Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Missouri “Freedom of Religion” Resolution

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."
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  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
Professor Emeritus
Missouri State University


Anonymous said...

I'm with you on all of this. Though I don't think I'd call it religious discrimination. Just discrimination. If a person belonged to a religion that claimed god wanted for races to be pure, and not to mix in marriage, it should still be illegal for them to refuse service to interracial couples. Same for gay marriage.

Anonymous said...

A so-called "religious freedom" bill was passed in the state I live this year. After the NFL (and others) had concerns it was vetoed, more because Georgia is building a billion dollar plus stadium to try to attract a Superbowl and trying to present itself in a positive manner to the business community. The most interesting thing I read about it was something like this: Jesus hung out with sinners and prostitutes and you won't even frost a cake for a wedding reception of a homosexual couple?
Dennis Dean Carpenter
Dahlonega Ga.

Anonymous said...

Excellent article, Charlie. I'm really weary of Missouri's attempts to make this state one for bigots!
Thanks for your wise and educated views.
Sandra White

Elizabeth said...

Charlie, the fundamentalist sponsors of this bill seems to believe that religious freedom only applies to heterosexuals. I assume that homosexuals are also free to practice their particular religion of choice as well. That is- if all religions really are "free" to freely exercise their religious beliefs. Suppose LGBT sponsored their own religious freedom bill? I wonder whose religion would prevail. Elizabeth

Bill said...

Your article has made the issue clear for me, thanks. I must confess ignorance, though, when it comes to the options when a couple asks a minister to preside at their wedding. Doesn't any minister already have the option of declining, without even having to provide a reason?

Cody Hayes said...

The key point in the law that is attempting to amend the first article in the Missouri Constitution is the word "individual." The other groups mentioned are already exempted according to the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

Anonymous said...

Just got back from voting in the primary election in Pennsylvania. I voted for every woman on the ballot I could find. In Pa. the voters also get to vote for the delegates to the national convention; knowing what delegate supports whom is one the ballot; in my district we were to vote for two men and three women out of ten names provided.

We didn't have anything like the "freedom of religion" resolution on the ballot, but we were supposed to vote on changing the constitution to get rid of the Philadelphia Traffic Court????

Regarding "freedom of religion," we all know what the temple authorities thought about John's anti-mediator straight to God baptism for all, and Jesus' support of it (e.g., Mark 11:27-33).

Gene Stecher
Chambersburg, Pa.

Elizabeth said...

Gene- did John's "straight to God baptism" not include a mediator? In other words, could believers be baptized without Jesus? Just wondering. (I always thought Jesus was the mediator and that you couldn't go straight to God without going through Jesus first- that he restored "fellowship" with God.")


Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth,
John was on the scene first, giving folks direct access to God's forgiveness through baptism, and Jesus endorsed that approach by being baptized. See his support of John's baptism against the temple authorities at Mark 11:27-33.

Jesus, I suspect, adopted John's model without himself baptizing. Mark certainly believed that. At 11:20-25 he has Jesus saying that the temple (symbolized by the fig tree) is replaced with direct access to God through trust/faith, prayer, and being forgiven by forgiving. Subsequent followers of Jesus replaced the temple with themselves as "the temple of the living God" who "lived in them." (2 Corinthians 6:16-18, NRSV).

Certainly the church eventually came to interpret Jesus as THE mediator.

Gene Stecher
Chambersburg, Pa.

Charles Hedrick said...

Good Morning,
Those of you who are outside the state of Missouri may be interested to learn that SJR 39 failed in Committee yesterday at a vote of 6 to 6 (the vote against was bi-partisan). Apparently a tied vote will not advance the Resolution to the floor of the entire House for a vote. The Committee Chair said that the legislation was dead for this legislative session, but he would not be surprised to see it back in some other form in a following legislative session.
There has been a great deal of opposition to this Resolution in the state.