It has been said that eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. This is especially true when it comes to safeguarding our religious liberties. This past session the Missouri Senate passed two important pieces of legislation that will help protect the rights of all Missourians to follow the dictates of their own conscience.
The first issue came to the forefront last January when it was revealed that the President had decided that all hospitals (including religiously affiliated ones) would be required to cover contraception for employees, even if they had moral objections.
There are important issues at stake here, not the least of which is whether the government can by force of law require religious institutions to violate their beliefs. If the First Amendment is allowed to be brushed aside in this cavalier manner, there is no predicting what mandate Washington might try to impose next time.
Realizing that the federal government had overreached its authority, state legislatures, including the Missouri General Assembly, began to act. During the last week of the session we passed Senate Bill 749, which would provide protections for religious beliefs as to the imposition of health care coverage for certain medical procedures such as abortion, contraception or sterilization. The bill has been sent to the governor for his approval or veto.
Another important issue we addressed pertaining to religious liberty was Senate Bill 755, known as the House of Worship Protection Act. It is designed to protect the integrity and security of religious services in our state by making it a crime to disrupt such services.
In recent years, religious events have been the target of attack by various groups. Many are familiar with protestors who disrupt graveside services for fallen U.S. soldiers or who interfere with other religious services to highlight their cause.
Senate Bill 755 does not limit the rights of protestors to exercise free speech or to carry picket signs on public property adjacent to churches or other places of worship. Instead, it ensures that the right of each person to worship in peace is respected. Our First Amendment right to the free exercise of religion is extremely important and deserves this special protection.
I always appreciate hearing from you. If you have any questions about the topic discussed above, or any other issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office.