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Missouri Family E-News

April 8, 2014

                       
High Court Quashes Case Defending Freedom of Conscience 

 

The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt a severe blow to religious freedom and freedom of speech in a highly publicized case involving a New Mexico photographer.   

 

The High Court has refused to hear the appeal of Elaine Huguenin, who was found guilty of "sexual orientation" discrimination for failing to photograph a same-sex ceremony.

 

Huguenin owns Elane Photography along with her husband Jon in Albuquerque.  They are both committed evangelical Christians.  Elane was approached in 2006 by a lesbian "couple" who asked her to photography their civil union ceremony.

 

When Huguenin declined to accept the job, the lesbian women filed a complaint with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, alleging "sexual orientation" discrimination.   

 

New Mexico has adopted revisions to its "public accommodations" law that prohibits businesses and business owners from discriminating based on "sexual orientation."

 

The Human Rights Commission found Elane Huguenin guilty, and required her to pay nearly $7000 in attorneys' fees to the lesbian couple.

 

The Huguenins filed an appeal of the decision in the New Mexico state courts.  In a shocking decision, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that the First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion did not apply to business owners such as Huguenin.

 

New Mexico's High Court stated that business owners are compelled to conform their convictions to those of their customers.  One of the justices stated in the decision that business owners are required to compromise their religious beliefs "as the price of citizenship."

 

The refusal of the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case reflects a remarkable degree of high-level cowardice by the nation's leading judges.   

 

The Supreme Court has consistently held throughout the nation's history that freedom of speech includes not only the right to speak but the "right to refrain from speaking."

 

Federal courts have repeatedly stated that the government cannot coerce private citizens to engage in compelled speech.  The government cannot mandate that an individual communicate a message which they find morally repugnant, including through the artistic license and creative work of a photographer.  

 

The Huguenins have been represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) in this case.  David Cortman, senior counsel for ADF, condemned the Supreme Court's failure to confront this crucial religious liberty case.

 

"Americans oppose unjust laws that strong-arm citizens to express ideas against their will.  Elaine and numerous other business owners are more than willing to serve any and all customers."

 

"What they are not willing to do is to promote messages that violate their core beliefs," Cortman continued.  "A government that forces any American to create a message contrary to her own convictions is a government that every American should fear."

 

Tony Perkins, President of the Family Research Council, says the Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case allows lower courts to trample on the First Amendment rights of conscience of every American.

 

"Americans are being forced by government to buy Obamacare, and are now being forced to engage in speech with which they morally disagree."

 

"Is our judicial branch writing the epilogue to the American experiment in religious liberty?  Americans cannot be silent any longer to this affront to our First Amendment freedoms."

 

The New Mexico Supreme Court decision flies in the face of overwhelming public opinion on this issue.  A Rasmussen survey found that more than 80 percent of American agreed that no photographer should be forced under penalty of law to take pictures of a homosexual ceremony.  

 

The Missouri Senate passed a bill similar to that of New Mexico last session which would have prohibited "sexual orientation" discrimination.  Fortunately, the Missouri House refused to take up the measure.  

 

  

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Missouri House OKs Student Religious Freedom Measure    

The Missouri House of Representatives has given initial approval to legislation which would protect the religious freedoms of students in the public school system.  The House has given first-round approval to the Student Religious Liberties Act, sponsored by Representative Elijah Haahr of Springfield, by a vote of  128-20.

The proposal, House Bill 1303, would guarantee the free speech rights of students who choose to share their religious values in the public school setting.  Public school teachers and administrators would be prohibited from discriminating against students based on their religious expression or religious viewpoints.  Students would be assured the right to voice their religious sentiments in the same manner and to the same degree any secular viewpoint may be expressed.

The bill would also guarantee students the right to share their religious beliefs in written and oral assignments and in homework and artwork free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work.  Academic assignments would have to be judged based purely on their relevance to the subject matter being discussed.

Representative Haahr says the purpose of his legislation is to reinforce the posture of school district officials in defending the religious civil liberties of students.  He points out that school districts often face intimidation and threats of litigation from atheist groups determined to stifle religious expression.  Representative Haahr also says that some school officials falsely believe that the constitutional theory of the "separation of church and state" requires them to exclude religious discussion from the classroom.

House Bill 1303 makes clear that students may pray and engage in religious activities before, during, and after the school day "in the same manner and to the same extent that students may engage in non-religious activities or expression."  Students may organize and participate in prayer groups, religious clubs, and other religious gatherings to the same extent that students may meet and participate in other noncurricular student activities and groups.

