This Fourth of July marks the 235th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. As we take time to celebrate our heritage as Americans with family and friends, it is important to reflect on the values that were of supreme importance to the founders of our Republic. As they expressed clearly in the solemn declaration they sent to the British monarch, our forefathers believed that the rights they claimed were not granted by governments, but rather were bestowed directly from the Creator.
Each generation must be vigilant to ensure that these sacred rights are protected and preserved. This session, the Missouri Senate worked to pass legislation that does just that. On May 10, only days before adjourning, we passed a measure specifically designed to protect one of the most basic and cherished of our civil liberties – the free expression of religion.
Freedom of Religious Expression - House Joint Resolution 2
This legislation had been a long time in the making. In the past, a vocal minority used a procedural device to prevent lawmakers in the Senate from being able to even vote on the proposal. However, this session the bill was allowed to come up for a vote – resulting in passage by a vote of 34 to 0.
HJR 2 would guarantee the right of all Missouri citizens to freely express their religious beliefs. It would also ensure that school children are allowed to voluntarily pray in school and would require that copies of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution be displayed in all schools.
Since this proposal requires a change to the Missouri Constitution, it must ultimately be sent to voters for their approval.
Removing Taxes on Religious and Non-Profit Activities – House Bill 470
Another important bill passed this session also touched on respect for religious liberties and institutions. This legislation (House Bill 470) involved a change to the statute governing how the state taxes non-resident entertainers. Under current law, Missouri collects a tax on the amount of money a visiting performer earns within our borders (such as when a pro football team or musical band comes here for a game or a concert). However, it didn’t seem fair to require a church congregation or non-profit organization to collect taxes on a visiting musical group when they receive no other benefit other than the enjoyment of hearing the performance. Under HB 470 (which has now been sent to the governor for his signature) non-profit organizations would be exempted from the entertainer tax.
I always appreciate hearing from you. If you have any questions about this or any other issues, please do not hesitate to contact my office.