JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A Missouri state lawmaker has proposed legislation that would allow Christian groups to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation on college campuses, while still retaining all the privileges of being a school sanctioned student group.
The bill is but one of many proposed across the country this year designed to allow Christians to legally discriminate against LGBT people based on their religious beliefs.
The Missouri bill, HB 104, introduced by State Rep. Elijah Haahr (R-134-Springfield), would prohibit universities from “burdening” any religious organization by denying it recognition based on its beliefs and practices:
No public institution of higher learning shall take any action or enforce any policy that denies a religious student association any benefit available to any other student association, or discriminate against a religious student association with respect to such benefit, based on that association’s requirement that its leaders or members adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs, comply with the association’s sincere religious observance requirements, comply with the association’s sincere religious standards of conduct, or be committed to furthering the association’s religious missions as such beliefs, requirements, standards, or missions are defined by the association or religion upon which the association is based.
“Religious freedom is a fundamental part of Missouri, and we value our religious beliefs,” said Stephanie Perkins, Deputy Director of PROMO, Missouri’s statewide LGBT advocacy organization. “But those beliefs don’t allow us to discriminate against others in a student group.”
“Freedom means for everyone, and no student should be turned away from opportunities to succeed and expand their university experience on campus just because of who they are,” said Perkins.
While many universities have nondiscrimination policies that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, they typically require student groups to abide by those policies or forfeit school funding and use of campus facilities.
Haahr’s bill could easily pass in the GOP-controlled state legislature, where Republicans also enjoy a veto-proof majority in both chambers over Democratic governor Jay Nixon.