Sen. Wayne Wallingford Is Having A Really Hard Time Defending His Religious Freedom Bill

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Sen. Wayne Wallingford
Last week, Republican state legislator Wayne Wallingford introduced his religious freedom bill to the Missouri Senate. We're willing to guess that he's starting to regret his timing.

That's because last Wednesday -- two days after his bill hit the Missouri Senate floor -- Arizona governor Jan Brewer vetoed a similar, extremely controversial religious freedom bill in her own state; like Wallingford's, the Arizona law would have enabled businesses to refuse service to customers based on the business owner's religious beliefs.

Since then, Wallingford has struggled mightily to defend his bill, SB 916, from the same criticisms that tanked other religious freedom bills in Arizona in Kansas.

See also: Missouri Bill Would Allow Businesses To Refuse Service If "Substantially Motivated" By Religion

During an interview with KMOX's Charlie Brennan last week, Wallingford made his oft-repeated claim that his bill isn't discriminatory toward LGBT individuals or same-sex couples.

"There's nothing in my bill that talks about gays, lesbians or discrimination," he told Brennan.

Later in the interview, Wallingford offered examples from other states where business owners -- including a wedding photographer and a florist -- had their religious beliefs burdened by same-sex couples.

But things got interesting when Brennan asked Wallingford if he could cite a similar case from Missouri.

"No, not that I'm aware of," answered the two-term senator from Cape Girardeau. "I was in the United States Air Force for twenty-five and years and I believe in preemptive attacks. I don't want to wait until it happens to do something about it."

See also: Former Police Officer Jeffrey Leveque Charged with Harassing Couple over Gay Pride Flag

Of course, Wallingford isn't calling for an actual airstrike on gay couples shopping for flowers, just a legislative one. His bill would give business owners the right to refuse service if they felt "substantially motivated" by religious belief. As for the good senator, he's still flummoxed by critics accusing his bill of facilitating discrimination and religious bigotry.

"My bill is a simple, a common sense bill," he told KTRS (550 AM) morning radio host McGraw Milhaven on Friday.

During that interview, an exhausted-looking Milhaven challenged Wallingford on that claim, repeatedly asking if, for example, the bill would protect the bigotry-loving Westboro Baptist Church in denying service to an interracial couple.

"If they denied them service, and the people they denied....[felt] they were being discriminated against, then that party who believes they are being discriminated against could take the business to court," Wallingford said.

This answer failed to impress Milhaven. Wallingford was basically arguing that his bill doesn't discriminate since it would burden the interracial or LGBT couple with taking the Westboro Baptist Church to court. There, a judge would apparently decide just how "substantially motivated" and "genuine" the Westboro Baptist Church is in its religious beliefs.

Milhaven concluded the interview by admitting, "I am more confused now than I was when we started this conversation."

There is one more problem with Wallingford's claim that his bill doesn't target same-sex couples for discrimination. According to the Post-Dispatch, Kerry Messer, president and founder of the Missouri Family Network, supports SB 916 and was involved in introducing it.

Fun fact: The last time we heard from Messer, he was one of the plaintiffs suing Governor Jay Nixon for allowing same-sex couples legally married in other states to file federal taxes.

Follow Danny Wicentowski on Twitter at @D_Towski. E-mail the author at Danny.Wicentowski@RiverfrontTimes.com

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29 comments
bnweston
bnweston

His faith extends as far as the votes it will get him. His wife and children are fundies, but he has tended to be more hedonistic in the past. Affairs etc. He does not live up to his word. I know this from experience.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Should Orthodox Christians be allowed to join a secular group to outnumber the existing members, vote in their own into the offices, and change the group's charter to reverse everything? Or should that group be allowed to turn away those that truly oppose their beliefs?

Today it is you wanting others to be let inside, but tomorrow it could be you wanting to keep others out.

