DAVID ROSMAN: Politicians should do homework, read Missouri's constitution

Wednesday, March 16, 2011 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 5:01 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Have you read the Missouri Constitution? No? Not unusual at all, for it seems that a majority of our legislators under the gray dome have not read the state’s constitution either. That’s a shame.

Rep. Mike McGhee, R-Odessa, has proposed a new amendment for the already thick and overburdened state constitution to reaffirm a citizen's right to free expression of religion, particularly on government property. But where is the free expression of religion not allowed? Certainly not in our state House or Senate with the daily opening prayers.

McGee’s HJR 2, the “Religious Freedom in Public Places” bill, was filed, read three times, ran through committees, passed the House and is now in the Senate.

On Jan. 18, Rep. Jay Barnes, R-Jefferson City, introduced HJR 10, the “Educational Freedom” bill which, through another proposed amendment to the state constitution, would remove “the prohibition against state funds being used to support any religion or religious school.”

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution already gives the citizens of this nation the right to practice their religious or non-religious beliefs as they wish, with few restrictions (such as snake handling, self-mutilation and trespassing). The amendment also allows for free expression of ideas, even if others disagree. Case in point: Westboro Baptist Church. What the amendment does not permit is state-sanctioned or supported religion or religious activity.

The Missouri Constitution mirrors the federal amendment. Article I, Section 5 of the state constitution says Missouri residents have the right to personal religious beliefs without government interference. Article I, Sections 8 and 9 talk of Missourians’ right to free speech and assembly.

There are no restrictions from private worship or from having religious meetings on public property, including schools, as long as all groups are treated equally and with respect and those meetings are not sanctioned by the public entity.

So why did the representatives offer these bills? Are these two men constitutionally illiterate? Or are they simply grandstanding to capture the attention and votes of the various Christian conservative movements throughout the state and their districts? As a friend said, “Ya think?”

Grandstanding based on religion has also come to our local elections. Sara R. Dickson is running for one of the three open seats on the Columbia Public Schools’ Board of Education. I must say Dickson is well qualified for the post, with one caveat. Her campaign material does not stress her excellent education or her excellent managerial background. It stresses that she stands for “Christian, conservative values.” Will her religion guide her decisions regarding Columbia schools?

Why am I so irked that these proposals and candidates are relying on "Christian” values for votes? Is it because I am a liberal and a protector of all religion, including atheism, as well as the Constitution? You bet.

These individuals and others who put their religion above all else do not believe they are crossing that fine, but solid, line separating church and state. Yet, they have entwined the two arms of society that our founders, by design, separated. Jesus, in Matthew 22, reminds us that there are two sets of laws, man’s and God’s, and both must be obeyed.

I have a question for the zealots — which Christianity? Catholic? Mormon? Fundamentalist? Baptist? Non-denominationalists?

What about the Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and other non-Christian and non-deist minority religions represented in our great country? How about agnostics and atheists?

The insanity in Jefferson City must stop now. The entire premise of the American experiment, the Constitution and the rule of law are being threatened by those claiming superiority based on religious beliefs alone. In trying to make this a Christian nation, they are killing American values.

David Rosman is an award-winning editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. You can read more of David’s commentaries at and New York Journal of Books.

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Jimmy Bearfield March 16, 2011 | 12:30 p.m.

The state codified many of the Ten Commandments into law decades ago: Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not commit adultery (yes, you can sue for alienation of affection). Thou shalt not bear false witness.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 16, 2011 | 12:42 p.m.

So then in other theocracies it is legal to kill and steal?

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 16, 2011 | 3:50 p.m.

I agree with you David our elected officials should spend more time reading the Constitution.

(Report Comment)
Jim Jones March 16, 2011 | 4:07 p.m.

David, David, David. You should know by now that the ONLY way to "stop the insanity in Jefferson City" is to ban all politicians from even entering the town.

(Report Comment)
Gregory Brown March 16, 2011 | 7:22 p.m.

I have read with astonishment the goings-on in the current session of the Iowa Assembly. After the pretense of running as fiscal conservatives, a posse of theocrats spent much of the early weeks of the session riding their hobby horses of abortion and Same Sex Marriage, introducing bills that even they knew would never pass even a lenient constitutional review, at either the State or Federal level.

