The American Civil Liberties Union wants Missouri Governor Jay Nixon to veto a bill that would make it a crime to disturb worship services in Missouri.
If signed by the governor, the House of Worship Protection Act would make it a misdemeanor to use profane language, engage in, quote, “rude or indecent behavior,” or make loud disruptive noises inside or just outside any building where a worship service is being conducted.
It was sponsored by Senate President Pro-tem Rob Mayer.
“It’s important for citizens here to have their First Amendment rights protected. There have been instances across the country where there have been actual disturbances," said Mayer.
Mayer admits he’s not aware of any such disturbances having happened yet in Missouri. The ACLU says they may challenge the bill in court if Governor Nixon signs it into law. Tony Rothert is Legal Director for the ACLU of Eastern Missouri:
“It uses terms that are very, very vague that will give police a large amount of discretion to arbitrarily enforce the law against protestors or picketers," said Rothert.
First and second offenses would be misdemeanors punishable by fines or jail time of no more than a year, while a third offense would be a Class D felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.