JEFERSON CITY - A constitutional ban on public funding of religious organizations would be repealed under a measure introduced in the Missouri Senate last week.
Sen. Scott Rupp, a Wentzville Republican, has sponsored a resolution that would, upon voter approval, remove a portion of the Missouri Constitution that prohibits the distribution of public funds to religious organizations and learning institutions. It would also amend the state Constitution to mandate no governmental entity can deny religious organizations the benefits of any education program, funding or other support, as long as the benefits comply with the requirements of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“Our U.S. Constitution is based on freedom and justice for all, and my measure would reflect this value, while also ensuring the separation of church and state,” Rupp said in a statement.
Doug Bonney, chief counsel and legal director for the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri, said his organization has not yet taken a formal position on Rupp’s bill because it was only filed last week. Generally, however, the ACLU has opposed these types of measures in the past.
“We favor robust protections of the free exercise of religion and robust protections against any infringement on the establishment clause of the Constitution,” Bonney said, adding that state money going to religious groups opens the door for future infringements on those groups’ ability to freely practice their beliefs without government interference.
Bonney said the initial proposal in the bill for what would go on the ballot would likely be a problem with the ACLU. Rupp’s proposed ballot language asks whether voters want to amend the constitution to “end discrimination against churches, religious organizations and their members...”
Jason Hancock is the Jefferson City Correspondent for the Star. Follow him on Twitter @j_hancock.