of our state."  Our goal here at the Missouri Family Policy Council is to see that those sentiments are not just platitudes in a preamble, but that they are reflected in a meaningful way in the constitutional protections afforded the citizens of our state.

 

The right to pray and acknowledge "the Supreme Ruler of the Universe" is not a right granted by government, but a right conferred by our Creator.  It is the foremost job of government to safeguard that right.  The proposed religious liberty amendment guarantees that Missourians will be be able to proclaim our gratitude for God's goodness in the public square.  The citizens of the Show-Me State will now have the opportunity to show the nation next year who truly governs in the hearts of our people. 

 

Joe's Signature