Quick Note on Missouri’s ‘Right-to-Pray’ Amendment

Quick Note on Missouri’s ‘Right-to-Pray’ Amendment August 8, 2012

In elections held yesterday, Missouri overwhelmingly passed a state constitutional amendment that claims to affirm their religious rights, reinforces a student’s “right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools,” and forces schools to post the Bill of Rights in schools. However, critics of the amendment pointed out that the ballot language doesn’t tell the whole story.


The ballot did not mention language in the amendment allowing students to refuse to participate in school assignments that violate religious beliefs, or ensuring elected officials the right to pray on government property. “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.”

Simon Brown at Americans United says the amendment “opens the door for coercive prayer and proselytizing in public schools, allows students to skip homework if it offends their religious beliefs and infringes on the religious liberty rights of prisoners.” Brown points out that supporters see this as a way to roll back judicial decisions prohibiting school-led prayers.

measure supporters don’t see it that way. They think they’re somehow “undoing” the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision barring government-mandated prayer. “Religious liberty is pretty important to [Missourians] and a high priority,” Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network, said, according to the Kansas City Star. “The public feels like the Supreme Court took this away from them over 50 years ago [with a ruling against mandatory school prayer].”

My Patheos Pagan Portal compatriot  Eric Scott, himself a Missourian, wrote a column about this amendment back in June where he assessed the changes and felt it is an attempt privilege the majority faith (Christianity) and the expense of minority faiths.

“Certainly this amendment would not lead to more open and equal protection of all religions. That protection is already guaranteed under the current wording, “Almighty God” aside. These new, specific tests of religious protection (i.e., the “freedom” to have one religion represent the beliefs of the entire state’s citizens, the “freedom” for schools to abdicate responsibility for teaching anything that might conflict with a student’s beliefs, and the stated lack of freedom for prisoners) demonstrate that this bill has nothing to do with real religious freedom. It is just an attempt to enshrine certain pet issues of conservative Christianity into Missouri’s Constitution under the guise of protecting religious expression.

I’ve been talking about religious freedom on this blog a lot lately, or should I say “religious freedom,” because most of the recent initiatives I’ve seen seem mostly to be attempts to ensure free reign for the majority at the expense of everyone else’s freedom.

“The problem with these attempts to codify “religious freedom” into law is that almost always benefits the majority at the expense of the minority. I have seen time and time again, in a number of different circumstances, when laws and policies that are supposed to be viewpoint neutral end up empowering one expression of faith in the public square. That’s bad when it involves adults struggling over the issue, but it becomes pernicious when we use our children as proxies in a fight over the nature of religious freedom and secularism within our country. It shows just how desperate and anxious sections of our  Christian majority have become.”

What this amendment will create are a lot of lawsuits, and expenses for the state of Missouri. It will, in all likelihood, be struck down once it’s appealed to the federal level. Until then, proponents of the new law will pretend they struck a blow against secularism, when all they’ve done is waste time and money in a crusade to roll back the clock on the post-Christian pluralistic reality of our society today.

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30 responses to “Quick Note on Missouri’s ‘Right-to-Pray’ Amendment”

  1. Well, I’ll never visit a medical professional with a degree from Missouri ever again. Sounds suicidal to see a practitioner who might very well have a poster next to their MO medical degree which reads: “Everything I learned about the practice of Medicine I learned from the Bible.” Looks like they’re joining with Kentucky and Louisiana and a few other states in trying to turn the U.S.A. into a fifth-rate country within a single generation.

  2. Once again the majority religion deceitfully cloaks itself in the language of free exercise to preserve its privilege.

  3. Jason, what’s with the new comment format? I had to do some farting around with the Disqus website and I’m not sure I’m getting comments by email and more. 🙁

  4. Although wouldn’t it be fun if the pagan students and Muslim students and Buddhist students and Quaker students and Jewish students and UU students, etc, began having their prayers in school?? Awesome!

