Missouri voters to decide on religious-freedom amendment
(The Associated Press, August 3, 2012)
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri voters will be faced with a question of religious freedom on Aug. 7, as a proposed state constitutional amendment would specifically permit prayer in public and allow students to avoid assignments that violate their religious beliefs.
The measure on the statewide ballot says people have the right to pray in public or private as long as they do not disturb the peace, and it gives a specific imprimatur for prayer before government meetings. In addition, the proposal states students can express their beliefs and cannot be compelled to participate in school assignments or educational presentations that violate their religion. Missouri public schools also would be required to post the text of the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.
State lawmakers have debated such amendments for years, and the most recent proposal was placed on the August ballot after widely clearing the House and the Senate last year.
State Rep. Mike McGhee, the Odessa Republican who sponsored the measure, said the amendment is intended as a reminder that prayer is a right.
“We’re not changing anything except the way people are thinking and getting that message out to the schools, school administrators and the teachers and letting people know, ‘You want to pray? Go ahead, it’s OK,’ ” said McGhee. He added that it also would protect students and could be a model for other states.
Voters seem inclined to support the proposal. According to a recent poll for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV of 625 registered voters, 82% supported the prayer amendment and 14% opposed it.
The Missouri Constitution currently says: “All men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; that no human authority can control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” It also states that people cannot be declared ineligible for public office or kept from testifying or serving on a jury based upon their religious beliefs.
Opponents contend the measure’s proposed changes could be confusing and are likely to spark court cases to determine what the revisions mean and how they should be applied.
Tony Rothert, the legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Eastern Missouri, said the prayer measure might give some government officials a mistaken impression about what is allowed. He said it also could force schools to evaluate what constitutes a legitimate complaint about an assignment running afoul of religious beliefs.
“It will open the door to a lot of litigation, especially if students learn about their rights,” Rothert said. “Schools are used to controlling the curriculum and having a wide discretion in controlling the curriculum.”
The ACLU has argued the ballot summary approved by lawmakers is misleading because it fails to mention the potential for students to refuse homework and a provision that says prisoners’ religious rights are limited to federal law. A legal challenge over the summary was rejected earlier this year.
The measure’s supporters include several religious and conservative organizations. Four Roman Catholic bishops in Missouri issued a joint statement urging Catholics to support the measure.
“Increasingly, it seems, religious values are becoming marginalized in society,” the bishops wrote. “People of faith need assurance that they remain free to exercise and express their religious beliefs in public, provided just order be observed, without threat of external pressure to conform to changing societal ‘norms.’ ”
Another supporter, the Missouri Family Policy Council, says the measure gives prayer the same protections as other types of speech.
Although opposition has been relatively muted, the Missouri Libertarian Party approved a resolution objecting to the constitutional amendment, and other organizations formed the Missouri Coalition to Keep Politics Out of Religion.
Karen Aroesty, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, says faith already plays a prominent role in society and that the state and U.S. constitutions protect religious rights. She says the proposed changes have the capacity to cause problems for religious minorities in Missouri.
“The amendment is redundant. Missouri law and constitutional law already protect from the concerns that appear to be raised by the folks who support it,” Aroesty said. “The language is vague and ambiguous. It’s going to result in a fair amount of litigation.”
...no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.
Of course the major religion thrives at being persecuted even though they tend to be the persecutors.
When you [Americans] landed on the moon, that was the point when God should have come up and said hello. Because if you invent some creatures and you put them on the blue one and they make it to the grey one, then you ******* turn up and say, ‘Well done.’ It’s just a polite thing to do.
Missouri voters will vote on this today (August 7).
CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT NO. 2
Proposed by the 96th General Assembly
(First Regular Session) HJR 2
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:
That the right of Missouri citizens to express their religious
beliefs shall not be infringed;
That school children have the right to pray and acknowledge
God voluntarily in their schools; and
That all public schools shall display the Bill of Rights of the
United States Constitution.
But you, when you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father which is in secret; and your Father which sees in secret shall reward you openly.
‘Right to pray’ wins easily in Missouri
(By DAVE HELLING, The Kansas City Star, August 8, 2012)
Read more here: http://www.kansas.com/2012/08/07/2440619/right-to-pray-passing-easily-in.html#storylink=cpy
Missouri voters Tuesday overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment that supporters said will protect religious freedom.
The measure — Amendment 2 — says Missourians’ right to express religious beliefs can’t be infringed. It protects voluntary prayer in schools and requires public schools to display a copy of the Bill of Rights.
With all but two precincts statewide counted, 779,628 voted yes on the measure and 162,404 voted no, roughly a 5-1 margin.
Many supporters referred to the measure as the “Right to Pray” amendment.
Missouri voters believe “religious liberty is pretty important to them and a high priority,” said Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network, as the votes were counted. “The public feels like the Supreme Court took this away from them over 50 years ago” with a ruling against mandatory school prayer.
Alex Luchenitser of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, a Washington D.C.-based group opposing the amendment, said he was disappointed but not surprised at the vote.
“This amendment promotes unconstitutional conduct,” he said. “It’s going to result in a whole lot of litigation.”Any immediate impact of the amendment, which takes effect in 30 days, is still unclear.
The new amendment broadly expands the protections in the state’s constitution by adding new sections on religious issues.
In addition to protecting voluntary prayer in school, the amendment:
• Ensures the right to pray individually or in groups in private or public places, as long as the prayer does not disturb the peace or disrupt a meeting
• Prohibits the state from coercing religious activity.
• Protects the right to pray on government property.
• Protects the right of legislative bodies to sponsor prayers and invocations.
• Says students need not take part in assignments or presentations that violate their religious beliefs.
That last provision may soon become the subject of litigation, some critics warned. They said it could lead to students skipping science classes or assignments when they disagree with teaching about the origins of man.
Supporters said those fears are overblown.