KOMU 8 viewers share thoughts on religious freedom resolution SJR 39
COLUMBIA – KOMU 8 News wanted to know where our viewers stood on Senate Joint Resolution 39, a highly contested religious liberties bill that failed Wednesday afternoon after a Missouri House of Representatives committee voted 6-6.
The resolution would have protected businesses and individuals that refuse to serve people based on their views about same-sex marriage. It also would have protected clergy and places of worship that do not want to participate in same-sex weddings.
Of the 620 people who responded to our survey, 40 percent supported the resolution, while 60 opposed it.
Many respondents on both sides of the issue cited the U.S. Constitution, the First Amendment, freedom of religion or the wishes of the Founding Fathers as their reasons.
One heterosexual woman in her 40s who supported SJR 39 said, “The Federal Constitution guarantees the right for everyone to worship and/or practice their religious beliefs according to their conscientiously held beliefs, or not to practice at all.”
A heterosexual man in his 50s who supported the resolution said, “Religious freedom is a Federal Constitutional right. Forcing someone to violate their moral conscience is wrong,”
Some viewers listed the Constitution or the First Amendment as reasons for opposing the resolution.
"We have a thing called the First Amendment," a man in his 50s said. "Also, the resolution is repugnant to the Fifth and 14th Amendments."
A woman identified as being 60 or older and as heterosexual said, "I feel everyone should be able to live their life as they choose no matter their race, sexual orientation, etc."
"SJ39 is nothing but a piece of legislation that will allow discrimination in our state constitution if it is passed by a vote of the people," she said.
The KOMU 8 News survey specifically asked respondents if they owned businesses. Of our 621 respondents, 123 said they own a business. The margin of opposition to support was the same as the broader survey sample, 60 percent opposing and 40 percent supporting.
A business owner who who supported the resolution and identifies as straight said, “As an individual and independent business owner, if I’m asked to provide an atypical service that steps on my constitutionally protected religious preferences, then it’s my prerogative to deny them service.”
But another straight business owner said, "Let's face it, this isn't about religious freedom, it's about discriminating against LGBTQ citizens and legislating religion in the guise of religious freedom. It takes a hateful, bigoted heart to support this garbage legislation."
People who do not own businesses took similar stances on both sides.
"It isn't discrimination, it's a constitutional right. Religion aside, a business owner has every right to deny service to whomever they wish. If a gay couple owns a bakery and doesn't want to bake cakes for straight couples then so be it. That's their right as a business owner," a straight woman in her 20s said.
A male in his 20s said, "It's your business. So do as you please."
However, opponents of the resolution see it as discrimination.
"It is the same as refusing services to blacks, or Baptists, or whatever group a person belongs to," a white woman who is 60 or older said.
When asked how passing the resolution would affect the LGBT community, she said, "It would be horrible. How would you feel if someone refused your business because you have blue eyes, or because you have tattoos. Its the same thing."
Viewers also took to Facebook to express their views.
Facebook user Dusty Mudd said, “My fellow Missourians if you want your public business to be profitable then why would you turn business away? You don't have agree with gay people marry a gay person or live with a gay person. However gay people's $20 bills spend exactly the same as a straight persons.”
Clergy and places of worship
The survey also asked whether respondents were members of the clergy.
Supporters of SJR 39 said it was necessary to protect the clergy and congregations that oppose same sex marriage.
Numerous survey respondents cited the Bible and Christianity as their reasons for supporting or opposing SJR 39.
“As a Christian, I support the bible. In Genesis, God destroyed Sodem and Gamora [sic] for it's same sex life style. If God says it is wrong so do I,” a man in his 50s who supported SJR 39 said.
Another respondent in support of the bill said, “Marriage is a religious institution create by God and the State and Federal Governments really have no place in it to begin with.”
These responses contrast with respondents who says discrimination of any kind is wrong.
"The bible has no place in the constitution," a man in his 40s who identifies as gay said.
A heterosexual man who opposed the bill said, "It is true that the bible speaks against the LGBTQ lifestyle however, it does not teach to reject the sinner. The bible teaches to befriend the sinner, just as Jesus did."
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage was legal in June 2015. However, many people who supported the resolution said they still do not think it has a place in society.
"The Constitution protects religious liberty and that should be enough," said a heterosexual man in his 50s. "The Federal government isn't stepping up so our States will have to."
But a straight male in his 60s said, "The constitution should not condone discrimination against any group of people who have not committed a crime. The constitution should also not favor a particular religious group."
A woman who identifies as straight said of same-sex couples, "They now have the right to marry. I may not believe in this, but I should have the right not to marry them or bake them a cake and not get sued."
A man who identified as 60 or older said, "Same sex marriage is not normal, even though it's become legal and more socially acceptable. A lot of people still hold strong values, and they should not have to accept something they feel very strongly about."
A man who identifies as gay said, while he doesn't want to make people feel uncomfortable, he "obviously" opposed the bill.
"This can only mean the start of more brutal laws to be enacted against the LGBT community," he said. "If the bill didn't pass and a religious organization told me that they didn't agree with my sexuality but would proceed because they have to, I would find somewhere else to have a ceremony."