Unnecessary Missouri Law Allows for Government Endorsement of Religion

A couple of weeks ago, Missourians passed Amendment 2, which was unnecessary legislation protecting the right to private prayer (which no one has ever had problems with)… and allowing students to use the excuse “It violates my religious beliefs” when they don’t want to learn something.

That’s not necessarily the bill’s intention, but it’s now allowed.

On NPR, guest host Jacki Lyden spoke with the bill’s sponsor State Rep. Mike McGhee and the Anti-Defamation League’s Karen Aroesty, who fought against it:

As you listen, pay attention to the McGhee’s examples of what this bill would protect. He has no idea what the difference is between private prayer (which everyone supports) and government endorsement of it (which we don’t).

He argues that Christian children have been stopped from praying privately — if that’s true, the teachers need to be educated and reprimanded. No liberal group is trying to take away that right.

McGhee also says a City Council should be allowed to say a formal prayer to Jesus Christ at the start of meetings. He’s completely wrong. Listen to him (at the 5:25 mark) disingenuously pretend like he would support them if they wanted to pray to Buddha, too. That’s easy to say when you know the majority of city council representatives are Christians and that’s not changing anytime soon.

Aroesty shows incredible patience at McGhee’s boneheaded remarks. She brings up the academic issue — how students could now opt out of taking, say, a health class because they have to learn something (e.g. homosexuality isn’t abnormal) they don’t like. McGhee pretends like this isn’t an issue and avoids the fact that it’s now plausible.

The ACLU has already filed a lawsuit against this bill. Let’s hope they win. This law was never needed in the first place and its passing only strengthens Christian privilege in the state.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Tainda

    It also strengthens Christians thinking they are allowed to bash and humiliate anyone who isn’t one of them.  I found out FAST not to say I voted against this amendment.  Mainly because if I have to hear one more Christian say how they are oppressed, I may just throw up right then and there.

    The religious fervor in this state is growing so fast I can feel it.  It’s like watching a fog rolling in.  Technically it IS a fog rolling in.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=750428174 Paddy Reddin

      Isn’t that what they want?  Play the victim, be aggressive and try to silence any dissenters so they can pretend America is a christian country for a christian people?

      It’s hard to stand up and be counted, especially of you go against the grain.  But they need to be reminded America is a secular country “with liberty and justice for all”, or at least it’s supposed to be.

      • Guest

        It’s also free exercise of religion, and many religious individuals say that free exercise has been compromised, at least in the public domain.  Telling someone they can only pray silently in a school, or a board, or in any public place, is, admit it, compromising their free exercise.  You may say it’s justified or right or whatever, but it is compromising the free exercise.  Having done that, we now have laws like this, which I don’t think is a good thing, but does seem to be the reaction against some overly zealous individuals who have ridden the wave of Separation of Church and state for their own goals (I’m thinking Barry Lynn here, with his idea that religion and state can mix as long as your religion agrees with him). 

        • PaulaGVakaYukimi

          It hasn’t been compromised and the few fringe cases, the law is with them and they can file a complain or a lawsuit.

    • Guest

      Your statement doesn’t match your experience.  You say this will allow Christians to bash and humiliate anyone who isn’t one of them.  OK, an example of that since this passed would have worked.  Instead, you turn around and say that if you have to listen to them say they are oppressed one more time, you will throw up right then and there.  Nope.  Not seeing any bashing.  In fact, seeing someone who appears mighty intolerant of people with the views this law is apparently trying to protect.  Instead of simply saying, in so many words, ‘boy I can’t stand these people’, saying ‘this is an example of the bashing and humiliation I’m talking about’ would have worked better.

      • Tainda

        First of all, you don’t know my experiences.

        Secondly, I have no doubt in my mind that I dislike christian views and in my mind say a lot of things but I respect people enough to keep my thoughts to myself.  

        Also, if you think saying I will throw up is bashing, you have led a sheltered and lucky life.