Too often short-sightedness and lack of critical thinking to unintended consequences occur when someone starts a "feel good" campaign. It may feel good to you to force religious people to associate with those that oppose everything they stand for, but tomorrow it may be your day to be forced to work for someone you completely oppose.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Should a black business owner be forced to serve a Klan member? The freedom to assemble in the First Amendment is also the freedom to not assemble. Old words, but assemble is also association. Should a Vegan Restaurant be able to turn away someone chomping down a burger or carrying beef jerky sticks? Should Burger King be forced to allow people wearing McDonald's tee shirts into their place of business giving free advertisement for another business?


If you seeks bids on a job, do you not have the right to pick the contractor you want? Must you always take the lowest bidder? Or can you decide to discriminate and pick the person you wish to pay and is willing to be paid by you?

The Supreme court rules the freedom to travel surmounted the business owner's right to associate with customers of his choosing. Therefore, in very narrow businesses, such as hotels/motels, gas stations, and restaurants, the business must not discriminate to allow travelers to pass through. But a book store? A wedding cake shop? These are not essentials for others' rights.

Ed Gibson
Ed Gibson

so would this mean that people could have refused to serve people with ashes on their heads yesterday?

John Evans
John Evans

Proof that our teabaggers can batshit with the best of them. Vaginal probes, anyone?

Nathan Cromwell
Nathan Cromwell

He use to be the president of American legion in cape Girardeau Mo don't know if he still is

Terry Zoll
Terry Zoll

Jennifer, am I an idiot because I believe different then you. If the idiot comment was for someone else, disregard

Jacob DeVore
Jacob DeVore

It's hilarious how Bumblefuck Egypt runs this state.

Terry Zoll
Terry Zoll

I feel any business owner should have the right to refuse service to anyone. It's his business. If people don't like it, don't patronize that establishment

raccoozie
raccoozie

Don't businesses reserve the right to refuse service to anyone? Not that I think they should but they can refuse service without stating why they are refusing the service.

kangoids
kangoids topcommenter

If you choose to go into a business that is open to the public, you are obligated to serve the entire public. 

If your religious beliefs tell you to avoid dealing with those with people whose lifestyle you don't like, you must face the fact that you are a bigot. This is the USA...you can be a bigot if you wish...but you should find another way to make a living, one where you can choose to deal only with people just like you.

Good luck with that.

rupert05xlh
rupert05xlh topcommenter

@ BillHannegan:

Do you support the Muslim cabbie that refuses to give a ride to a female that is not escorted by a male family member?  How about the pacifist Christian shopkeeper that refuses to do business with a National Guard member?

BillHannegan
BillHannegan

Why should a Christian printer be forced to print a same sex wedding invitation if lots of other printers would be glad to do it. Is this just a case of making Jews eat pork?

BillHannegan
BillHannegan

The bill just allows genuine religious belief to be taken seriously by the courts.

BillHannegan
BillHannegan

It has nothing to do with what I like. It has to do with the rules of my religion. The Roman Catholic Church does not allow me to print for same sex marriages. But I have no problem printing every other thing for gay people. My biggest customer last year was a gay couple. They were fine people to work with. So I am printing for the general public, but just opting out of involvement with one ceremony.

BillHannegan
BillHannegan

Both would have to prove to a court to that these actions are not just personal preference, but that their religion binds them to act this way.

Charlie
Charlie

@BillHannegan Because the Constitution merely protects your right to believe as you wish.  There is no constitutional right to own and operate a print shop.  If you want public police, fire, roads, and trash services, you have to operate under the rules.  The Constitution protects you from prosecution.  It does not guarantee a right to operate a print shop.

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

@BillHannegan You are such an antiquated asshole. Seriously. Do you treat your parish priests the same way after they bugger little boys in the confessional you cigarette smoking hypocrite mother fucker?

jaco1175
jaco1175 topcommenter

@BillHannegan Cop out answer you horrible excuse for a human being. Go fuck your mother and then yourself until they fit your trach ring you marlboro man piece of shit.

BillHannegan
BillHannegan

@Charlie @BillHannegan  There is a natural right to own property, earn a living and not be compelled to violate one's conscience that is prior to and transcends the Constitution.

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