Religious activities may not be disruptive of scheduled instructional time or other educational activities, and may not impede access to school facilities or mobility on school premises.  School officials retain the authority to maintain order and discipline on school property and to protect the safety of students, employees, and visitors on the school campus.

Students may also wear clothing, accessories, and jewelry that includes religious messages and symbols in the same manner and to the same extent that clothing and accessories containing secular messages are permitted.

School districts would be required to establish what is known in legal terms as a "limited public forum" at all school functions at which students are allowed to speak. In those cases, students would have the freedom to share their religious values on a voluntary basis.

Should the General Assembly give final approval to the Student Religious Liberties Act, it would function as enabling legislation for Amendment 2, adopted by Missouri voters in August of 2012.  Referred to as the Prayer Amendment, that proposal wrote language into Missouri's Constitution protecting the right of students to the free exercise of religion in the public schools.  Amendment 2 was endorsed by Missouri citizens by a resounding vote of 83 to 17 percent.

The need for Representative Haahr's bill is illustrated by countless incidents that occur on a continuing basis in public schools across the country.   The latest episode occurred at Carillon Elementary School in Oviedo, Florida.

Gabriella Perez, a five year-old kindergarten student, was sitting at the lunch table and bowed her head to pray as she prepared to eat her lunch.  A teacher in the lunch room told her, "You're not allowed to do that."  The young girl replied, "But it's good to pray."  The teacher responded, "It's not good."  When the young girl proceed to pray again, the teacher once again chastised her.

"My child should not feel conflicted about prayer with respect to trying to follow rules and obey authority," says Marcos Perez, Gabriella's father.  "We tried to reaffirm to her and let her know that according to our family values and Biblical values that she did nothing wrong."

School officials denied that the incident occurred, and said that students are indeed permitted to pray over their lunch if they wish.   Jeremiah Dys, an attorney for the Liberty Institute, says that the school district owes Gabriella an apology.  "Saying a five year-old cannot pray over her chicken nuggets and mac and cheese simply isn't in line with the Constitution."

Below you will find a record of how your state representative voted on the Student Religious Liberties Act.  We suggest you contact them to thank those legislators who voted for the bill, or encourage those who didn't to rethink their position.  You can do so by using this link:
Your State Representative

The bill will move on to the Senate after one more vote in the House.  We encourage you to contact your state senator to encourage their vote for House Bill 1303.  You can do so by using this link:
Your State Senator

State Representatives voting YES on House Committee Substitute for House Bill 1303:

Allen, Anderson, Austin, Bahr, Barnes, Bernskoetter, Berry, Black, Brattin, Brown, Burlison, Butler, Carpenter, Cierpiot, Conway (Pat), Conway (Kathie), Cookson, Cox, Crawford, Cross, Curtman, Diehl, Dohrman, Dugger, Ellington, Elmer, Engler, English, Englund, Entlicher, Fitzpatrick, Fitzwater, Flanigan, Fraker, Frame, Franklin, Frederick, Funderburk, Gannon, Gosen, Grisamore, Guernsey, Haahr, Haefner, Hampton, Harris, Hicks, Higdon, Hinson, Hoskins, Hough, Houghton, Hubbard, Hurst, Johnson, Jones (Caleb), Jones (Tim), Justus, Keeney, Kelley (Mike), Kelly (Chris), Koenig, Kolkmeyer, Korman, Kratky, Lair, Lant, Lauer, Leara, Lichtenegger, Love, Lynch, Marshall, Mayfield, McCaherty, McCann Beatty, McDonald, McGaugh, McKenna, McManus, McNeil, Miller, Mims, Molendorp, Montecillo, Moon, Morris, Muntzel, Neely, Nichols, Norr, Parkinson, Pfautsch, Phillips, Pogue, Redmon, Redhder, Reiboldt, Remole, Rhoads, Richardson, Riddle, Rizzo, Roorda, Ross, Rowden, Rowland, Runions, Scharnhorst, Schatz, Schieber, Schieffer, Shull, Shumake, Solon, Sommer, Stream, Swan, Thomson, Torpey, Walker, Webber, White, Wieland, Wilson, Wood, Wright, and Zerr

State Representatives voting NO on HCS HB 1303:

Anders, Burns, Colona, Curtis, Dunn, Gardner, Hummel, Kirkton, LaFaver, May, Meredith, Mitten, Morgan, Newman, Otto, Pierson, Schupp, Smith, Swearingen, and Walton Gray

State Representatives voting PRESENT:

Pace, Peters

State Representatives ABSENT WITH LEAVE:

Cornejo, Davis, Ellinger, Gatschenberger, Hansen, Hodges, Messenger, Neth, Pike, and Spencer

Joe's Signature