Written By Lena Richee
Welcome to December! It’s usually in the week after Thanksgiving that it hits me just how fast the year is coming to an end. Soon it will be time for those New Year Resolutions, to sit down and reflect on all that’s happened in the past year and consider your goals for the next. Maybe you learned a new hobby, or finally finished one of the books Pastor Ron has been urging us to read. Or maybe you didn’t quite finish that DIY project, but hey, you got halfway. As we approach the new year, it’s good to acknowledge our accomplishments. So, join me as Civic Engagement looks back to reflect on what went right, and to prepare for what lies ahead!
This year, two major bills passed that are cause for celebration. Senate Bill 39 establishes guidelines for high schools so that student participation in athletic contests are organized by sex. This means that males play with males and females with females. This is a vital guideline that helps to keep students safe, as they are competing against appropriate opponents. The bill also protects women’s athletic scholarships, making sure those opportunities go to biologically-appropriate competitors.
The other bill that passed is Senate Bill 49, also known as the SAFE Act (Save adolescents from experimentation). This bill prohibits gender transition surgeries, as well as the prescription of hormones and puberty-blocking drugs for the purpose of gender transitioning, to minors. It also prevents Missouri Medicaid (MO HealthNet) from funding gender transitions surgeries or hormones for those in prison. These wins are pivotal in protecting our children from the misguided adults leading them toward destructive and often irreversible medical procedures. Children are not developmentally mature enough to make such weighty decisions that could maim and sterilize them for the rest of their lives. Even though these bills will expire in four years, and we’ll have to fight for them again, we praise God for His protection during this time and the opportunity to prepare to enter the battle once more!
I’d like to give a big thank you to everyone who volunteered and helped to make these wins possible. It’s the people in our church family, our brothers and sisters in Christ, who have stepped up to help advance truth and righteousness in our nation. People like Theresa Collins, the leader of the Civic Engagement school board team, took time out of her schedule to canvas during the election, to make witness statements at the committee hearings, and even to drive out to the capital to help build positive relationships with lawmakers and to pray for them.
Jennifer Barker is another chief contributor to the fight. In addition to working with the elections team, she is also the Director and Cofounder of Informed Health Choice Missouri (ICHM), an organization that provides a plethora of information on state legislation beneficial for keeping Missouri citizens and our congregation updated on health-related issues. Kate Sickles, also deeply involved in Civic Engagement ministry, consistently sent out email alerts asking people to make calls and send emails to their legislators.
So, a big THANK YOU to these women and to all the other volunteers who rose to the occasion even when it was difficult, when they were given last minute notice, or when they were asked to do something outside of their comfort zone. Their dedication to the congregation is commendable and their service is a great example of what can be achieved when the body of Christ works together.
And if you’d like a more in depth review of this past year’s legislative session please check out this article from the ICHM Website.
We are so grateful for all that has been accomplished in 2023, but that doesn’t mean we stop now. There is still much work ahead and we want to run the race to win, all the way to the end! So, let’s consider some of our goals going forward into the new year.
One big concern is reforming the Initiative Petition process. This has to do with how constitutional amendment questions are placed on ballots. If a majority of Missourians vote for the ballot issue, it becomes another constitutional amendment. This majority-rules system favors densely populated areas, giving the cities control of the direction for the entire state, and leaving suburban and rural areas voiceless. The goal is to amend this process so that all Missourians get a voice. According to Kate Sickles it’s likely that “this will help keep abortion and gun control out of the Missouri constitution.” In the interim Theresa Collins asks that we do not sign any petitions that would be harmful to this cause, such as “the 17 pro-abortion ballot initiatives, or gun control petitions that aim to override the Second Amendment Preservation Act.”
There are several other bills that failed to pass in the 2023 Missouri Legislature that we will continue fighting for: such as the Informed Consent Labeling bill that would require labels to tell consumers if a food product contains mRNA technology. There’s also the Employer Liability bill which would hold employers liable for any injuries or damages resulting from immunizations required for retaining employment.
These are great goals that we are striving to achieve, but the biggest thing we need is YOU. We need your voice. We need your God-given talents. It may seem like we are a large church and therefore have many volunteers, but in reality, about 20 people do most of the leg work for a church of around 1600 members. We implore you to get involved. While not everyone will be called to run for election, everyone has some talent they can use to create a big impact. This can be as simple as helping to make handouts, connecting with a civic group, learning more about how our state government works, or offering encouragement to those on the front lines. We ask that you participate in any way you can. Here are some easy ways you can get involved:
- Pray! January 3, 2024 is the first day of the Missouri Legislature session. We need a speaker who will be impartial and fair on what bills they will allow to go through the legislative process.
- Vote! March 2nd will be the only day we can vote for who we want Missouri to support for president of the United States since Missouri is a caucusing state. Please attend the caucus and support candidates with integrity.
- Volunteer! Offer to work at an election site or spend a weekend canvassing with friends.
- Make your voice heard! Drive out with a friend or group of friends to meet your legislators and build positive relationships with them (the best days to come are Tuesdays through Thursdays). Or join one of our trips to the capital.
- Attend council meetings! Go to a school board, county council or township meeting once a month. There even often options to zoom in, so you can listen and take notes as well.
- Join a Civic Engagement action team! We need researchers for election issues and election candidates, information gatherers, writers, encouragers, and prayer warriors.
- Attend Civic Engagement meetings! At the very least attending these meetings will keep you educated and up-to-date on important matters.
- Run for office! We need candidates running for their local and state elections. Ask God if He is calling you to an office. Take advantage of our opportunities to learn more about the process.
If none of these seem right for you, or if you have an idea not presented, then please reach out to our leaders for more suggestions and/or support. Joel Richardson offered some great advice on how to prepare for the future: by being faithful today. We are the salt and light of the world, and our aim is to light up the darkness. So come and shine with us!