        • Guest

          Based on your comment, I didn’t see any examples of what you said.  You say ‘you found out fast not to say you voted against’, but gave no examples of what you had encountered.  You said you would throw up if you hear any more Christians saying they were oppressed.  That’s about it.  I didn’t say you were bashing by doing so.  I merely pointed out that what you were saying wasn’t matching up with what you were saying.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=750428174 Paddy Reddin

    @ 7:40 onward he seems to be insinuating a teacher would assign sex as homework,  “Why don’t this week end you all..er..this class needs to have a homosexual encounter”?

    This raises 2 questions.
    1. Would he be ok if the teacher assigned heterosexual encounters as homework?
    2. What sort of schools are there in his district?  I was never assigned anything like that.

    Part of me fears for the future of America, especially when theocrats are calling for a return to a past they have only recently rewritten to their own standards.  Though, part of me hopes this is the death throws of the christian right and that these power grabs are a sign of a loosening grip.

    • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

      OK, I admit I didn’t listen to the segment before I posted my comment.  I see now that this was a mistake, because there was unsuspected craziness lurking there and I’ve now failed to comment on it.  I will go listen, now.  

  • Jw0414

    I fear for my State, it’s getting scary.

  • Jw0414

    The middle and the left in Missouri have been asleep at the wheel and must become proactive to defend against the religious extremits.

    • Tainda

      In my area it’s almost impossible to even find a middle lol  Even working in Kansas City there are WAY too many thumpers

  • Margaret Whitestone

     But the First Amendment means Christians have the right to never be exposed to differing points of view, and never have their beliefs challenged….or so I’ve been told numerous times by Christians. 

  • A3Kr0n

    McGhee said he supposed the people of Franklin county prayed to Jesus because that’s who they wanted to hear them. Did he respond? If so, what did he say? You know, Jesus.
    Onward through the rest of this mind-numbing interview…

  • Octoberfurst

     I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again–stupidity should be painful!  Rep McGhee is a moron of the first order.  He comes up with all these supposed examples of Christian students being persecuted: not being allowed to read a Bible in study hall, not being allowed to say a silent prayer before eating their  lunch, not being allowed to sing a Christian song on the playground, etc. I think it is all BS.  Over the years I have heard these “horror” stories from Christians and 9 times out of 10 they turn out not to be true.
    Kids DO have the right to do all those things and IF a teacher did try to stop them then that teacher is an idiot & should be repremanded.  But we don’t need new laws to “protect” these kids. The Constitution already covers it.
      My jaw dropped when McGhee–in defending a students right not to be forced to do anything that violated their beliefs—-stated  “What if they are studying to be social workers and the teacher is discussing homosexuality and orders the students to have a homosexual encounter?”   WHAT???? Who would do that? There is no teacher on earth that would order his/her students to have any sexual encounter as a part of class study. How dumb is this guy? People actually voted this cretin into office?
      Of course he also said that he would welcome a Muslim prayer or a Buddhist pray at meetings. Uh-huh. Right. I personally think hell would freeze over before he allowed that to happen.  He’s just another lying idiotic fundie. (Oh and as a side note for Mr McGhee, Buddhist don’t pray to Buddha. Buddha is not considered a god. Of course I wouldn’t expect anyone as dumb as he is to know that.)
       

    • Stefanh58

      Actually alot of Buddhists do pray to Buddha. In Thailand Buddhism is pretty theist. My gf prays to Buddha every night

  • montrealprotest

    5000 whining atheists vs the Great Prophet

    clubconspiracy.com/forum/showthread.php?p=81388

  • cipher

    I say it all the time – this is a nation of morons and psychopaths.

    America is unsalvageable.

  • Guest

    While I agree with the overall post, there are a couple things.  Because there is a tremendous amount of ignorance – and exploitation – of this issue on both sides, more education is needed, rather than more laws.  With that said, this statement:

    “He’s completely wrong. Listen to him (at the 5:25 mark) disingenuously pretend like he would support them if they wanted to pray to Buddha, too.”

