Only days after Indiana rushed through a change in its state law amid a backlash led by homosexual-rights groups and Arkansas reacted by modifying a similar law before it was adopted, voters in Springfield, Missouri, have moved the opposite direction.
The city repealed an “anti-discrimination” law adopted only months ago.
In the election this week, 51.4 percent of voters decided to reject the law, which had been adopted by the Springfield City Council in October.
Opponents had quickly organized a successful petition drive to force the public vote.
“The churches were startled and alarmed and began to get involved (in the ordinance repeal),” Calvin Morrow, who was part of a Christian group advocating for repeal, told Associated Press. “They were the target.”
He questioned whether there was “discrimination” against homosexuals in Springfield and told AP the dispute divided the city.
Opponents of the repeal said they would continue to work to make Springfield “a welcoming place for all people.”
Amid opposition, the council last year added sexual orientation and gender identity to a nondiscrimination plan that already existed in the city of 165,000. Critics said the special protections provided an open door to sexual predators in public spaces.
The local News-Leader posted a quote from Perez Hilton, a homosexual activist, saying, “More anti-gay discrimination … this time from Springfield, Missouri.”
Zack Ford, at the leftist Think Progress, wrote: “Because Missouri is one of the 28 states with no state-level protections and there are no nationwide protections, the local ordinance was the only enumerated legal protection available to the city’s LGBT residents.”
He continued: “The pro-repeal campaign also used ‘religious liberty’ to justify discrimination. … What the Yes On Question 1 campaign actually admitted, however, is that it was worried that wedding vendors might actually have to serve same-sex couples. The ordinance actually already contained exemptions for religious organizations, but that wasn’t enough for those who felt their license to discriminate was threatened by the protections.”
WND reported that homosexual activists are hardly letting the issue drop.
The group PROMO, Promoting Equality for All Missourians – a statewide organization that presses for anti-discrimination laws for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders via legislative action – is promising to keep pressing for change.
“PROMO and the entire community of Springfield will continue to focus on the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA) which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Missouri Human Rights Statute, which currently prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations for other protected categories, including race, sex and national origin,” the group said on its website
In a number of recent cases, Christians claim they were forced effectively to endorse same-sex marriage through floral arranging, photography or other artistry.
WND reported Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act was fiercely opposed by homosexual activists, including the CEO of Apple, prompting state lawmakers to provide special protections for homosexuals at the expense of the religious rights of business owners.
Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth said the changes amounted to “eviscerating” Indiana’s religious freedom bill.
The Indiana chapter of the American Family Association had also urged Republican Gov. Mike Pence not to adopt the changes.
“The actions taken by the Indiana General Assembly do not clarify our Religious Freedom Restoration Act’s purposes or goals. Our legal advisers tell us that it actually changes our law in a way that could now erode religious freedom across Indiana. If this revised law does not adequately protect religious liberty for all, it is not really a religious freedom act,” said AFA of Indiana Executive Director Micah Clark in a statement.
In Arkansas, the governor sent a similar religious freedom act back to lawmakers to make changes before he would sign it.
LaBarbera said a great deal of the blame for the hysteria in Indiana belonged to the news media, which, he said, were not even pretending to cover the story objectively.
“This is a media-generated crisis, the media working with gay activists,” he said. “The mainstream media have become part of the gay lobby almost. An incredible hysteria has been whipped up against Indiana.”
One of the biggest stories was the nationwide vitriol and threats against the Christian owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana. An owner was sought out by a TV reporter and asked whether or not they would cater a same-sex celebration. Thought the establishment served “gays,” she said couldn’t serve a ceremony that conflicted with her biblical beliefs.
LaBarbera said that type of harassment is not representative of all homosexual activists, but he said it’s a consistent practice of a belligerent portion.
“There is an element of the gay rights movement which has acted recklessly for decades and tried to intimidate people, sometimes using force,” he said. “We had it happen at one of our banquets in Illinois. I would hope people would keep the argument civil. There’s no need to get into these extremes.”
More than a dozen other states already have Religious freedom laws similar to what was proposed in Indiana, and a federal level was signed in 1993 by President Bill Clinton.
The changed law drew fury from critics. A talk show host described the homosexual community as “totalitarian” on the issue.
The original Indiana law was a fair attempt to balance interests, wrote Daniel O. Conkle, a professor at Indiana University’s Maurer School of Law, in the Indianapolis Star.
He explained he’s a same-sex marriage supporter but believes the Indiana religious freedom law simply requires, as in other states, that a state have a “compelling interest” to order people to violate their faith.
“Applying this test, a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled that a Muslim prisoner was free to practice his faith by wearing a half-inch beard that posed no risk to prison security,” Conkle noted. “Likewise, in a 2012 decision, a court ruled that the Pennsylvania RFRA protected the outreach ministry of a group of Philadelphia churches, ruling that the city could not bar them from feeding homeless individuals in the city parks.”
J. Matt Barber, a popular blogger and associate dean in the law school at Liberty University, said, “What was intended as a shield to protect religious liberty has now become a sword to destroy it.
“What was intended to defend people of faith against being forced by government, under penalty of law, to affirmatively violate their First Amendment-protected liberty of conscience, has now been turned into a government weapon that compels people of faith to violate that conscience.”
Barber called the changes “a complete 180.”
Joining Barber in alarm over the reports of the lawmakers’ plans was Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner of the Alliance Defending Freedom.
“The [original] religious freedom law is a good law. It does not pick winners or losers, but allows courts to weigh the government’s and people’s interests fairly and directs judges to count the cost carefully when freedom is stake. The new proposal unjustly deprives citizens their day in court, denies freedom a fair hearing, and rigs the system in advance. It gives the government a new weapon against individual citizens who are merely exercising freedoms that Americans were guaranteed from the founding of this country. Surrendering to deception and economic blackmail never results in good policy.”
Waggoner has defended a florist who was targeted for standing by her Christian beliefs and declining to lend her artistic talent to a homosexual ceremony.
In Washington state, florist Barronelle Stutzman already has been penalized $1,001 for her faith.
And the judge ruling in the case has opened her savings, personal possessions and even home up as a target for the homosexuals who wanted her artistic talents and now may claim her assets as damages.