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Missouri Family E-News

January 6, 2015

                
Missouri Legislature Returns to Jeff City   

Members elected in November to serve in the Missouri General Assembly
will be meeting for the first time in Jefferson City this week.  The first regular session of the 98th General Assembly will convene tomorrow in the State Capitol.

The 162 legislators who will take the oath of office in the House of Representatives will include 31 new members.  The 34 lawmakers in the Senate include four new members, three of whom previously served in the House. 

Both chambers are characterized by a remarkably lopsided political makeup.  The Republican Party has a veto-proof majority in both the House and the Senate.

The House includes a historic Republican majority of 117 members, with 45 Democrats and one vacancy.  The Senate is composed of 25 Republicans and 9 Democrats.

The new Speaker of the House will be Representative John Diehl from Town and Country in St. Louis County.  Representative Diehl has already demonstrated that he will be a strong and aggressive ally of the pro-life and pro-family movement.

The new Majority Floor Leader in the House will be Representative Todd Richardson from Poplar Bluff.  Representative Richardson has been a strong spokesman for parental rights, and is dedicated to pro-life and pro-family principles.

The Minority Leader in the House will once again be Representative Jake Hummel of St. Louis City.  Representative Hummel entered the Legislature as a pro-life member, but has voted with pro-abortion forces in recent years.

The Senate leadership remains unchanged with strong pro-life and pro-family lawmakers at the helm.  Senator Tom Dempsey of St. Charles will once again serve as President Pro Tem, and Senator Ron Richard of Joplin will return as Majority Floor Leader.

Senators Dempsey and Richard played a crucial role in advancing last year's bill extending the abortion waiting period in the face of a relentless pro-abortion filibuster.

The new Senate Minority Leader is Senator Joseph Keaveny of St. Louis.  Senator Keavey has voted against pro-life legislation, but is viewed as a more moderate lawmaker in his demeanor.

We would encourage you to be praying for the General Assembly as this year's session gets underway.  Please be praying that individual members will have the courage to speak boldy in defense of marriage, the family, religious freedom, and the sanctity of human life.


  

Listen to the Broadcast Version of the Jeff City Update online at 
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Bill Filed to Protect Religious Freedom
on College Campuses


A Southwest Missouri state representative is continuing his legislative crusade to protect the religious freedom of students in Missouri's public schools.  Representative Elijah Haahr of Springfield has filed the Student Freedom of Association Act.  The bill would prohibit discrimination against student religious groups by public colleges and universities.

Representative Haahr's legislation would ban policies by public institutions of higher learning that require religious student associations to accept members who do not subscribe to the club's religious mission and values.  Student religious groups would be able to maintain their association rules that require members to adhere to the organization's religious beliefs, religious observances, and religious standards of conduct.

The proposal stipulates that state higher education institutions cannot deny any "benefits" to student religious groups that are available to any other non-religious student association.  "Benefits" include recognition, registration, funding, and use of facilities and channels of communication.

Representative Haahr's bill also prohibits any college or university from taking actions which would "substantially burden" a student's exercise of religion.  This would include any action denying a student an opportunity to engage in religious activities, or coercing a student to engage in conduct or expression contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.

The Springfield legislator's initiative is a response to a 2010 U.S. Supreme Court decision known as Christian Legal Society v. Martinez.  In that case, the High Court upheld by a 5-4 vote a policy of the University of California's Hastings College of Law.  That policy required all student groups to allow any student to be  a member or leader--what has become known as an "all comers" policy.

The Christian Legal Society required its members to affirm their belief in the organization's Statement of Faith.  That statement included belief in "the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ," belief in "the Bible as the inspired Word of God," and a decision to make Jesus Christ "the Lord of my life."

The controversy arose when a group of homosexual students sought to join the Christian Legal Society despite their disagreement with the CLS's Statement of Faith.  University officials ruled that the failure of the club to grant membership to the homosexual students violated the university's policies prohibiting "sexual orientation" discrimination.

In its decision, written by ultra-liberal Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the Supreme Court ruled that the "all-comers" policy was constitutional because it was somehow a "reasonable, viewpoint-neutral" standard.  In his dissent, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that the oppressive decision eliminated free speech on campus "that offends prevailing standards of political correctness."  He further stated that the ruling equipped college administrators with a "handy weapon" to suppress the speech of unpopular groups.

While the Supreme Court ruled that the "all-comers" policy at Hastings was constitutionally permissible, the judges did not rule that states or universities were required to adopt such a policy.  Thus the basis for Representative Haahr's bill.
Representative Haarh points out the irrational results of the High Court's decision.  He says it makes no sense for Baptist students to be able to become members and leaders of a Jewish student organization.  Others have pointed out that Ku Klux Klan members could become members and officers of an African-American student organization, or that anti-Semitic students could join and take over a Jewish student organization like Hillel.

The Christian Legal Society correctly points out that the High Court decision is actually an imposition of viewpoint discrimination.  It enables a university to compel a student organization to accept participation and leadership from individuals who stand in opposition to the group's shared viewpoints.

Missouri higher education institutions have an unfortunate track record when it comes to student religious freedom.  One of the nation's most prominent Supreme Court decisions governing the free exercise of religion, Widmar v. Vincent, dealt with policies at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. 

That incident, which occurred in 1977, involved an evangelical Christian student group named Cornerstone.  The Christian student association used classrooms and the student center for its meetings, which included religious discussion and worship.  University officials suddenly informed the group they could no longer use university facilities for their meetings because of a policy banning the use of campus property for "religious worship."

In an 8-1 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that use of public facilities by student religious groups did not violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and that "First Amendment rights of speech and association extend to the campuses of state universities."  The High Court stated that religious student clubs were entitled to "equal access" to facilities available to non-religious student associations.

This isn't the first time Representative Haahr has taken the lead in seeking to restore religious freedom in the public education arena.  Last year he successfully sponsored the Student Religious Liberties Act, which was overwhelmingly approved by the Missouri House and Senate, and signed into law by Governor Jay Nixon.

That bill guaranteed the right of public school students to pray or engage in religious activities before, during, and after the school day to the same extent that non-religious activities or expression are permitted.  The new law prohibits discrimination by public school administrators against students or parents based on religious viewpoint or expression.

We commend Representative Haahr for setting his sights now on the suppression of religious speech in the higher education community by the prevailing forces of public correctness.  You can read a copy of Representative Haahr's legislation, House Bill 104, by clicking this link:

Student Religious Freedom

Joe's Signature