Tone deafness, thy name is Wayne Wallingford. The freshman senator from the boot heel region of Missouri took full measure of the disdain thrown at Kansas and Arizona for taking up discrimination measures under the guise of religious freedom and figured the Show-Me State could elbow out some room of its own in the spotlight of contempt.
Wallingford on Monday introduced Missouri's version of a "religious freedom" bill that gives Show-Me State businesses the discretion to turn away people they don't care for by invoking their religious principles as the justification.
In fact, Wallingford's bill in some ways is worse than the one contemplated by Kansas. Wallingford's measure lacks much of the specificity of Kansas' infamous House Bill 2453, which leaves the Missouri version something of a catchall to refuse service to anyone, not just gays and lesbians, if someone can find some religious reason to show a customer the door.
"We're trying to protect Missourians from attacks on their religious freedom," Wallingford told The Kansas City Star.
Religious freedom is selectively applied in Missouri. Where were people like Wallingford in 2011 when the Missouri House passed a measure banning Sharia law in Missouri, a clear shot at Muslim religious precepts? Wallingford, a member of the House in 2011, served as a co-sponsor of the anti-Sharia bill.
Wallingford has a history of devoting himself to these silly legislative ideas. Much like Kansas pro-discrimination bill champion Charles Macheers
, Wallingford is not a particularly distinguished member of the Missouri General Assembly. Last year, Wallingford splashed around in the shallow end of the lawmaking pool, applying his name to measures like Senate Bill 50, which would bolster religious freedom to alternatives-to-abortion agencies.
Wallingford's timing might be the only remarkable thing about his latest piece of legislation. He will receive enough attention to shore up his conservative credentials in hometown Cape Girardeau, a southeastern Missouri town that gave the world Rush Limbaugh. But there's enough attention turned elsewhere at similar laws in other states that have advanced far further than Wallingford's bill.
Most of the eyes of the nation are fixed on Arizona, where Gov. Jan Brewer is weighing whether to pass that state's version of a pro-discrimination bill after both its House and Senate passed it. Brewer has until the end of the week to make her decision. She has plenty of people telling her to veto the bill, including some Republicans in her state who voted in favor of the measure but got weak-kneed when they realized how damaging the law would be to Arizona. Of course, they're mostly thinking of the business ramifications of the bill's passage and not fundamental civil rights, which is what the outcry against the bill is all about.
Arizonans are concerned about losing next year's Super Bowl, planned for Phoenix suburb Glendale. Arizona has lost a Super Bowl before for endorsing repugnant ideas. The Super Bowl in 1993 was supposed to happen in Arizona, but the National Football League moved the big event to California when Arizona decided to no longer recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day. That stunt culminated with unabashedly racist then-Gov. Evan Mecham telling Arizona's black leaders at the time, "You folks don't need another holiday. What you folks need are jobs."
If the Kansas Senate, a wacky group in its own right, is sensible enough to pull the brakes on its version of the discrimination bill, what does that tell us about Wallingford?