A so-called "Freedom to Pray" amendment to the Missouri Constitution is on the Aug. 7 ballot. This amendment does not expand religious freedom but adds problematic elements.
Contrary to the U.S. Constitution, the amendment involves government in prayer by requiring it to “ensure” the ability of persons to practice their religion in the schools and workplace.
The amendment would change the responsibility of government officials from making sure that they aren’t limiting an individual’s freedom to making sure that an individual has no obstacles to prayer. This new requirement would impose much more responsibility on state and local officials – police, school personnel, county commissioners, and so on.
The State of Missouri will incur huge expenses trying to ensure the practice of religion and also defending this amendment from the inevitable lawsuits that will follow.
The amendment allows students to exercise freedom of conscience in assignments that contradict their religious beliefs. So a student could refuse to participate in an assignment involving observations that the Earth goes around the Sun, or whatever the subject matter in science, literature, civics, and so on.
Teachers need to be sensitive to religious beliefs, but they cannot be made responsible for presenting lessons that are free from religious contradictions. Believers must assume the responsibility for interpreting scientific observations within their own belief system; they do not need this amendment in order to make the determination that they will put their ultimate trust in a god. That freedom is already guaranteed.
The Missouri Association for Social Welfare Human Rights Task Force urges voters to defeat Constitutional Amendment 2 at the ballot box to save Missouri and Missourians taxpayer dollars necessary to defend this deceptive amendment.
Donald Love is co-chair of the Missouri Association for Social Welfare's Human Rights Task Force and a Columbia resident.