Comments in the DES MOINES REGISTER are encouraging. Self-described lifelong Republicans have condemned the stealth Tea Baggers for wasting time, money and effort, failing to commit to anything that actually addresses Iowans'genuine concerns about jobs, health care and education. Many of these comments show a willingness--and eagerness--to "throw the rascals out".

So far, with a few exceptions, Missouri legislators have not betrayed their constituents to the same degree. But the bills noted in the story show a willingness to ignore actual issues and divert attention from real problems by inserting irrelevant matters into the legislative process.

Look to the North and beware. That's for voters AND the Wise Men of Jeff.

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller March 17, 2011 | 8:34 a.m.

David--May I correct you on a First Amendment point? As written,it was applicable only to laws enacted by Congress. It was not until 1925 (Gitlow v. New York, 268 U.S. 652), the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment applies the First Amendment to each state and local government.

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice March 17, 2011 | 12:59 p.m.

Sara Dickson, self-identified 'Dittohead''s, tea party activist blog:

Please be sure to thumb through all seven pages and circulate the link widely to anyone and everyone you know in the process of making a decision regarding their choices for school board.

As an aside, it's just plain silly to claim legal precedence of Edwards v Aguillard, 1987 when it was effectively overturned by Bush-appointed, conservative Christian Judge John E. Jones (SCOTUS has refused to challenge the PA-based district court judge).

Jones' ruling is a soaring, sonorous, beautiful piece of prose - legal or otherwise.

Just a snip it or two for your reading pleasure*:

'The disclaimer’s plain language, the legislative history, and the historical context in which the ID Policy arose, all inevitably lead to the conclusion that Defendants consciously chose to change Dover’s biology curriculum to advance religion. We have been presented with a wealth of evidence which reveals that the District’s purpose was to advance creationism, an inherently religious view, both by introducing it directly under the label ID and by disparaging the scientific theory of evolution, so that creationism would gain credence by default as the only apparent alternative to evolution…'

and his 'scathing admonition' to the Dover School Board:

'…this case came to us as the result of the activism of an ill-informed faction on a school board, aided by a national public interest law firm eager to find a constitutional test case on ID…. The breathtaking inanity of the Board’s decision is evident when considered against the factual backdrop which has now been fully revealed…. The students, parents, and teachers of the Dover Area School District deserved better than to be dragged into this legal maelstrom, with its resulting utter waste of monetary and personal resources.'

Douglas W. Shrader1 Distinguished Teaching Professor
& Chair of Philosophy SUNY Oneonta Oneonta, NY)

by the way, David, you're right about everything except the idea that she's qualified.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 17, 2011 | 3:38 p.m.

I suppose that everyone who attempts to use the link I provided above has put me over my ten article limit!

Oh DARN it!!!

Now I will have to find a crusty paper paper to continue reading all that FINE journalism.

The article stated that Sara Dittohead would like for the local teachers to preach creationism to your children. The picture was worth a thousand words, but still probably not the price of the print.

In fifty years time I predict that there will be another Dittohead attempting much the same.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 17, 2011 | 5:03 p.m.

Tracy I have met Sara a few times and she is very well organized and is qualified. If you don't like her stances then that is a different issue but you shouldn't marginalize her skills. I would argue that she is VERY well qualified. More so than some of the others running. But hey if you and Paul like to bash people who are proud of their religion then that is your right.

Here is some of her BIO

"SARA R. DICKSON has served as a legislator assistant for Missouri's House of Representatives, administrative assistant for Columbia College's Jefferson City, Mo., campus and a quality control inspector for Maytag.

In 2009, she received her master's in public administration from the University of Missouri Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs. Earning a 4.0 GPA, she graduated in 2005 from Columbia College with a bachelor of science in business administration, majoring in marketing and joined the National Newspaper Association as its special events coordinator in December of that year.

In her current position as the National Newspaper Association's programs and outreach manager, Dickson is responsible for the administration of NNA's contests, including the Better Newspaper Contest, Better Newspaper Advertising Contest, the James O. Amos and Emma C. McKinney awards, the Daniel M. Phillips Leadership Award and the Best of Newspaper In Education Contest. She also assists NNA staff with the Annual Convention & Trade Show and other association duties.

