The Thrice-Enshrined Right to Pray

Not satisfied with having freedom of religious expression safeguarded in both the state Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution, the state of Missouri passed an amendment to their constitution to ensure that each and every citizen really, really, really had the right to pray in public.

Well, that’s what the ballot measure said (yanked from BallotPedia):

The official ballot title of the measure read:[4]

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.

According to the Missouri Secretary of State‘s website, the official ballot language read:[5]

A “yes” vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to provide that neither the state nor political subdivisions shall establish any official religion. The amendment further provides that a citizen’s right to express their religious beliefs regardless of their religion shall not be infringed and that the right to worship includes prayer in private or public settings, on government premises, on public property, and in all public schools. The amendment also requires public schools to display the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.

A “no” vote will not change the current constitutional provisions protecting freedom of religion.

On the surface, this sounds like a slam dunk; a no-brainer that everyone could get behind, especially since these rights are already granted in the Constitution.  Wait, then why is this even on the ballot?

Yeah, here are the parts that didn’t make the cut.  This is what we call the lie of omission, and it’s a big one:

… that students may express their beliefs about religion in written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work; that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs …

In other words, this amendment had absolutely nothing to do with “repudiating religious intolerance”.  It was an underhanded way to constitutionally protect the rights of Christians to keep their children from having to learn about anything that could make them question the literal interpretation of the bible.

I also wonder when they say this:

… neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion, nor shall a citizen’s right to pray or express his or her religious beliefs be infringed; that the state shall not coerce any person to participate in any prayer or other religious activity, but shall ensure that any person shall have the right to pray individually or corporately in a private or public setting so long as such prayer does not result in disturbance of the peace or disruption of a public meeting or assembly;

… whether that applies to Muslims.  I honestly don’t know the answer to that.  I suspect it does on paper, but when you have a bunch of them collectively bowing toward Mecca, you might see exactly what sort of religious tolerance is really being protected by this law, and what would suddenly be considered a “disturbance of the peace” or “disruption”.  Some folks get awfully uncomfortable seeing people of other religions exercising the very same freedoms they have.

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This entry was posted in Freedom from Religion, Profiles in Fundamentalism, Religion and Public Life, Religion in the News, Science Marches On and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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