In a new twist, Missouri residents went to the polls to make sure that their state constitution protects their right to religious freedom. ¬†¬†Of course, the U.S. Constitution did the reverse‚ÄĒit stated the right to religious freedom in the negative, i.e., that the U.S. Government could not do anything to abridge people‚Äôs religious freedom.¬† The Missouri amendment, in contrast, makes the local government affirmatively responsible for protecting Missourians‚Äô right to religious freedom.¬† Specifically, the amendment, Amendment 2, states that a Missourian‚Äôs right to express his religious beliefs cannot be infringed.¬† It protects voluntary school prayer and requires public schools to display a copy of the Bill of Rights.¬† Constituents voted by a 5-1 margin to pass the amendment.¬† The amendment is popularly called the ‚ÄúRight to Pray‚ÄĚ amendment.
The president of the Missouri Family Network, Kerry Messer, believes that Missourians are finally reacting to the Supreme Court‚Äôs ruling against mandatory school prayer which was issued over fifty years ago. ¬†¬†Not surprisingly groups in support of the separation of Church and State contend that the amendment promotes unconstitutional conduct.¬† They predict that the amendment will result in a lot of future litigation.¬† The amendment is set to go into effect in thirty days.¬† The immediate impact of the amendment remains unclear.
The new amendment adds new sections to the state constitution regarding religious issues.¬† The amendment not only protects voluntary prayer in school.¬† It also ensures the right to pray, either individually or in groups both in private and public places as long as the prayer does not disturb the peace or disrupt a meeting; prohibits the state from coercing religious activity; protects the right to pray on government property; protects the right of legislative bodies to sponsor prayers and invocations; and states that students do not have to take part in assignments or presentations that violate their religious beliefs.
Many fear that the last provision, especially, could soon be the focus of litigation.¬† They foresee students foregoing science classes or assignments when they disagree about teachings regarding Evolution. Supporters of the amendment claim that such fears are overblown.