Last year, she volunteered for Missouri's 4th District U.S. Congressional candidate, Vicky Hartzler and also served as a volunteer at Missouri's GOP Victory 2010 headquarters in Columbia.

Dickson is a Central Missouri Honor Flight volunteer and in October 2009 had the distinct honor and privilege of joining CMHF board members, volunteers and 65 WWII veterans for CMHF's seventh flight to D.C., where she served as a volunteer guardian for one of our brave WWII veterans.

While seeking her master's degree, she served as a student ambassador for the University of Missouri Harry S. Truman School of Public Affairs, leading school and campus tours and answering questions for prospective students."

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 17, 2011 | 5:17 p.m.

"But hey if you and Paul like to bash people who are proud of their religion then that is your right."

No, moron. I like to bash people who attempt to force feed their distorted views down other people's throats and with no regard to whether their intended actions are ethical or constitutional. She can be as proud as she wants to be about her religion. I can't imagine you making a stupider statement.

From what I have seen of the local culture I am unsurprised that someone lacking the ability to think coherently was allowed to receive high grades while studying. I bet you did too.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 17, 2011 | 5:36 p.m.

Lets go further with that.

No, moron. I like to bash people who ATTEMPT TO USE YOUR TAX DOLLARS to force feed their distorted views down other people's throats...

Even a REPUBLICAN can understand that.

If you can't, imagine yourself living in a small community where a Muslim bought a large building, renovated it and then moved in an extended family and friends, who then ran for the local school board, proclaiming that they would revamp the courses so that students would regularly spend several hours studying sharia law. It's about the same as what you were just defending... except that... No it's not.
That's some OTHER GUY shoving his view down YOUR throat.

Would you stand for that? I think not. So why in the Missouri do you think that I should stand for what you want?

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 17, 2011 | 5:46 p.m.

I'm going to p*** some people off by mentioning another Sarah (this time with an "h"): former State Senator and State Treasurer Sarah Steelman. During her stint as state senator Steelman worked hard and fully cooperated "across the aisle" on matters concerning public higher education in Missouri. Like others, Steelman was term limited (and so successfully ran for state treasurer). Some of us wish she could have stayed longer in the state senate.
In the capacity noted above, Steelman received public congratulations from senior Democratic state senators. At that same time the nitwit representing a district including MU publicly fought with those same senior Democratic senators and generally made an ass of himself. (Some Columbians will recognize who I'm talking about.)

All women in politics named "Sarah" or "Sara" are not weird.

Speaking of weird, I see that our current female senator is in hot water over spending public money on flights on an air service that she partially owns. No conflict of interest there! All she needs to do is go to a hardware store and buy a BROOM. How much could that cost?

(Report Comment)
J Karl Miller March 17, 2011 | 7:03 p.m.

Paul--Perhaps referring to those who do not see the world through your eyes as "morons" and "stupid" gives you that warm and fuzzy feeling of intellectual superiority. I submit that most of the contributors outgrew this juvenile trait by the time they entered junior high. You may accept the criticism as constructive or not but, I doubt your discourteous tone wins you many admirers.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 17, 2011 | 7:38 p.m.

So then, do you think I should instead tell them to go to the hardware store and buy a broom?

Your point is in consideration. However, if all someone could infer from my previous rants is that I like to bash people because they are proud of their religion, I assert that they are a MORON.

(The above disclaimer does not apply to the Westboro congregation. If they are proud of their religion then I ASSert that they ARE morons and I will continue to bash them as I have, possibly in a manner more juvenile than anything I have done previously.)

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 18, 2011 | 7:54 a.m.

Paul & J. Karl:

Maybe things need some lightening up, especially as regards "moron." In metro Buenos Aires there's a large suburb named "Moron." "Moron" is a perfectly respectable Hispanic family name, pronounced to rhyme with the word "bone."

Argentines have trouble understanding why Americans go into fits of laughter when they see this name in print. It gets worse: there is a well-known financial institution named "Credito Moron." They have outdoor billboard ads all over the BA metro area. Well, that figures: some folks are morons when it comes to financial credit.

