From the Editor's Desk
Religious freedom, legal discrimination. Where are we headed?
Letter to the Editor
April 27, 2016
There is no doubt that the recently proposed Missouri Senate constitutional amendment SJR 39 has sparked a lot of controversy, a lot of hostility, a lot of noise amongst those following it. The proposed bill would allow certain businesses and churches to reserve the right to refuse service to individuals claiming religious freedom. And I thought long and hard about writing this editorial, but after a recent Letter to the Editor, printed alongside this opinion piece in today’s issue, I decided that I would respond.
Our country’s peoples have spent hundreds of years defining who we are as Americans. We are a melting pot. We are all immigrants because that is what America is, a refuge for those persecuted against. If I look at my lineage, my heritage goes back to my Native roots, before the Americas were colonized. The freedoms we enjoy have been fought for over a long period of time. Our country is constantly evolving and changing, protecting those who need protection, protecting us from those whom we need protection against.
Businesses and churches want the right to refuse to serve someone who conflicts with their religious beliefs. Religious freedom is a big premise of our Constitution, absolutely. Our individual rights are a big premise of our Constitution. Now, the Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Like it or not, gay marriage is a legally protected right.
Here is where I take issue: SJR 39 would put a measure before voters that would legally allow discrimination. Take a moment to re-read and think about that. Take out anything related to personal or religious beliefs about homosexuality, gay weddings, rainbow flags and think of it in those terms: legalized discrimination.
That frightens me.
Why? Because just over 150 years ago, humans could be sold legally. They were considered just as livestock. Humans were property. Because 100 years ago, I wouldn’t have been allowed to vote because I’m a woman. Because 50 years ago, an interracial couple could have been and were refused the right to marry. Because America is founded on individual rights and protection, and I don’t want to see our country go backward in our progress in a way that infringes on the rights of others.
The LGBT community is comprised of people. Individuals who love one another, raise children and serve our communities. These people are your colleagues, your co-workers, your neighbors, your friends and maybe your family.
A friend and I recently discussed refusing service to others based on clashing personal beliefs after talking about this amendment. We discussed her profession as a photographer and how she would respond to an overtly racist person asking for her service. She said, “You know, if a KKK member asked me to shoot their wedding, covered in racist tattoos, I would still do it. I wouldn’t refuse them, because they are still people.” She doesn’t have a racist bone in her body. She does not support white supremacy, not by a longshot. In fact, I doubt she could ever say an unkind word against someone because of the color of their skin, their sexuality, their gender or their lineage, but to her, and to me, this is all much bigger than that.
In my own profession, I have never refused to speak to anyone who has requested a meeting with me. There were times when I was uncomfortable. There were times when what was said about a group of people, whether that be racist, sexist or bigoted, made my heart ache. But I never refused to speak to them, regardless of their view or beliefs, and I treated them with respect.
My office is an open door. I want to talk to and serve the people of my community. Whether I agree with them or not is irrelevant to me. I still want to hear what my readers have to say.
So back to SJR 39, while the belief systems of people has been addressed, I want to talk about one more facet. Currently, there are thousands of businesses that are opposed to this amendment, some who have threatened to not do business in our state anymore if it passes. Monsanto is one of the companies who opposes the amendment. In the Letter to the Editor, Ms. Casey pointed out that she has no dealings with Monsanto, but I would like to address that almost every single food in a grocery store, prepackaged or not, probably has a Monsanto contribution. Whether it is the grain fed to the animals, the corn in chips, additives in a number of other foods, they are everywhere. The consequences of passing SJR 39 could be economically disastrous to our state. Businesses who believe in equal rights for the LGBT community are threatening to remove themselves from economic dealings in our state. That in and of itself is enough for us to take pause and reevaluate.
I know a great many of you will disagree with me. That’s okay. We can agree to disagree. I’ll welcome you into my office just the same. I promise that I won’t turn you away for having a different opinion, but I hope at least that you’ve thought about the issue in a way that maybe you hadn’t before.
-Charlea Estes, Editor
*Note: SJR 39 was voted down by the House Emerging Issues Committee the same day this opinion editorial was published, Wednesday, April 27. It will not appear on the Missouri ballot.*
I don’t know how many people are following our Missouri legislature and know that they are voting on putting a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot this year that would protect the Religious Liberty of those who believe, rightly, in marriage as a man and woman, and do not wish to participate in a ceremony that violates their religious beliefs.
It is not a matter of discrimination, but a matter of that which is supposed to be protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. That there are judges who believe they have the authority to overrule this is cause to enshrine the right in our own state Constitution.
However, for reasons beyond comprehension, there are companies that are actively trying to keep this from being on the ballot for the citizens of Missouri to vote on. Two of those companies are Monsanto and Edward Jones. I am making it known that I shall not do business with a company that uses its power to prevent a vote by the people.
I cancelled my paypal account because they took a stance against Religious Freedom. I don’t have dealings with Monsanto. I shall move my account from Edward Jones if they continue to take this stand.
I cannot name other companies at this time, as I can no longer find the article. But I have contacted my state Representative and Senator to give my opinion.
I am tired of government and powerful businesses bullying us into submission. It is long past time for us, individually, and for Church leaders to stand up against this abuse. Our rights and freedoms are being taken and we are doing nothing to stop it.