A group of Missouri lawmakers is trying to pass LGBTQ discrimination bills before the session ends next month that some say endangers religious freedom.
Last week, a bill adding sexual orientation and gender identity to Missouri’s Human Rights Act was pulled from a committee where it had sat without a hearing and placed on the House debate calendar.
Rep. Adam Schnelting, R-St. Charles, said he wasn’t in support of discrimination but felt it was something lawmakers had to “proceed very carefully on.” He said it could be used by employees who decide they’re “going to change and identify as something else” to retaliate against employers and worried it could be “opening a pandora’s box” for lawsuits.
Some fear that, like in other states and the new legislation passed by Democrats in Congress, protections could be erased for churches, schools and other religious organizations, or business owners with conscientious objections. The bill also changes the laws pertaining to complaints filed with the Missouri Human Rights Commission by redefining “gender identity” and “sexual orientation.” Missouri, say critics of the bill, would become California.
According to The Pathway, the official publication of the Missouri Baptist Convention, the legislation would have significant impacts on people of faith and faith-based organizations:
1. Christian foster and adoption organizations would be forced to either violate their conviction that every child deserves a mother and a father or to possibly close its doors.
2. MONA could force Christian college or high school groups to allow homosexuals or transvestites to be considered for leadership and if they refuse, they will be kicked off campus and publicly condemned.
3. It could force churches to allow LGBTQ functions in their fellowship halls or on church property.
4. It will not allow Christian business owners to operate according to their faith. The “free exercise” of religion will be curtailed. Florists, photographers, painters, bakers, bed and breakfasts and many other small businesses will risk fines or have the government shut them down. And you will no longer be able to fire a person for reporting to work as a cross-dresser or flaunting their sexuality. It will also force employers to cover abortions and sex “reassignment” procedures.
5. It will ban ministries that aid LGBTQ people wanting to leave the lifestyle.
6. It will force all schools and businesses to open their women’s bathrooms, locker rooms, showers, and sports teams to boys who “identify as” girls and to men who “identify as” women.
Don Hinkle, editor of the Pathway and Director of Public Policy for the MBC, says that the other dangers are not so obvious. “Because MONA amends words like ‘sex,’ adding the terms ‘sexual orientation and gender identity in Missouri Human Rights Commission law, it will suddenly treat people as racists if they dare dissent from the left’s ideology on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. Freedom of speech will be curtailed,” Hinkle wrote in an opinion piece.
But two state senators — Democrat and LGBTQ activist Greg Razer of Kansas City and Doug Beck of St. Louis — made separate attempts to attach narrower LGBTQ legislation to other unrelated bills moving through the process. And Rep. Wes Rogers, D-Kansas City, made a similar move in the House General Laws Committee.
Those moves have been criticized for slipping in under the radar, an issue at the center of the culture wars onto non-controversial bills.
Facing a tight deadline with less than a month left in the session, lawmakers in support of the legislation, often referred to as the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act, or MONA, say it’s time for its passage after 23 years of trying. But the persistent moves to try and seize on any viable path forward have eroded some lawmakers’ trust.
“Last night, as far as I’m concerned, MONA was offered to kill my bill,” said Sen. Bob Onder, R-Lake St. Louis. “I don’t want to impugn any senators’ motives, but I think when things go fast and if things sneak through this body quickly without senators having an opportunity to know what’s in a bill and to be heard on that subject and have the opportunity to offer amendments, there is going to be a serious problem these last four weeks of session — serious.”
“Missourians must understand that we are facing a financial and political juggernaut that is attempting to force MONA’s passage,” Hinkle writes. “MONA is the greatest threat to religious freedom and freedom of speech Missourians have ever encountered. MONA in no way glorifies God. Indeed it mocks Him. Supporting MONA is an unwise position for government, which derives its authority from God. It is bad law and we must persuade lawmakers and the public accordingly.”
–Alan Goforth | Metro Voice