Having worked in the 1970s in a factory in Moron I suppose I qualify as a moron. The factory used kerosene as a bulk industrial fuel, something rare in the United States.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 18, 2011 | 9:00 a.m.

Paul, I used to like your witty comments. Now I think you are digressing to something that is less than professional. Or at least as professional as one can be on a blog.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 18, 2011 | 9:29 a.m.

Ellis, I take it you are familiar with the Bimbo brand of bread sold in Mexico (not Missouri, as far as I know) as well?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 18, 2011 | 9:33 a.m.

Allan Sharrock: Or at least as professional as one can be on a blog.

Hey! Careful there Allan! I resemble that remark.....

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock March 18, 2011 | 9:41 a.m.


Let's see if we can't have these conversations without resorting to name-calling. I know there are a lot worse names we can call each other than "moron," but really, is there any evidence that name-calling has any type of positive benefit to it when done in public like this?

Just a thought.

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 18, 2011 | 10:19 a.m.

Yes, John, I am familiar with Bimbo. It's pretty hard not to be.

Some brands don't "translate" well. Consider these three automobile models:

Chevrolet Nova. In Spanish, "nova" written as to words (no va) means "doesn't go." Who wants a car that doesn't go?

Mercury Comet Caliente. "Caliente" in Spanish means hot, but in Latin American slang it has a decidedly sexual context. Not a model most decent women would want to be seen driving!

VW Jetta. This is apparently confined to Argentine slang. "Jetta" (pronounced "hetta") means "hangover." "Sorry Raul, I can't go out with you and Jose this morning because I woke up with a jetta (and I'm not in bed with a VW)."

(Report Comment)
Ellis Smith March 18, 2011 | 10:38 a.m.

Don't fret, Ricky. While you may not be a "thing of beauty" you are most definitely "a joy forever." :)

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 18, 2011 | 1:25 p.m.

I will attempt to make less use of derogatory nouns and adjectives. I suppose I get heated when I see someone repeating a bad argument that has been shot down completely as if it had never been heard before. I get disgusted when I see someone who can only discuss one side of and issue. I dislike it when I see someone saying that they want to do something for one reason when it is obvious why they want to do something and it isn't the reason that they stated. I am disappointed when someone attempts to take an action that has been ruled against in the supreme court and run for a political office with a platform based on that which the court ruled against while attempting to placate those who the action would affect with meaningless generic euphemisms.

It is an insult to my intelligence. Either the candidate is attempting to get over on me or the candidate is brainwashed. At exactly the point I realize that I also realize that it DOES NOT MATTER which one is the case and I will say what I want to. Either the candidate is impaired or the candidate is mistaking you and I for an impaired voter.

And then someone has to get on here to defend the candidate by stating that I wished to bash such and such because so and so was proud of a religion.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 18, 2011 | 1:25 p.m.

Honestly, I think that everybody has a right to be proud of their thoughts or their religion and in most cases they should be. At the same time I marvel at the fact that some people are capable of acting like their thoughts or their religion are the ONLY thoughts worth having.

That is effectively what someone has told me when they make a broad generic statement about making sure "christian values" (whatever that means) are a part of your child's educational programs that are provided by your governments. Are the kids going to get graded on their take on creationism? If someone were going to launch a year long program and give equal weight to the intricate teachings of ALL religions and call it something like "religious studies" I would be ecstatic and I would encourage people to participate.

However, this is not the case. Here someone wants to go into a science class and insert the erroneous babbling of their religious dogma into a place where only science belongs and then give it equal weight, more or less, according to the whims and biases of the instructor who the children must listen to in order to receive a grade. That the supreme court has struck this down does not deter the individual because the individual faces absolutely no repercussions for those actions. So the individual will repeatedly attempt the same wrong actions until somebody stops the individual.

Anybody can see this, but since one person agrees with the action then I must be somebody who wants to beat up on anybody who is proud of their religion. At this point I might ask if anybody really said this. Did somebody say, "I want to run for school board because I am proud of my religion."???

