It's been a busy week. Sometimes people ask me if I get tired of doing all of the different events or the challenges of the Legislature, and I remind them being an elected official is not a job: it's not a career; it's a way of life. I treat it no different than I treat my professional obligations as an attorney.
Gov. Mike Parson signing House Bill 557 into law this week was a high point for me and a rewarding experience. This bill was desperately needed to help protect our most vulnerable children placed in residential care 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The present law excluded any supervision of residential care facilities for children which purport to be religious organizations. This was the perfect opportunity for non-religious people to use religion to cover up horrendous, disgusting acts to a lot of children. Just in one facility alone, our attorney general has filed more than 100 criminal sexual abuse charges. This bill protects the reputation and viability of other religious residential care facilities that do a huge amount of good for the State of Missouri and are gravely needed. For a lot of these children, it is their last resort and has helped them make great changes in their lives. This bill is a step in stopping what I call evil human beings acting under the word "religion," taking advantage of vulnerable parents and children going through troubling times.
This bill takes important steps to require basic things of these facilities such as notifying the state of their existence and background checks for employees. This bill is designed to protect all children in these homes, but it also strengthens the right of religious facilities to control the curriculum and to teach principles so we can create a positive environment for some of our most vulnerable children. There are so many good religious facilities that provide things that the government would never be able to provide, and this bill provides further protection for them to be able to provide religious teaching within these facilities, while also protecting their reputation by forcing all facilities to do basic things that good facilities already do anyway.
The passage of this bill was made possible by the real heroes, the victims who stood up and told the world what horrible treatment they received and horrible acts they had to endure, subjecting them to personal embarrassment. Their persistence in trying to find someone to believe them led to the investigative reporting of Judy Fox of Channel 5 in Kansas City who brought forth the evidence so finally people did believe there were people in our society who would do the horrible things that they were speaking of.
There were approximately 10 victims who came here from all over the United States just to see the governor sign this bill, at their personal expense, so they would get some relief in knowing they had a role in preventing these horrible acts happening to other children.
Credit should also be given to the Southern Baptist Convention, the Catholic Church and other religious organizations that stood up and recognized there were people taking advantage of the situation and that we needed to take corrective action. Missouri and South Carolina were the only two states which allowed unsupervised, unregulated residential care facilities. I also want to give credit to Sen. Bill White for carrying this bill through the Senate and working with us with passion to technically improve the bill.
This bill was the combined work of Republicans, Democrats, House and Senate, and more importantly, reaching a balance between religion, freedom and the government's role to protect vulnerable individuals. This bill provides our law enforcement with the tools they need to protect our vulnerable children.
For those of you who watch, listen or read the news occasionally, I know it creates a dim picture of our society. However, there are so many good things going on in our community that would give you a very different picture of our world if you participated. Just this week some of the events I participated in were: Food Bank distribution, a stormwater project being started in Russellville, Russellville Lions Club barbecue, St. Cecelia in Meta picnic, St Martins Catholic Church picnic, and many more. All of these were done with volunteer work. People do care and while they may not be marching on Washington, they have an impact every day they are volunteering.
I also had the opportunity to welcome Kevin Wilson as vice president of advancement, athletics and campus recreation for Lincoln University. He comes with the same principles of family, hard work and common sense for which Cole County is known. More importantly, interim president John Moseley is certainly stepping forward to make Lincoln University a larger and integral part of Central Missouri and the State.
As always, your input is vital to my ability to represent you effectively. Please call and email with your questions, thoughts and concerns.
State Rep. Rudy Veit, R-Jefferson City, represents Missouri's 59th District and shares his perspective on statehouse issues twice a month.