JEFFERSON CITY -A Senate committee heard testimony on a bill that would prohibit the denial of benefits to religious groups on university campuses, if passed.
The Senate Education Committee heard testimony on bills proposed by Senators Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, and Ed Emery, R-Lamar, would prohibit public higher education institutions from denying religious student associations benefits available to other student associations.
Schaefer said this has become a problem in other states. He wants lawmakers to address this problem now so it does not happen here.
"I know one of the first questions probably some of you will have, well, has this happened in Missouri?" Schaefer said. "I'm not aware if it officially happening, but I have been told by some students, including some who have graduated from public institutions in Missouri 10-15 years ago that their organizations were told that they could not have meetings on campus. So, it's been going on a long time, I think it's more mainstream attention now because of what's happened in California and Tennessee but we need to make sure that this does not happen in the state of Missouri."University of Missouri Law Professor Carl Esbeck said the bill is a good idea for Missouri but it's not the first state to deal with the issue.
"Missouri is hardly breaking new ground here," Esbeck said. "That seven other states have already passed similar legislation: Ohio, Tennessee, Idaho, Oklahoma, Arizona, Virginia, North Carolina. So, Missouri is seeing the need here but it's certainly not breaking new ground."
Sen. Dan Brown, R-Rolla, said he thinks the bill might be taking some light away from traditional American values.
"America was founded on religious freedoms, but where do we cross the line that were aiding and abetting a theocracy?" Brown said.
According to Schaefer, the line cannot be drawn by learning institutions.
"Those religious beliefs are at the core foundation of our constitutional system of government and it is not the place of an institution of higher learning to tell people what they should or should not believe in the religious context or what religion they can practice," Schaefer said.