  5. Maybe some students can also pray The Agnostic’s Prayer from Zelazny’s “Creatures of Light and Darkness”

    Insofar as I may be heard by anything, which may or may not care what I say, I ask, if it matters, that you be forgiven for anything you may have done or failed to do which requires forgiveness. Conversely, if not forgiveness but something else may be required to insure any possible benefit for which you may be eligible after the destruction of your body, I ask that this, whatever it may be, be granted or withheld, as the case may be, in such a manner as to insure your receiving said benefit. I ask this in my capacity as your elected intermediary between yourself and that which may not be yourself, but which may have an interest in the matter of your receiving as much as it is possible for you to receive of this thing, and which may in some way be influenced by this ceremony. Amen.

  6. Wouldn’t happen. Just like I’m sure any non-Christian student who tried to get out of doing their homework for it being against “their religious beliefs” would be penalized.

    If this were my high school, the students would be using this excuse as much as possible to get out of doing homework.

  7. Evolve or die, stagnation breeds obsolescence!

    Edit: Note, this doesn’t mean I like the changes. Although a non-Disqus member being able to edit their own posts is nice.

  8. Dear Disqus, please go back to the old format and quit trying to”help” us. Thank you.

  9. But it really won’t work that way here in Missouri. Pagan children have been told they will burn in hell by teachers. Pagan workers have lost jobs. This was before this. Now, as a Pagan, must we join in Christian prayer with our bosses in order to keep our jobs? This is horrific for anyone who is not a Christian. Recent laws in this part of the country now allows companies to fire you for being gay or “against their religious views”. We are outnumbered.

  10. That is an utterly ridiculous assertion. I am very upset about this amendment in my state, but you are being overdramatic and insulting to the residents of Missouri. If you do your research on this, you will find that the ballot measure was misleadingly worded on the ballots. In brief, the people of Missouri were duped. Rest assured it will be struck down quite quickly by the courts.
    Also, this law doesn’t retroactively apply to all people who have ever studied in Missouri…

  11. Evidently this “evolution” means I will no longer get my own comments copied by email. Nice going, Darwin.

  12. Aye , our Christian friends are at it again . Hope the courts kill this one too, we’ll see.Kilm

  13. …not to mention that we’re talking about a law signed literally yesterday. It’s not like this is affecting anyone getting an MD for years.

  14. “That’s bad when it involves adults struggling over the issue, but it
    becomes pernicious when we use our children as proxies in a fight over
    the nature of religious freedom and secularism within our country.”

    Perhaps nobody has noticed, but it should prove difficult to curtail bullying in schools with the example being set for children by their (so-called) “role models.”

  15. Does anyone else see the Irony of forced State-Mandated Christian Prayer that goes against ones religious beliefs?

  16. I noticed this too. I really like seeing who “liked” comments. I also don’t care for the seemingly random old comments highlighted at the bottom.

  17. I’m not getting other people’s comments via email either. This “improvement” sux. Please restore a genuine communication system!

  18. They were duped by their own stupidity. They already had the freedoms this law purported to reinforce, thanks to the Constitution. The law was see-through, and anyone who thought about it realized what it was doing. Either they were okay with it or they just didn’t think.

  19. “New” indeed. It looks like the designs they used in the early 90s. About as readable as 9-point telephone book type after a case of snow blindness! If they really want to go old school, maybe their next “new” design can simulate the pre-Windows Dos environment of the old days. Glaring green CRT type on a black background with funny prompts all over the place!

  20. Recent laws in this part of the country now allows companies to fire you for being gay”

    That’s not at all accurate. Recent laws, in some locales, prevent companies from discriminating against people for being gay. It still is and always has been legal on the federal level, and states only started passing laws preventing it in 1977.

  21. Well, there have been studies that have shown that Green on Black is considered to be an easier read on the eyes, compared to Black on White…

    Although now I’m imagining a Pagan Strongbad Email. I’m not sure how I feel about that.

  22. I’m trying to decide now whose posts here I will start hearing in Strong Bad’s voice.

  23. Of course, this applies only to those who exercise the “strength” of their faith…even if it means it is at the expense of those who do not share the aforementioned views of faith and prayer, as noted above.

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