Religious Liberty Issue Is Key to Missourians, according to Missouri Baptist Convention

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The federal Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is being enacted, and Missouri becomes the first state to oppose its principles by overriding Gov. Jay Nixon's veto on Senate Bill 749, according to the Missouri Baptist Convention.

Rep. Sandy Crawford leads the fight to override the veto on Senate Bill 749.

Rep. Sandy Crawford handled Senate Bill 749 during the veto session September 12.

We have a culture of life and culture of respect for religious liberty in Missouri that is probably higher than any other state in the union.

As the battle over the religious liberty provisions of Senate Bill 749 continues, Kerry Messer, legislative liaison for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC), reflected on what is known.

“We have a culture of life and a culture of respect for religious liberty in Missouri that is probably higher than any other state in the union,” Messer said.

Evidence came Sept. 12 during the veto session of the Missouri General Assembly when the Senate voted 26-6 and the House of Representatives voted 109-45 to override the veto of Gov. Jay Nixon.

“Today’s vote is the result of hundreds of thousands of Christians living the kind of life that they’re supposed to be living,” Messer said. “Missouri is saying we do not want to have our people and our institutions forced by the federal government to have to pay for abortions, contraception, and sterilization.”

The federal Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) is being enacted, and national news outlets are reporting that Missouri is the first state to oppose its principles.

It is hoped that the new state law, if upheld, will prevent three MBC institutions from having to buy insurance for abortions, contraception or sterilizations for their employees. Southwest Baptist University, Hannibal-LaGrange University, and the Missouri Baptist Children’s Home are all at risk if the law is struck down.

Protecting the religious freedom of Missouri Baptists in the current secular age requires diligence, Messer said.

“Being salt and light in the culture is more than just standing up on the day of reckoning,” Messer said. “It’s standing up day after day and living out your Christian responsibilities in a godly way to create an environment and a culture that’s conducive to a vote like (Sept. 12). To me that’s much more important than just the satisfaction of (this) vote.

"As satisfying as (this) is, I realize this would not have happened had it not been for the efforts over the generations of serious Christians living serious lives and impacting their culture.”

It almost did not happen. Votes in the House chamber vanished due to “personalities, politics, and mismanagement of how some people handle themselves in public life,” Messer said. Seven members disappeared into the dark category known as “absent.”

“We lost four who should have been with us,” Messer said. “For a variety of complicated reasons, we did not get them. You cannot win these battles at the state legislature unless local churches are engaged back home in the district promoting the gospel, doing discipleship, and being involved in the culture, in the community. That’s how we get these votes. The people we lost did not have churches supporting them, and rallying to them, and helping them in their hour of pain.”

Messer did cite the Aug. 7 outcome at the ballot box of 83 percent support for Amendment 2, a right-to-pray measure, and the override vote of 2/3 of lawmakers in both the House and Senate for SB 749 as proof that Christians in Missouri are maintaining a high degree of involvement right now.

“Through the process, we change the culture,” he said. “Our goal is to foster that culture that’s conducive, not just for righteousness but ultimately for the propagation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

This article first appeared in The Pathway, the official newspaper of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

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Rob Phillips

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