Missouri Rep. Bill Lant had heard enough.
Monday, the Republican from Pineville was taking testimony on bills making it harder to prove discrimination in the state.
Businesses supported the changes because they worry about too many discrimination lawsuits. Those who say they have been victims of discrimination told Lant’s committee the measure would embolden workplace bigots.
Then Rod Chapel, president of the Missouri chapter of the NAACP, began to testify. He denounced the measures as a potential return to Jim Crow, the infamous system of discriminatory law embedded in state statutes decades ago.
Lant cut off Chapel’s testimony. “He’s not speaking on the subject,” the representative explained unhelpfully. He threatened to cancel the hearing if Chapel continued.
The decision provoked predictable and justifiable outrage among Democrats. Barring an African-American who tried to testify on a discrimination bill, they said, was unacceptable.
They’re right. And, for the record, Chapel was speaking on the subject.
Some Republicans quietly agreed, and by Wednesday, Lant had committed to another hearing, although details are sketchy. We assume Chapel will be heard.
Sadly, Lant’s misadventure wasn’t the only time a Missouri lawmaker fumbled away the rhetorical football during the past couple of weeks.
The Pitch reported Monday that Missouri Rep. Warren Love of Osceola had posted a column on his Facebook page calling Abraham Lincoln a “tyrant.” Love’s defense? The lawmaker said he wasn’t necessarily endorsing the column but thought the point should be made.
“I just know my history better than most people,” Love told the newspaper.
For the record, Abraham Lincoln wasn’t a tyrant. To suggest otherwise is foolishness. To post a column suggesting otherwise is equally foolish.
And cutting off Chapel’s testimony was wrong. It suggested Lant didn’t want to hear challenges to his views on discrimination and its history in Missouri. Democrats were justified in criticizing the decision.
Missouri House Speaker Todd Richardson told reporters Wednesday that Chapel is welcome to present his view to lawmakers. Let’s hope state Reps. Lant and Love were taking notes.