JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – A spirited debate unfolded in the Missouri Capitol on Wednesday.
A bill aimed at protecting the rights of religious student groups at public universities has been introduced by State Rep. Hannah Kelly (R-Mountain Grove).
Kelly testified during a hearing before the House Special Committee on Career Readiness that HB 1926 would be a safeguard for students practicing their religion. Her proposed legislation would prevent universities from denying religious student associations the same benefits as other student associations at public universities.
“It’s solely my intent in presenting this bill is strictly based on the constitutional rights of anyone to associate and not have to fear repercussion because there might be someone out there in the universe that might disagree,” she said.
Opponents of the bill feel the proposed legislation is unnecessary and could lead to discrimination. They point to language in the bill allowing a student organization’s leaders to define which students can be part of an association.
“The point of this bill is to allow Christian organizations to restrict gay peoples, LGBTQ+ student access to public funds,” said Jefferson City attorney Jordan Ault.
Kelly told lawmakers she does not believe her proposed legislation would lead to discrimination.
This is a bill narrowly tailored toward the subject of religious associations on college campuses,” she said.
Some lawmakers suggested the bill be broadened and changed to include an association’s beliefs instead of their religion. Kelly told lawmakers she was open to considering that change.