Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI)

What is the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI)?

The Missouri Civil Rights Initiative is a proposed amendment to the Missouri Constitution scheduled for the November ballot. This amendment would include the addition of Section 34 to Article I, and would effectively prohibit state and local governments from discriminating against or granting preferential treatment to any individual or group based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin in the operation of public employment, public education and public contracting. The MoCRI  is supported by a coalition of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents from across the state.

What would this amendment affect?

As cited in the proposed amendment, “state” shall include, but not be necessarily limited to, the state itself and any of its departments, agencies, commissions, boards, and other units; any political subdivision and any department, agency, commission, board, or other unit of a political subdivision; any public institution of higher education, junior college district, and school district; any municipal corporation; and any public corporation, public entity, or other instrumentality of the state or a political subdivision, irrespective of the capacity in which the state or any such instrumentality or entity of the state shall be acting .

Isn’t some consideration of race needed to balance disparities that exist?

Poverty transcends race. The MoCRI would in no way prohibit or alter affirmative action programs that identify socio-economic conditions as a factor in determining program status. Such programs benefit every “disadvantaged” individual regardless of race. The MoCRI does nothing to detract from the state’s K-12 education system or any program designed to increase job opportunities and economic growth, provided they are made available to all the citizens regardless of race.

Wouldn’t passage of this proposal mean the end of Affirmative Action?

No. Affirmative action (relating to socio-economic or geographic groups) would be permitted for classified entities such as “inner city” or “rural” schools. What would be prohibited under the MoCRI proposal is applying different standards to individuals or groups based on their race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin.

Will this proposal have “unintended consequences?”

This is a favorite scare tactic used by special-interest groups opposed of any popular reform -because it is inherently vague. It is impossible to refute a charge that something might have “unintended consequences” since what is unintended is, by definition, also unknowable. We can, however, look to California, Washington, and Michigan to help answer this charge. These states passed similar initiatives; eliminating preferences based on race, sex, color, ethnicity and national origin. The doomsday scenarios purported by opponents before these states took action to eliminate discrimination and racial preferences never materialized. The public colleges and universities in all three states report no significant drop in attendance numbers for “underrepresented minorities”. California has enjoyed over ten years of freedom from the burden of these dehumanizing policies.

Some Politicians and special interest groups are opposing the MoCRI because of a supposed, undefined impact on women. What’s the reasoning?

Opponents of the proposal know that MoCRI enjoys broad support and they need an argument that may divide voters. It’s important to note that the lawsuits against the University of Michigan, as well as similar lawsuits against the University of Texas, University of Washington, and a New Jersey school district, were initiated by women. Race always trumps gender. In its legal defense, the University of Michigan admitted then that no preferences were given to women. Women have enjoyed equal access to higher education for years. In fact, the rate of women entering institutions of higher education in America today is higher than that of men.

Are there really examples in Missouri where government entities are granting preferences based on race?

ABSOLUTELY! Scholarships and other programs that provide access to certain people groups while excluding others abound at universities and colleges across the state. This practice is truly entrenched in higher education. Also, various cities and municipalities have established “goals” for minority contracting, which effectively serve as the functional equivalent as quotas.

Won’t the ban on discrimination based on sex result in such things as unisex public restrooms, or interfere with legitimate, gender-specific government functions such as undercover police operations?

The answer to all these questions is an unequivocal – No! The amendment provides a specific exception for “bona fide qualifications based on sex that are reasonably necessary to the normal operation of public employment, public education, or public contracting.” The Civil Rights Act of 1964 – which has the exact same exception clause — has an over four-decade history of legal interpretation and there is settled case law addressing such exceptional circumstances. Legitimate gender differentiations have been clearly interpreted to mean that such distinctions as separate-sex restrooms and other accommodations to the physical differences between males and females are and will remain perfectly legal. Furthermore, a similar measure was passed in California over a decade ago and has not resulted in the loss of a single women’s sports or health program in that state.

Would this amendment apply to private companies or organizations?

