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Mo. lawmakers introduce ‘right to refuse service’ religious freedom bill

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
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JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — While Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer deliberates the fate of her state’s anti-gay religious freedom bill, legislation was filed on Monday in the Missouri Senate that would allow Missouri business owners to cite religious beliefs as a legal justification for refusing to provide service.

Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City.

Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City.

Similar to Arizona’s SB 1062, the Missouri bill (SB 916) does not expressly cite sexual orientation, but could provide legal cover for individuals citing religious freedom to deny services to LGBT people.

Sen. Wayne Wallingford (R-Cape Girardeau) sponsored the legislation, which states that a governmental authority shall not substantially burden a person’s free exercise of religion unless the government demonstrates that it has a compelling interest.

“We’re trying to protect Missourians from attacks on their religious freedom,” Wallingford told the Kansas City Star.

Opponents call it a license to discriminate against the LGBT community.

“This bill will go nowhere,” said A.J. Bockelman, Executive Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization.

“We’ve seen state after state introduce these efforts and they are quickly being killed. Arizona appears poised to veto the bill and I have no doubt this bill, along with an anticipated House version, will not advance once people understand the full weight of what is proposed,” said Bockelman.

Wallingford told the Star that he based the bill loosely on legislation that has been debated in other states, such as Kansas and Arizona. He pointed to instances that have cropped up in debate in those other states.

Similar religious protection legislation has been introduced in Ohio, Mississippi, Idaho, South Dakota, Tennessee and Oklahoma, but Arizona’s plan is the only one that has passed. The efforts are stalled in Idaho, Ohio and Kansas.

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