    Was a loser.  This is basically saying that he is a liar, and so his argument is bogus.  Well, it’s only bogus if he’s a liar, and it has yet to be proven that he is lying in this case.  In fact, taking him at his word, he represents a growing number of the religious side who have realized they had best open up to other faiths.  Therefore, I have no problem believing that he means it when he says he would be open to a prayer to Buddha. 

    Many are coming to that position.  In fact, it is a compelling argument: would the better trend be toward opening the public domain to expressions and exercise of all beliefs (or non-beliefs) rather than simply say it isn’t allowed here, here, or over there?  One does seem to promote a tolerant and open dialogue, the other seems to feed into this modern notion that freedom ends where it offends me, which obviously can lead to certain abuses.

    • http://profile.yahoo.com/47IDX2QAR6VU6ZAILFU6I23ACQ Joseph

      I disagree: being “disingenuous” (as Hemant stated) is not the same as calling someone a liar.  The only way to prove that McGhee is a “liar” would be if there was an opportunity for a Muslim or Buddhist to actually lead a prayer, and then for McGhee to deny them that opportunity.  But that will never happen, and McGhee knows it… so he can pretty much claim anything he wants on the matter with the confidence that it will never be have to be tested.  And that’s disingenuous. I may be a cynic, but I think for you to “take him at his word” — or any other fundie who makes such a claim — displays the kind of gullibility that these people depend upon to fulfill their agenda. 

      • Guest

        I think it’s jumping the gun. It’s basing an argument on something then that you admit can’t be shown.  To say he is disingenuous is to assume he’s lying which, as you say, can’t be proven.  Best to go another direction in the argument.

        • The Captain

          To form the opinion that he is being “disingenuous” does not require a set of public facts to the contrary. As humans we form opinions based on many things not directly in support of that opinion, sometimes we are wrong, but many, many times we are correct. That’s why we do it. So just as it’s appropriate for someone to walk away from a car salesman because they seem “shady” or “disingenuous” so it is to form that opinion of an elected official like McGhee. 

          McGhees’ pastor Terry Hodges Says McGhee consulted with him on crafting this law, and he also makes no bones about the fact that it’s aimed to “level the playing field.” for christians (which he then says have always had “home field advantage” until recently), not for “all faiths” as McGhee is pretending. This is not direct proof that he is being “disingenuous” but just like a car salesman who won’t let you look under he hood, I’d be stupid if I didn’t think he isn’t.

    • RobertoTheChi

      Perhaps you would be interested in this bridge I have for sale…

    • Jason Loveless

      The public domain is already open to expressions of all beliefs; that’s what’s so strange about all this. No individual has ever been prohibited from praying except where it would disrupt the proceedings — students may not pray aloud during lessons, etc. Since I can’t imagine you’re actually in favor of allowing any crackpot thing any person might call a religious expression at any time, I must conclude that I don’t understand what you’re complaining about. 

  • Lee Miller

    Y’all just a bunch of godless heathens up there in Chicago or wherever yore from.  The Lord God clearly said in His Holy Word that you gotta invoke the name of the Lord Jesus whenever you have a meetin’.  Otherwise it just ain’t in His will.  Y’all need to go back and read yer Bible.  Crazy how you athaists jes make stuff up.

  • http://www.facebook.com/don.gwinn Don Gwinn

    Weird.  Illinois doesn’t have this constitutional protection for a right to pray (our constitution is ridiculous in several ways, but they are our very own unique foolishnesses) and yet, somehow, my students manage to pray when they feel the need.  I used to accommodate a student who had to leave classes to pray a couple of times a day.  It was no big deal, because he never needed me to lead the class in prayer; he was somehow able to say his own prayer and then come back and get to work.
    Maybe that sort of rugged individual prayer should be taught in religious institutions.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X