No. The scope of MoCRI is limited to public education, public employment and public contracting.

(Grain Valley) – Today, the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative (MoCRI) announced it is concluding its petition gathering effort to end government race and gender preference policies in public employment, education and contracting. After collecting more than 170,000 signatures from Missouri voters in less than 4 months, the clock ran out on a MoCRI organization that had obtained overwhelming support from around the state.

While disappointed with the final outcome, MoCRI executive director Tim Asher is encouraged by the effort overall. “Today’s developments are certainly not what the many volunteers and supporters of the MoCRI had anticipated. It is particularly disheartening when you consider our elected officials played such a prominent role in derailing our effort,” stated Asher

Asher’s comment is a reference to the six month legal challenge that delayed the commencement of signature gathering. While initiatives may enjoy more than a year to obtain the necessary signatures to qualify for the ballot, MoCRI’s time was consumed by a lengthy court proceeding to win a fair ballot title. The court battle was necessitated by ballot language submitted by Secretary of State Robin Carnahan’s office that misrepresented the intent of the proposed constitutional amendment. That ballot title summary was ultimately determined insufficient and biased by the circuit court of Cole County.

While satisfied with the court outcome, at the time of the decision only 113 days remained to make the ballot. But that was just one of many obstacles that stood in the way of the initiative making the November ballot.

“First, the Secretary of State quickly filed an appeal of the lower court’s ruling,” Asher recalls. “With the May 4th deadline looming, our only options were to abandon the effort, begin at once, or wait for the court of appeals to render a decision.” The campaign decided to move forward in anticipation that the judgment would be upheld. The Western District Court of Appeals has yet to review the case.

The next hurdle encountered was that of government officials and business owners who would not allow signature gatherers to petition on public property. This form of constitutionally protected free speech should not be curtailed, especially by public officials.

With the arrival of spring, signature collectors encountered harassment from mobs who sought to limit their first amendment right to engage in core political speech. Special interest groups including the ACLU, ACORN, Jobs for Justice, and the NAACP, together with union organizers and minority contractors, aggressively fought to preserve the many race-based programs that advantage them financially under our current system.

“They have a vested interest in maintaining the status-quo,” Asher said. “The system serves them well and they are putting those tax dollars to use by paying people to discourage the democratic process. We will soon release a video documentary detailing the effort of union bosses, elected officials and minority contractors to stymie the will of Missouri voters.”

Asher is encouraging the legislature to take a close look at these intimidation tactics. Other states have dealt with those who seek to rob others of their right to core political speech. There are a variety of issues that need to be addressed in order to protect the initiative process. Overall, it takes tremendous resources to see an initiative make it on the ballot. It should not be easy, but it also should not be impossible. With legislators currently seeking to burden the process further, the right of the people to participate in direct democracy in Missouri is in serious jeopardy.

In spite of the many hindrances, tens of thousands of Missourians- from all walks of life, political affiliation and religious persuasion-exercised their right to sign the Missouri Civil Rights Initiative.

“I owe a great debt of gratitude to the good people of Missouri for their overwhelming support of this initiative,” commented Asher. “And on behalf of all who seek an end to preferential treatment in our state, I want to thank Ward Connerly and the American Civil Rights Coalition for responding to our request for help. Their assistance was invaluable throughout the campaign and we anticipate their support and direction yet again in 2010.

In 2004, the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative was held up in court and similarly delayed their effort until 2006. The Missouri Civil Rights Initiative expects similar success and will soon realize the same benefits Michigan has enjoyed since 2006; restoring fairness and equality in public employment, public education and public contracting.

The Missouri Civil Rights Initiative Committee (MoCRI), a Missouri-based ballot initiative committee, is dedicated to providing the people of Missouri the opportunity to end discrimination and preferential treatment based on race, sex, color, ethnicity or national origin by state or local governments. MoCRI will make Missouri a place of equal opportunity for all, not a state that uses discrimination as a tool to create “diversity.” Achieving “diversity” should never be an excuse to discriminate!

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