Pray anywhere? Read the fine print first

Recent polling shows that 82 percent of Missouri voters favor the so-called “Pray Anywhere” constitutional amendment on the August 7 [2012] ballot. Well, sure they do. It’s an apple-pie issue, right? The U.S. Constitution-–as well as the Missouri constitution—protect freedom of religion, so what’s the problem?

First, those pre-existing constitutional conditions pretty much make an additional constitutional amendment superfluous.

Unfortunately, in Missouri, that logic doesn’t apply, and a lot of people’s knees jerk when they’re propagandized into fearing that prayer might be restricted.

And what a lot  people may not know is that there’s a critical poison pill hidden in the fine print of the amendment.  When Missouri voters go to the polls on August 7, here’s the language they’ll be voting on:

Missouri Constitutional Amendment 2

Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:

  • That the right of Missouri citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed;
  • That school children 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.

Sounds innocuous enough: redundant, to be sure, but not dangerous, right?

Not exactly. The ballot language conveniently doesn’t mention these phrases:

…students may express about religion in written and oral assignments free from discrimination… no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs…

If I understand this section correctly, a fifth-grader could leave the classroom during a presentation on Darwin and evolution. For that matter, under this provision, if your family enjoys membership in the Flat Earth Society, you might be allowed to refuse to answer a fill-in-the-blank question about the circumference of the earth—and not be penalized.

The possibilities abound:  Can one recuse oneself from a health class because one’s religion rejects modern medicine? Can you demand full credit for a unit on geology from which you abstain, if your parents’ religion rejects the validity of carbon-dating and insists that everything happened in seven days? Oh, and by the way, does all of this religious freedom apply to Muslims? Jews? Mormons? Scientologists?

Don’t get me wrong: There’s plenty of crap in the contemporary public-school curriculum. Personally, I’d let my own child skip those silly handwriting lessons that attempt to make kids write “cursive.” And we all need to take a look at how history is being taught.

But this amendment takes things to a new level of absurdity and promises to beget many lawsuits. If the 82 percenters actually come out and vote for this wolf in sheep’s clothing, we’re in for educational problems of–well– Biblical proportions.

Gloria Shur Bilchik Gloria Shur Bilchik (462 Posts)

Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.