Mo. lawmakers look to increase cooperation between state, church

Thursday, February 22, 2007

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Some state lawmakers want to encourage the government to team more often with religious groups in providing social services.

The Senate gave initial approval Thursday to legislation requiring the Department of Social Services to designate regional liaisons to faith-based organizations that could help people in need of state assistance.

Sponsoring Sen. Rob Mayer, R-Dexter, said his goal is to make religious groups aware they can participate in state programs, such as by providing transportation for low-income people to go to the doctor's office.

"We've had so many years of opposition to their involvement in any kind of assistance or ties to government, I think a lot of them just shy away from it," Mayer said.

But Sen. Joan Bray, D-St. Louis, said the legislation may cross the line of separation between church and state.

"I don't see any reason to spend state resources to seek out religious organizations," Bray said.

The bill received first-round approval by voice vote. It needs another Senate vote to move to the House.

Religious bill is SB46.

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