April 17, 2014

House overwhelmingly endorses student religious liberty legislation

The House has given broad bipartisan first-round approval to a bill that, its sponsor says, is necessary to make clear for school districts what the law in Missouri says about students’ religious liberties.

Representative Elijah Haahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Elijah Haahr (photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The bill (HB 1303) is offered by Representative Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield).

He says students’ ability to express religious beliefs in schools is jeopardized not by school districts, but by organizations who take advantage of unclear state statute to sue school districts in order to block such expressions.

“As an attorney I know the money is made in the gray areas,” says Haahr. “When the statute’s unclear, the case law’s unclear, that’s where attorneys get excited and they want to make a move. If we lay out something clear … as long as a school district follows the state statutes, it makes it very hard for anyone to bring a case against them.”

The legislation won broad support on the initial, or “perfection,” vote, 128-20, including from at least one lawmaker who had earlier opposed it.

“I think what this bill does is protected already,” says Representative Margo McNeil (D-Florissant), a former teacher who voted against the bill in committee but voted for it Wednesday. “Perhaps putting it in state statute would make school districts in service their teachers on how to deal with religious issues … I think that it is a valid concern.”

Opponents argue the bill increases the likelihood of litigation against schools.

Representative Bob Burns (D-St. Louis) says some school districts can’t afford additional litigation.

“Some districts just will not challenge because they’re in such financial difficulty. They realize even having that attorney sit at a school board meeting costs an astronomical amount of money at the end of the year.”

The proposal needs another favorable vote to be sent to the Senate.

Jefferson City Church invited to send choir to sing at the Vatican

A choir from a Jefferson City church has been invited to sing at a mass with Pope Francis on New Year’s Day, 2015.

The music minister at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church, Lisa Screeton, took a choir to sing at a papal mass on the Catholic Feast of Epiphany in 2010. When a new opportunity came up for American choirs to participate in papal masses, an invitation was extended to Screeton.

She says she has some quality singers at Jefferson City.

“I knew that I could accept that invitation on their behalf because they would be a phenomenal group to take there, so we accepted the invitation to sing at the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God on January 1, 2015 at St. Peters.”

Screeton says she plans to open up the opportunity outside Immaculate Conception and even to those of other faiths, and she encourages everyone to sing.

“They can go as a non-singing pilgrim,” Screeton says, “but if they’re going to go on the trip they may as well sing with us because everyone is welcome.”

In addition to the papal mass the group will have opportunities to perform at concerts at other churches in Rome and in Florence, Italy. Screeton says those are typically well attended because they offer something locals don’t often get to hear.

“Romans particularly love an American choir who does American music,” Screeton explains, “Either spirituals or by English or American composers.”

The trip will cost about $3000 per person. Screeton says fundraiser will take place through 2014 that are aimed at offsetting part of that cost, and anyone that participates in the fundraisers will get an equal share of the proceeds toward the cost.

Screeton says the experience of visiting the Vatican was, “moving,” and says it is more impactful from the standpoint of a musician.

“To be able to stand and sing or stand and conduct a choir with a sitting Pope just a few feet away … it just doesn’t get any better than that. It’s something that you never take for granted and it’s something that you never forget.”

The group will leave for Rome on December 26, 2014 and return January 2, 2015. It will also attend Mass at the Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.

Governor, First Lady ask Missourians to remember men, women in military during holidays (VIDEO)

Key note speaker kicks off the start of the legislative session at Gov.’s Prayer Breakfast (AUDIO)

The Governor’s Prayer Breakfast on Thursday marks another year of prayer, political gathering, and the start of the legislative session for 2013.

The Prayer Breakfast kicked off the 2013 legislative session with remarks from Governor Nixon, Senior Pastor Dr. Doyle Sager with the First Baptist Church in Jefferson City and Key Note Speaker, World Wide Technology founder and chairman David Steward.

Steward says it’s important to have prayer at the breakfast because the event should be honored through prayer. “Well, it sets the tone for the rest of the meeting or the gathering itself. It’s honoring God in a very special way for what he’s done for us and is putting him first,” he says.

But one message he hopes to relay to others is, “God did not give us a spirit of fear, but of power and love. I hope they leave here with the courage to boldly profess their lord and savior,” Steward says.

The first prayer breakfast was in 1953 that started the tradition in Missouri.

 

AUDIO: Mary Farucci reports. (0:58)

 

 

Akin back in House, urges giving thanks (AUDIO)

Congressman Todd Akin makes his first floor apperance in the U-S House since his defeat in last week’s senatorial eleciton. Akin calls on Americans to remember on Thanksgiving what they should be thankful for next week.

Akin recalls that half of the Pilgrims died in the winter of 1620-21, but refused to leave when the Mayflower left for England in the Spring.

He says the Pilgrims established the separation of church and state in this country, and created the concept of a God-given civil government.

 AUDIO: Akin on House floor