A proposed constitutional amendment to strengthen religious freedom protections for pastors, churches, and religious organizations, has died in a committee of the Missouri House of Representatives. As a result, Missouri voters will be denied the opportunity to vote on
this issue during the upcoming primary or general election.
Senate Joint Resolution 39 failed last week to win approval from the House Emerging Issues Committee when the vote on the bill ended in a 6-6 deadlock. Unless a member of the committee reconsiders their vote, which is extremely unlikely, the bill is dead for this session. The Missouri General Assembly has only a few days left in the 2016 regular session before it adjourns on May 13th.
SJR 39, sponsored by Senator Bob Onder
of Lake St. Louis, had previously been approved by the Missouri Senate on a party-line vote of 23-7. Republican state senators voted in favor of the amendment, and
Democrat senators opposed it. The proposal was adopted following a historic filibuster by opponents which lasted 39 hours that extended nonstop overnight for two straight days.
The proposed constitutional amendment would have prohibited state agencies or local governments from imposing penalties on ministers, churches, or religious organizations for refusing to participate in same-sex union ceremonies, or for declining to make their facilities or property available for such ceremonies. The bill would also have provided legal immunity for religious entities from civil lawsuits alleging discriminatory conduct.
SJR39 also would have banned civil litigation or government action against wedding vendors who decline to participate in same-sex union ceremonies. There have been numerous instances across the country where
florists, bakers, and photographers have been the victims of vindictive prosecution and draconian fines for resisting demands that they assist the celebration of sexual perversion.
The religious freedom amendment met its demise in the House Emerging Issues Committee when three Republican lawmakers who claim to be conservatives joined with three Democrats to kill the bill. Republican representatives Jim Hansen, Caleb Rowden, and Anne Zerr teamed up with Democrats Mike Colona, Jeremy LaFaver, and Sharon Pace, to defeat the proposal.
Republican legislators voting for the bill were Representatives Jack Bondon, Gary Cross, Ron Hicks, Bill Lant, Dave Muntzel, and committee chairman Elijah Haahr.
Lobbyists for the ACLU and PROMO, the state's homosexual rights organization, lobbied vigorously against the bill. As has been true in similar battles in
other states, "gay rights" activists rallied their cultural cohorts in the big business community to denounce the bill, who argued that its passage would somehow cause an economic apocalypse in Missouri.
The Missouri Chamber of Commerce, the St. Louis Regional Chamber, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce pressured House members to bury Senator Onder's bill. Lobbyists for major Missouri corporations like Monsanto swarmed the Capitol halls trumpeting the mendacious message that bolstering freedom of speech and freedom of religion would drive talent and tourists away from the state.