Senate Joint Resolution No 39 will likely come before Missouri voters in November 2016. The Resolution amends article I of the state constitution and aims to protect certain religious organizations and individuals from being penalized by the state for their actions that are based on their "sincere religious beliefs concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex." https://legiscan.com/MO/text/SJR39/id/1363282
Described by its proponents as "Religious Freedom" legislation, the Resolution actually legalizes religious discrimination. The Resolution involves the State of Missouri in taking sides in a religious dispute over the definition of what constitutes marriage. On one side of the dispute are religious traditionalists, who hold the view that God's view of marriage consists of one man married to one woman. They support their argument by quoting the Bible, but are simply incorrect in their conclusions as to what the Bible says about marriage (see http://blog.charleshedrick.com/2013/04/gods-view-of-marriage.html). Their myopic misreading of the Bible makes their argument appear disingenuous. The other side of the dispute is represented by members of the LGBT community and religious liberals in the Christian tradition who do not share the same definition of marriage and want the same status for same-sex unions as are enjoyed by other Missouri citizens.
This Resolution would add Section 36 (having five subparagraphs) to Article I of the Missouri Constitution, which states that the state shall not impose penalties on religious organizations, clergy or religious leaders, churches and other houses of worship, or individuals who decline to provide goods and services to persons of same sex unions based on their "sincere religious belief" that marriage between two same-sex persons is not God's view of marriage—in short, the Resolution would not require them to associate with "those kind of people." This Resolution in effect prohibits same-sex couples from describing themselves as married and permits discrimination against them.
If SJR 39 becomes law the State of Missouri will clearly be in violation of Amendment 1 of the US Constitution by establishing a sectarian religious view as the law of the state of Missouri; Amendment 1 of the US Constitution states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." SJR 39 legalizes discrimination when it authorizes the withholding of goods and services from a group holding to a minority religious view, and would thereby "establish" the traditionalists' religious view of marriage as law.
If civil actions occur, initiated by plaintiffs who feel discriminated against, as well they might, courts will be forced to validate that the respondent's belief is both religiously based and that it is "sincerely" held. This judgment will be required in order to identify those whose religious view is insincerely held (i.e., opportunistically) and others whose prejudicial views are not religiously based; state protections cover only those whose "religious view" is "sincerely held." Sincerity (honesty of mind, freedom from hypocrisy) is a state of mind and impossible to determine—we never know for certain if people say what they are actually thinking—even when they tell us what they are thinking.
SJR 39 aims to legalize religious discrimination with impunity.
Charles W, Hedrick
Missouri State University