WHAT OTHERS SAY: Amendment would allow students to pray in school

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 | 4:21 p.m. CDT

Voters will see a ballot initiative appear on August's ballot with the purpose of reinforcing one's right to pray in public places.

Called the Missouri Public Prayer Amendment, the proposal also would require all public schools in the state to display the Bill of Rights.

Sponsored by State Rep. Mike McGhee, R-Odessa, the constitutional amendment would guarantee the freedom to express religious beliefs and for children voluntarily to be able to acknowledge God and pray at school.

It reads:

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:

—That the right of Missouri citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed;

—That schoolchildren 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 office, it is estimated that this proposal will result in little to no costs or savings for state and local governmental entities. However, it did cost the taxpayers about $250,000 to place it on the ballot.

The fair ballot language reads:

—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.

Ron Lankford, deputy commissioner for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and a former longtime Webb City Schools superintendent, said schools have the same rights now as those proposed through the Missouri Public Prayer Amendment.

"That right is already protected for students," Lankford told the Globe.

Like Lankford and other school superintendents we contacted, we believe the right to do the things listed in the ballot initiative already exists, but it does give those voters who choose to do so an opportunity to send the message that religious freedoms, for all people, of all faiths, are important.

Copyright Joplin Globe. Distributed by The Associated Press. Questions? Contact Opinion editor Elizabeth Conner.

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