No. They didn't say that. They said they want to bring their religion into YOUR school system which is occupied by the majority of the impressionable minds in the county. And somebody conveniently pretends that they cannot see the difference.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 18, 2011 | 1:38 p.m.

Theocracy is that which some of escaped from or at least tried to when they floated here at great risk from Europe so many centuries ago. Theocracy is what we are against when we sacrifice your children in Afghanistan. Theocracy is what is causing most of the turbulence in the mideast. I don't know of one country in that region that would not improve with a more secular line of government. We have exhausted our economic strength just battling the fanaticism of a few theocrats in two countries and now I have to contend with watching the actions of a handful of people who would like to inflict the same on this nation, one classroom at a time, one law at a time, one snide remark at a time.

Creationism belongs in the class room no more than the Easter Bunny belongs in it. I view it's adherents as the victims of a disease and while I am capable of sympathy I am profoundly vigilant in my desire to make sure that the rest of the population doesn't become willingly infected.

I will get ugly if it comes to it.

(Report Comment)
Paul Allaire March 18, 2011 | 1:42 p.m.


doesn't become UNwillingly infected.

If you like your disease, knock yourself out. Literally.

But keep your damn disease to yourself.

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice March 18, 2011 | 5:28 p.m.

Check out Sara's theory of political action:

Here's my favorite quote:

'Across our beautiful nation’s fruited plains, from sea to shining sea, Christian Americans are turning to God in prayer. We are repenting of the sins – our own personal sins that we have committed as we have yielded to the desires of the flesh instead of yielding to His Holy Spirit working in us – and the sins that have been committed and condoned in our nation, among which are abortion, homosexuality, and the teaching of evolution.'

Do we need a school board member who is a professed misogynist, homophobe and anti-intellectual? Do we need a Phelpian board member?

(Report Comment)
Tracy Greever-Rice March 18, 2011 | 5:48 p.m.

Next paragraph:

'We have realized that silence in the face of evil is consent. As Edmund Burke once said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

We will be silent no longer.'

So, folks who are not misogynists, homophobes and who have the intellectual capacity to discern between science and faith are 'evil'???

Poor, poor Deist Edmund Burke - to have such big ideas misappropriated in such very small ways.

(Report Comment)
Gregg Bush March 18, 2011 | 6:31 p.m.

I think it is okay to teach Creationism in schools. I don't think it belongs in a science classroom. Just be sure and teach ALL of the creation stories.
That's what is suppposed to happen in a pluralistic society.

(Report Comment)
John Schultz March 18, 2011 | 8:09 p.m.

Somewhat odd that a former city council candidate who had her comments at the Tribune deleted is pointing out the online history of a school board candidate, isn't it?

(Report Comment)
Daniel Jordan Jordan March 18, 2011 | 10:14 p.m.

Mr. Bearfield,

The issue is what you want your tax dollars to support:

* transubstantiation or consubstantiation?

* Patre per filium or Patre filioque?

* Trinity or Unity?

(Report Comment)
Ricky Gurley March 19, 2011 | 1:19 a.m.

I have always been just a little critical of people that inject their religious views into politics. I am even a little more critical of people that use their religious views as a platform to run for public office...

It has been my observation that these people that have such strong religious views are usually the ones that have a lot of real "nasty laundry" hiding in the old closet....

I usually think to myself when I see this; "well it's just a matter of time before we see them charged with a crime involving some perverted act with a young choir boy 15 years ago"......

Just my thoughts on "holy rollers" in politics....

Of course though; there are exceptions to every rule....

Ricky Gurley.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 20, 2011 | 8:51 p.m.

Good point John! I wasn't going to go there but it is a bit ironic.

(Report Comment)
Tim Dance March 20, 2011 | 10:46 p.m.

I commend Tracy in doing that, I wouldn't trust my comments with that fish wrap of a newspaper. However, this is Sara's own blog. What I am concerned is that if the 4th ward can vote in a "pledge of allegiance" dullard to the council, they can vote in this person.

(Report Comment)
Allan Sharrock March 21, 2011 | 10:05 a.m.

One person can not change the entire curriculum. Has anyone even looked at CPS SS curriculum? Just a thought.

(Report Comment)

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