To continue the discussion on separation of church and state, Missourians have passed Amendment 2, which gives civilians the right to pray in public and requires schools to display the Bill of Rights. Among those provisions, the amendment also calls for the following (emphasis mine):
• 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.
The Constitution of the United States already protects citizens’ rights concerning the first two provisions. However, the third and fourth provisions will undoubtedly prove to be challenging. The second provision, as I see it, contradicts the third and fourth. Depending on how they are interpreted, I have no trouble believing that legislators will use this amendment against any citizen who challenges prayer before government-sponsored events. (The fifth provision could be used as a get-out-of-science-class-free card.)
Opponents are already gearing up to overturn the amendment:
“This was misleading in its presentation and possibly unconstitutional in its application, so now we’re headed for the courts,” said Karen Aroesty of the Anti-Defamation League of Missouri and Southern Illinois. “We’ll let the next branch of the democratic process do its part, and I suspect a case will be on file pretty soon.”
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the full language of the amendment was left off the ballot, which may have changed the way some Missourians voted.
Presentation of religious beliefs in public are already protected by the federal Constitution. This legislation is unnecessary and was a waste of Missouri voters’ time. I can’t help but suspect that this amendment was drafted as a way to promote Judeo-Christian ideals in Missouri, and those who attempt to use this amendment to protect other religious beliefs will not be well-received.