Thursday, August 9, 2012

Religious liberty in the "Show Me" state

The citizens of Missouri decided this week to reinforce in their state constitution an interpretation of religious liberty which, until recently, would have been taken for granted. "Missouri 'Right to Pray' amendment passes with large majority":
.... About 83 percent of voters, almost 780,000 people, favored the measure while 17 percent were opposed.

Amendment 2 says that government will not impose religion on Missouri residents or force any citizen to participate in religious activity. It also secures the right of individual or corporate prayer in public or private so long as the prayer does not disturb the peace or disrupt public meetings.

It guarantees elected officials the right to pray on government premises and public property.

The amendment allows students to express their religious beliefs in schoolwork, to opt out of school requirements that conflict with those beliefs, and to exercise their beliefs in private, voluntary and non-disruptive ways. ....
The amendment was, of course, opposed by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State and a spokesman for the Anti-Defamation League of Missouri and Southern Illinois said that the amendment is "“possibly unconstitutional in its application, so now we’re headed for the courts.” They really do seem committed to restricting religious liberty in the public sphere. Will the federal courts find this amendment to Missouri's constitution consistent with the First Amendment?

The amendment [pdf].

From Christianity Today
.... Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have questioned how disturbance or disruption would later be defined. What if one person's "right to pray" intrudes on another's right to abstain from prayer, or to pray according to the tenets of his or her own faith? ....
I don't think I will ever understand how hearing a prayer forces anyone to pray any more than hearing the President speak can force me to be a liberal.

Missouri 'Right to Pray' amendment passes with large majority :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)