Two weeks after Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chapel was silenced by a House Republican committee chairman on bills he believes are discriminatory, he stood at the Missouri Capitol to decry the “hyped-up Jim Crow” measures that are “fundamentally flawed.”
A day after after he wasn’t allowed to speak at the Feb. 13 hearing, Chapel said House Speaker Todd Richardson, R-Poplar Bluff, told him the chamber was not at its best and assured Chapel he'd be given the opportunity to share his complete testimony. But no hearing has been scheduled yet.
That didn’t stop Chapel from taking the opportunity at a news conference Tuesday to address four bills (House Bill 550, House Bill 552, House Bill 676 and Senate Bill 43) that together would make employees prove that the main factor in their termination was based on discrimination. Under current law, discrimination only needs to have been a contributing factor.
Supporters claim the measures will bring Missouri up to federal standards.
Opponents, Chapel included, argue it will only expand discrimination. He was joined Tuesday by several organizations, including Empower Missouri, Missouri Faith Voices, PROMO, Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union, as well as state Sen. Jill Schupp of St. Louis County and state Reps. Peter Merideth and Bruce Franks, both of St. Louis.
Jeanette Mott Oxford, Empower Missouri's executive director, called the idea that the measures are pro-business a lie.
“For Missouri to have a strong business climate, we actually need to be against discrimination,” Oxford said. “The way to prevent lawsuits against discrimination is to stop discriminating.”
Chapel called the interruption weeks ago by Rep. Bill Lant, R-Newton, “embarrassing.” Some have said it was discriminatory because of Chapel’s race; the only woman at that hearing, Rep. Gina Mitten, D-St. Louis, also was silenced after attempting to ask Chapel a question.
Chapel also questioned the democratic process if “some people can be mistreated [and] some people can be silenced.” He said he hasn’t been contacted by Lant, but has spoken with Gov. Eric Greitens, who Chapel felt expressed genuine remorse for the incident.
The House bills haven’t made it past their first committee hearing. Senators discussed SB 43 until 9:30 p.m., Monday, before the bill sponsor placed it on the informal calendar, which could delay it possibly indefinitely.
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