The Missouri religious objections proposal that failed to receive approval from the Missouri House committee Wednesday has garnered varying viewpoints among local business owners and clergy.
The failed proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution would have prohibited the government from penalizing those who cite religious reasons for refusal of providing services or goods to same sex celebrations or marriage. The Associated Press reported Wednesday the failed proposal was a “setback” for conservatives.
The Rev. Rob Hughes, pastor of Broadway Presbyterian Church, and the Rev. Jim Downing, pastor of First United Methodist Church, both said they needed to review the issue in more depth before commenting on the subject.
“The whole concept is really going to get people lit up over the whole thing,” Dr. Glenn Sparks Jr., pastor of First Baptist Church, said by phone Thursday. “It’s a controversial subject.”
“When asked my opinion on Religious Freedom Bill SJR 39, I am confronted with the issue of tolerance,” Sparks responded by email. “To logically unravel part of this complex sociological dilemma, I must ask what kind of culture do we live in? Do we live in a theonomous culture, (‘theos’ meaning ‘God’ and ‘nomous’ meaning ‘law’) where the law of God is embedded in our hearts? The rules and morals, which govern our culture, are derived from God via our Bible?
“Or do we live in a heteronomous culture (‘heteros’ meaning ‘another’ and ‘nomous’ meaning ‘law’), whereby the mainstream of culture is dictated by leadership at the top to the masses below?” he added. “Marxism and Islam represent this type of culture.
“Or do we live in an autonomous culture (‘auto’ meaning ‘self’ and ‘nomous’ meaning ‘law’), a self-governing culture where each person dictates their own moral prerogatives,” he noted. “I would say that America would reject the idea of a theonomous and heteronomous culture and we presently embrace the idea of an autonomous culture.
“Here is the crux of my response,” Sparks added. “If we are living in an autonomous culture, will you give me my autonomy when I disagree with you, or will you change into heteronomous mode and dictate for me what I must believe as well. Religious Freedom bill SJR 39 does not press you into believing my belief system, but rather allows me to be free to live my autonomous beliefs. This bill takes away no one’s rights nor discriminates against anyone.”
Moore’s Greenhouse and Flower Shop in Sedalia voiced their opinion on the proposal.
“We do a lot of weddings, and we don’t refuse anyone,” Melinda Moore, one of the shop’s florists, said Thursday.”We do a lot of weddings and we serve a lot of people, and we don’t judge them. We just try to make their lives better with beautiful flowers.”
Sara Howell, owner of Heritage Ranch Barn, a wedding venue south of Sedalia, said she couldn’t in good conscience serve clients of same-sex marriages due to her Christian beliefs. She added that she agreed with the proposal and wished it had passed.
“Yes, definitely,” she said. “Of course we want the state and the government to help protect us. Any religious freedom being taken away is terrible. Our country and what it was founded on (is) Christianity … they fled other countries and came to America because of religious persecution. Now it’s all coming back.
“We are standing firm along with Simple Blessings (wedding barn),” she added. “We do not allow same-gender marriages at all. It’s not because we hate them or anything like that. We’re upholding what the Bible says. We have to follow that.”
Rachel Jones, who owns Simple Blessings Farm/Event Barn, a wedding venue near Knob Noster, said for her this was a difficult topic for many reasons.
“I have been in tears over this and prayed long and hard over this topic and our decision,” she stated by email Thursday.
“… You see, the very difficult thing about all of this is that I truly love and care about people,” she said. “Color, sexual preference, social status doesn’t affect the fact that I truly want the best for people and strive to treat them with kindness and understanding. While I love people, I also love the Lord.”
Jones noted her faith in God is an “unwavering part of who I am” and that she runs her business in that manner.
“We shouldn’t be trying to force one group to give up their freedoms to allow another group a new set of freedoms,” Jones added. “We have to find a way that unites us and doesn’t divide us; that makes us all feel good about our decisions and the way we are treated at the end of the day.
“As a business owner, who has worked so hard alongside my family to make our dreams come true, I shouldn’t have to live in fear of facing a lawsuit, persecution or being forced to shut our doors because we don’t offer one specific service at our venue,” she continued. “… But we still love them, still care about them and are happy to do business with them in any other service than a same sex marriage.”
Table of 5 Catering, of Hughesville, was also contacted but had not responded by press time.
According to a report by the Associated Press, the proposal was voted 6-6 by members of the Missouri House committee. Since the vote came in as a tie the proposal could not advance at this time.
“They call it religious freedom,” Republican Rep. Jim Hansen, who wept before voting against the legislation, said in the Associated Press report. “I feel that I’m free in this country to worship the way I want. And I don’t need a law to tell me how to worship. I don’t need a law passed to make it legal to be Christian.”
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.