The controversial abortion referendum that failed on Tuesday in Mississippi raised a serious question about the definition of personhood.
But the question is not, "When does human life begin?"
It is rather, "Whose definition must we accept to determine when life begins — religion or science?"
As with other attempts to change abortion laws, Initiative 26 would have required Mississippi to alter Article III, section 33 of its Constitution by redefining a person as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."
There were so many problems with this proposal they cannot be discussed in a single 740-word column.
Beyond the issues of women's rights and birth control, it appears this proposed amendment would sanction human cloning. It also questions the legality of the death penalty.
Most important in the discussion is the issue of Biblical law versus secular law. This is not an anti-religion argument, but a discussion about the Constitution and the First Amendment.
It is a discussion of the dangers of allowing religion to control the lives of American citizens. Even Missouri citizens.
Although Initiative 26 failed in Mississippi with more than 55 percent voting against it, there is a strong possibility a similar movement could arise in Missouri.
Keith Mason of Personhood USA, a group behind the initiative, told Bloomberg News that regardless of the outcome, momentum is growing for legislation across the country.
If you believe that the anti-abortion advocates are not making this a religious issue, read the placards held by the protesters in front of the Planned Parenthood centers in Columbia, Jefferson City and elsewhere.
Almost all have religious overtones, asking us to pray to end abortions.
The American View, an unabashedly Christian-conservative website, recently posted a series written by Les Riley, the gentleman who worked to place the Mississippi Personhood referendum on the ballot.
Riley wrote, "With God's sovereign help we hope to 'turn the mid-South upside down with the full-orbed Gospel of Life' ... We will likely be outspent about 10-1 in the political campaign, but 'the weapons of our warfare (are) not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds' — II Corinthians 10:4."
A bit of a misquote, by the way.
In the Bible's New International Version, II Corinthians furthers states: "5) We (will) demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
"6) And we will be ready to punish every act of disobedience, once your obedience is complete."
Not exactly a message of peace and forgiveness.
The conservative movement has usurped religion to take away individual rights, the right to believe or not believe in our own version of God or religion.
As the religious-conservative movements scream louder, their message is being forced into the mainstream American ethos. It appears to violate one of the conservative movement's basic tenets: Keep government out of my personal business.
In Missouri, we are in danger of having the conservative-religious mindset take over and judge the daily activities of all citizens of this state. This is a direct violation of the First Amendment's guarantee that religion will not intrude on our rights as citizens of this great nation.
(Before you complain — yes I have read and studied the First Amendment.)
By forcing a religious-based issue onto the ballot, Jesus' own warning to keep church and state separate, Matthew 22, is also being disregarded.
If I were a person of religious-conservative politics, I would believe that advocates of personhood amendments would also suffer the fate of 2 Corinthians.
I am not saying that religion should be abolished. Far from that. I am saying we should allow individuals to follow their own conscience, whether extremely devout or atheistic.
By taking away the individual choice of belief, we are taking away the freedoms that Americans and Missourians so cherish.
Let it be known to our 2012 legislators in the Show-Me State: I will be the loudest voice in opposition to forcing religion, any religion, on the citizens of this state or taking away the rights of women to choose.
David Rosman is an editor, writer, professional speaker and college instructor in communications, ethics, business and politics. His new book, "A Christian Nation? An Examination of Christian Nation Theories and Proofs," is available at Books.Inkandvoice.com, CreateSpace eBooks and Amazon.com.