Interfaith Coalition Says Missouri Bill To Protect Religious Liberty Is Anti-LGBT

Mar 16, 2016

About 20 Kansas City religious leaders gathered Wednesday to denounce a Missouri Senate bill they believe would invite discrimination of the LGBT community.

“It began with ... me saying, ‘Hey, you want to raise some hell in God’s name?’” says Rev. Chase Peeples with the Country Club Congregational United Church of Christ, drawing laughter from the assembled interfaith coalition.

Peeples says he’s disappointed supporters of Senate Joint Resolution 39 are touting it as a bill to protect religious liberties.

“The state and federal constitutions already protect houses of worship and religious leaders from participating in any act that contradicts or goes against their religious beliefs,” Peeples says.

He says no one’s forcing churches to marry same-sex couples if they don’t want to. But Missouri lawmakers who support SJR 39 say they’re trying to protect small business owners with a religious objection to same-sex marriage.

“Nothing in the Ten Commandments justifies refusing to arrange flowers for a lesbian couple,” says Donna Simon at St. Mark Hope and Peace Lutheran Church. “We are here today to stand up to the abuse of sacred texts.”

Rev. Shanna Steitz of Community Christian Church says her congregants are tired of politicians who claim to speak on their behalf but don’t.

“They are troubled that they as Christian people of faith get lumped in and associated with people who take the scriptures much more narrowly,” says Steitz.

There’s been backlash in other states that have tried to pass so-called religious freedom bills, most notably in Indiana. After intense pressure from business groups who threatened to pull out of Indiana, lawmakers approved a hasty “fix” to protect LGBT individuals.

Missouri has already heard from business groups with similar concerns, mostly notably the NCAA, which also put heat on Indiana lawmakers. If SJR 39 advances, it could put future bids to hold the Big 12 in Kansas City in jeopardy.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.