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Speaker Jones to Attorney General Koster: Appeal Ruling on SB 749

House Speaker Tim Jones addressed a crowd at the Springfield Pregnancy Care Center/Credit: Scott Harvey

With the Springfield Pregnancy Care Center as his backdrop, Missouri House Speaker Tim Jones urged Attorney General Chris Koster to appeal a federal court decision invalidating protections for Missourians’ religious liberties. KSMU’s Scott Harvey has the details.

Jones says the clock is ticking for Koster to file an appeal regarding Senate Bill 749, which was struck down earlier this month. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Audrey Fleissig cites a provision in the U.S. Constitution declaring that federal laws take precedence over contradictory state laws.

“749 said that if you have a religious, or a moral, or simply a business objection, to being required to provide contraception in your insurance vehicles you do not have to do so. The state of Missouri is gonna to give you the shield to having to provide service, those types of incidences, in your insurance plans,” Jones said.

Last year, Missouri lawmakers overrode Gov. Jay Nixon’s veto to enact religious and moral exemptions from mandatory birth control coverage.  On Thursday, before a group of pro-life lawmakers, Pregnancy Care Center administrators and citizens, Jones announced that the House will be taking up House Concurrent Resolution 35. The bill calls upon Attorney General Koster, who had defended the law before the court, to continue the fight.   

“If one right can be breached and violated, every single right under our constitution can be violated; both our U.S. and Missouri Constitution. As our Attorney General, Chris Koster, has a duty to continue to defend – his job is not over – he has a duty to continue to defend the laws which a supermajority of your representatives in your House and the Senate have passed,” Jones said.

Jones says he believes Judge Fleissig reviewed this case under an improper application of the law, and that it should be appealed on the grounds that the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate violates both the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Jones believes if appealed, the law will find its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps as early as next year.

“It’s my belief that if the U.S. Supreme Court has the opportunity to review these bureaucratic mandates, they’ll find that they do violate the First Amendment – which is what this case should have been considered under - and the state will be vindicated. However, in order for this to happen, this case here has to be appealed.”