I am embarrassed, once again, to report that the Republican-dominated Missouri legislature is going down the rabbit hole with another piece of backwards-looking, extremist legislation. This time, it’s a copycat bill that would institutionalize discrimination against gay people under the guise of “religious freedom.”
According to the Kansas City Star:
The legislation, sponsored by Sen. Wayne Wallingford of Cape Girardeau, 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.
To supporters of the idea — similar to legislation filed in several other states — the goal is to make it clear that private individuals can use religious beliefs as a defense in litigation.
“We’re trying to protect Missourians from attacks on their religious freedom,” Wallingford said.
The not-so-invisible hand of ALEC surely is at work here. The ink isn’t even dry on the prototype—Arizona’s “religious freedom” bill–and the adults in the Kansas legislature voted a similar bill down at the end of that state’s 2013 session. Even as businesses and sane people are up in arms over the law in Arizona—even as Arizona’s Republican Governor Jan Brewer weighed the merits of cowtowing to the extreme right wing versus doing the right thing, the humane thing, and—let us not forget—the economically sane thing—and then did the right thing for probably the wrong reasons– repre-hens-ative Wallingford is doubling down on his bill in Jefferson City. It’s like he just can’t wait to get his name on this legislation and establish his anti-gay bona fides with the right-wingers in his district.
Once again, Republican state legislators in Missouri and elsewhere are attempting to turn back the clock on issues that most of us thought were long-since settled [See also: Roe v Wade, the supremacy of federal law over state law, civil-rights, The Civil War!] In a better world, no one would dare to introduce such a bill. The best we can hope for now is that saner heads will prevail and that the bill won’t merit a hearing in the Missouri legislature.
I can only hope that this latest move—to discriminate unconstitutionally against a class of people, using “religious freedom” as an excuse—is a last-gasp effort by people who actually know that the train has left the station without them, and who want to blow up the track as a way of stopping its forward motion. But, then again, the last time I heard the term “dead-enders,” the speaker was Dick Cheney, who was referring to insurgents in Iraq—and who was dead wrong about them. I hope these “dead-enders” don’t have the staying power of their ostensible counterparts in Iraq. If they are, America is in deep trouble, and I am very frightened.