Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has pledged to lead a fight to repeal a bill passed by the St. Louis Board of Aldermen essentially making St. Louis a “sanctuary city” for abortion, with critics contending it threatens the religious freedom of citizens and institutions opposing it.
Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens
Known as Board Bill 203, it places pregnancy and reproductive health – including the decision to abort a child – alongside already protected classes such as race, gender, religion and disability in St. Louis’ anti-discrimination ordinance.
According to LifeNews.com, Missouri Right to Life has warned that Board Bill 203 could force landlords to rent property to abortion providers or abortion advocacy groups and to punish employers, including religious organizations, who refuse to hire someone who publicly supports abortion.
“BB 203 attempts to force churches and others to be complicit in the profound evil of abortion,” LifeNews.com reported Missouri Right to Life as contending.
Greitens, who said he wants Missouri to be a leader in protecting the lives of the unborn, shared his commitment to fight the St. Louis measure in a phone call with Don Hinkle, editor of the Missouri Baptist Convention’s newsjournal The Pathway and public policy adviser for the state’s Baptists.
“We must protect people of faith and we must protect the unborn,” Greitens said, according to a Pathway report Feb. 16. “We must win this and I am proud to lead the fight on this issue.”
Greitens, a Republican who was elected as governor in November, did not say what steps he is prepared to take, but The Pathway noted proposed legislation reportedly is being drafted in the General Assembly to ify or overturn Board Bill 203, which was adopted by the Board of Aldermen 17-10 on Feb. 10.
Hinkle said Board Bill 203 is “an evil law that must be overturned and I promised the governor that Missouri Southern Baptists will assist him in fighting this vile action that makes St. Louis a city of death and targets the least among us – the unborn.”
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted the bill’s sponsor, Megan Green, who represents the 15th Ward, as saying that employers “can have their own beliefs” but they “shouldn’t be able to impose those beliefs on people or fire someone because of those beliefs.”
Catholic archbishop Robert Carlson described Board Bill 203’s passage as “a terrible moment for a city with such proud history,” the Post-Dispatch reported. The city’s laws, Carlson said, “now actively protect and promote the killing of unborn children.”
At a Jan. 18 hearing on the bill, Thomas Buckley, general counsel to the archdiocese, said the archdiocese “will not and cannot comply with this,” warning, “We will go straight to federal court.”
Noah Oldham, an elder at August Gate Church and North American Mission Board SEND City Coordinator for St. Louis, attended the Jan. 18 hearing to testify against the bill but time expired before he could speak. He then spoke individually with various members of the Board of Aldermen, urging them to defend life.
“Are we going to be a sanctuary for all people,” Oldham said in recapping his comments in a Pathway interview, “regardless of what they believe – but also regardless of their power? Roe v. Wade, 44 years ago, legislated that personhood was based on power: If you don’t have the ability to live on your own outside the womb, then you don’t have the right to be called a person. That’s discrimination. St. Louis needs to be a city that’s a sanctuary for all people, even the unborn.”
Oldham said he reminded city officials of their “mutual common ground – that is, to serve the people of this city who have needs.”
“And I believe,” he said, “that there is nobody in greater need than women in crisis pregnancies and their unborn children. And I believe that if we would work together – the city officials, the local church … and all the other pro-life (organizations and) crisis pregnancy centers around St. Louis – we could truly care for these mothers, we could keep their consciences clean, we could allow them to give life, we could be a sanctuary city for all … and we could also respect the religious liberty of Christians.”
Oldham told The Pathway that, in the current political landscape, “there really is an open door for fighting abortion in this country” – that is, if pro-lifers take advantage of the opportunity.
“I believe God, in scripture, calls us to have a voice for the voiceless and to speak up for those who are oppressed,” he said. “And I believe there is nobody in this world more vulnerable than the unborn child.”
According to the Post-Dispatch, similar legislation has been passed by the District of Columbia, Boston and the state of Delaware.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Adapted from reporting by The Pathway, mbcpathway.com, newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention. Baptist Press senior editor Art Toalston contributed to this report.)