Friday, August 10, 2012
Missouri Prayer Amendment Passes, But Critics Fear Unnecessary Lawsuits And Minority Exclusion
The Missouri prayer amendment , widely known as the "right to pray" amendment passed on Tuesday, asserting citizens have a right to pray in public and in schools.
The prayer amendment, formally called Amendment 2, had widespread support throughout the state. It passed with 83 percent of the vote, with only two precincts still outstanding, ABC News reported Wednesday morning.
Republican state Rep. Mike McGhee introduced the measure. The General Assembly voted on a ballot that read:
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
McGhee and supporters think the prayer amendment is necessary in order to match Missouri's state constitution to the U.S. Constitution, Fox News reports. They also say they hope it will protect Christianity in the state, which they believe is under attack.
McGhee recounted an incident to Fox News in which a teacher told a kindergarten student singing “Jesus Loves Me” to change the verse to “mommy loves me.”
Missouri voters reportedly believe religious liberty is pretty important to them and a high priority,” Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network, told the Kansas City Star. “The public feels like the Supreme Court took this away from them over 50 years ago” by ruling against mandatory school prayer.
However, some critics say Missouri's prayer amendment is unnecessary and could spawn frivolous lawsuits and minority exclusion.
Tim Townsend, of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, previously explained that opponents have emphasized that such religious protections are already protected under the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution. They did not want the Missouri prayer amendment passed for fear "it will open the door to all manner of unintended and costly consequences including endless taxpayer-funded lawsuits."
The Islamic Foundation of St. Louis worries the bill could send a message of exclusion to religious minorities.
Others were concerned the amendment could change school curriculum in Missouri, The Kansas City Star reports. It could have an impact on how topics such as the age of the earth, climate change and evolution are taught in schools.
Messer, on the other hand, says he doesn't think the amendment will have any effect on school lessons.
"Will somebody try to opt out of a class over something like evolution? Probably so," he told The Kansas City Star. "But I don't see the courts applying the amendment that way at all. This is only about religious liberty. If a Christian student is told they must kneel and bow east in a mock Islamic prayer to sensitize students to the Muslim community, that student can refuse to participate."