Religious Groups Respond to Governor\'s Veto

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JEFFERSON CITY - Religious organizations around the area responded to Governor Nixon's veto of Senate Bill 749 on Thursday. The bill would have given religious organizations the ability to legally deny health insurance coverage of certain practices and medications they did not agree with--most notably, contraceptives and abortions.

The bill states, no companies "shall be compelled to provide coverage for, or be discriminated against or penalized for declining or refusing coverage for, abortion, contraception, or sterilization in a health plan."

Some local pastors and the Missouri Catholic Conference said Thursday they are disappointed with Nixon's decision. Immanuel Lutheran Church and School Pastor Jeff Schanbacher said he's now in a moral dilemma.

"I'm saddened by the whole initiative of telling someone of moral conviction what they should or shouldn't have for their insurance coverage especially as a religiously entity," Schanbacher said. "If we are forced to have something directly opposed to what we stand for, that really saddens me that we would have to even consider our role of whether we have to stand up against the government on something so opposed to what we believe." 

The Missouri Catholic Conference said in a news release, Senate bill 749 "asserts a basic principle - the right of people to follow their conscience as informed by their moral and religious beliefs." It also said Missouri law as it is right now does not protect religious freedoms.

Governor Nixon explained in a news conference Thursday morning that he believes "Missouri law has provided strong religious and moral protections to safeguard the beliefs of employees and employers regarding contraceptive coverage." He said if he had signed the bill, authority to make decisions about contraceptive coverage would shift away from Missouri women and families and into the hands of health insurance companies.

Nixon vetoed 9 other bills and signed 12 bills on Thursday.