Lawmakers in Jefferson City have introduced a bill that would allow businesses to refuse service to anyone they choose based on religious preference.
"It's being sold as religious freedom but it's plainly evident that it is thinly disguised efforts to be able to discriminate," said Donna Ross, pastor at Zion United Church of Christ in St. Joseph.
Ross says she believes the push for religious freedom bills are a backlash against the gay community for growing support for same sex marriage and other rights for gays and lesbians.
"People who are concerned about equal rights for LGBT people and marriage rights for LGBT people are rebounding in a really wrong and harmful way," she said.
At more states allow same-sex marriage (now totaling 17), some see the push for religious freedom laws as two steps forward and one step back for the gay movement.
"I remember discrimination and segregation," said Debbie Baker, with St. Joe Pride, the group at sponsors St. Joseph's yearly gay pride celebration. "I didn't understand it then, I don't understand it now. It's like you're going backwards."
"I don't think Missouri will go for it, said Tyson Huff, president of the St. Joseph chapter of Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (P-FLAG). "I truly believe we are a better state than Kansas and Arizona. I think our legislators are smart enough that they won't make this happen."
For those who support religious freedom laws, many say they can work both ways.
"Say you have a gay person who runs a printing shop," said Sonny Borrelli, a republican state representative from Arizona. If somebody from the Westboro Baptist Church comes in there and asks to print a sign the owner obviously doesn't agree with. Should that religious group demand that the print shop print it?"
But Pastor Ross at Zion United says it's sad religion is being used in such a hateful way.
"Jesus excluded nobody," she said. "Our mission as Christians is to walk and affirm everybody in wholeness, in peace and in harmony and in love."
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