Tuesday, June 05, 2012
Family Policy Council: Bill will prevent gays from disrupting church services
(From the Missouri Family Policy Council)
The Missouri General Assembly has sent Governor Jay Nixon legislation which would protect the integrity and security of worship services in the State of Missouri. The Missouri Legislature gave final passage to the House of Worship Protection Act in the final hour of this year's legislative session.
The proposal, Senate Bill 755, would make it a crime to disrupt a house of worship by disturbing or interrupting a worship service or by interfering with persons seeking access to a house of worship. The legislation is designed to combat incidents in which groups of individuals stage protests inside churches during religious services.
Under the bill, it would be illegal to "disturb, interrupt, or disquiet" a house of worship "by using profane discourse, rude or indecent behavior," or unreasonable noise. A prosecutor would have to prove that the actions were intentional with the purpose of disturbing "the order and solemnity of the worship services."
The proposed law would also criminalize actions to "injure, intimidate, or interfere with any person lawfully exercising the right of religious freedom in or outside of a house of worship...whether by force, threat, or physical obstruction." This section of the bill is similar to a current federal law guaranteeing access to houses of worship.
The House of Worship Protection Act was sponsored bySenate President Pro Tem Rob Mayer of Dexter. It was approved by the Missouri Senate midway through the legislative session by a vote of 24-9. Unfortunately, the bill became embroiled with other unrelated issues in the final weeks of the legislative session, and appeared likely to die from neglect.
However, in the final hour of the session, HouseSpeaker Pro Tem Shane Schoeller worked expeditiously to prioritize the House of WorshipProtection Act, and to see that it came to a vote shortly before the Legislature adjourned for the year. Representative Schoeller had been the sponsor of the companion bill in the Missouri House. The House voted to give final passage to the House of Worship Protection Act by a vote of 111-26 just minutes before the final gavel fell on this year's regular session.
"This bill will help better secure the safety of religious institutions and ensure that people can gather and worship peacefully," Senator Mayer says. "Our First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion is extremely important, and is deserving of special protection."
In recent years church services have become the target of attack by homosexual rights organizations. Thedisruption of worship services has been a favorite tactic of a group known as Bash Back. The group's most notorious incident was staged in 2008 at Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan.
Approximately 30 members of Bash Back showed up at the church with picket signs, megaphones, and an upside-down pink cross. Other members of the group had quietly infiltrated the congregation prior to service. Once the church service began, those individuals jumped up and started shouting anti-Christian epithets including the chant "Jesus was gay." The group unfurled a pro-homosexual banner, flung condoms around the sanctuary, and staged an open display of homosexual affection from the pulpit. Group members then pulled the fire alarms as they left the building.
In a more recent incident last October, about 20 black-clad demonstrators blocked the entrance to Mars Hill Church in Portland, Oregon. The group shouted at those seeking to enter the church: "Shame on you homophobes. You're not welcome here. You're going to burn in hell."
In April of this year Mars Hill Church was again targeted by a group calling itself the "Angry Queers." They claimed responsibility for smashing nine church windows with rocks, including two 100-year-old stained glass windows. In a statement, the group calledChristians "scum" who deserve "hammers through their windows." "We hope this small act of vengeance will strike fear into the hearts of all of Mars Hill's pastors."
It is important to note that the disruption of worship services is not a tactic confined to the homosexual rights movement. It has been a method of protest employed by other social activists over the years, oftentimes by anti-war protesters.
Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago has been the victim of protests on several occasions. In March of 2008, protesters stood and began shouting at the beginning of Cardinal Francis George's homily. They then proceeded to squirt fake blood on parishioners dressed in their Easter finery to symbolize their opposition to the Iraq War.
In May of last year protesters disrupted the worship service at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas. They threw propaganda leaflets from the balcony and shouted anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli slurs. Cornerstone Church Pastor John Hagee has been a strong supporter of the nation of Israel.
Senator Mayer cited an incident involving the notorious protesters from Westboro Baptist Church. Members of the group threatened to disrupt the funeral services of Christina Green, a 9 year-old girl who was killed durinig the assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords last year. The group has likewise sought to disrupt graveside services for fallen U.S. soldiers.
The legislation does not limit the right of protesters to exercise free speech and carry picket signs on public property adjacent to churches or other places of worship. What it does do is prohibit interference with access to houses of worship or intentional actions which would disrupt a worship service.
Our Constitution guarantees each of us as citizens the right to freedom of assembly to participate with other citizens in the free exercise of religion. No citizen seeking to exercise those freedoms should be subject to intimidation, harassment, or threats for worshiping the God who granted us those freedoms in the first place.
If there is any place in our culture that should be viewed by all Americans as sacred ground, it should be our houses of worship. These institutions and their members should be able to engage in prayer, instruction, and religious exercises without being terrorized or accosted within their churches by individuals who disagree with their religious beliefs and convictions.
The actions we have witnessed in recent years go beyond matters of peace disturbance, trespassing, and public nuisance. They are concerted actions by some to deprive citizens of their fundamental constitutional right to exercise their freedom of religious expression. Such actions require a decisive response by government to secure this essential civil liberty.
The House of Worship Protection Act was developed and advanced by the Missouri Family Policy Council.