Missouri Public Prayer Amendment, Amendment 2 (August 2012)

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Amendment 2
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Type:Constitutional amendment
Constitution:Article I, Section 5
Referred by:Missouri State Legislature
Topic:Religion
Status:ApprovedApproveda
The Missouri Public Prayer Amendment, also known as Amendment 2, was on the August 7, 2012 primary election ballot in the state of Missouri as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, where it was approved. Approveda

According to the text of the measure, the amendment would guarantee state residents the right to express religious beliefs and also would allow students in public schools to pray and acknowledge their religion voluntarily. The proposal was sponsored by Rep. Mike McGhee.[1][2][3]

According to supporters, the measure would protect the right of residents and students to practice their own religious beliefs. Supporters said that it was essential to the fundamental right of practicing one's own faith.

According to opponents, the measure was not necessary because faith could be freely practiced in the state already. Also, opponents argued that the measure would do more harm than good for public schools because the measure did not specify what can constitute a "religious belief".

Read more about supporters' and opponents' arguments beginning here.

Election results

The following are official election results:

Amendment 2
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 780,567 82.8%
No162,63117.2%

Results via the Missouri Secretary of State.


Text of measure

Official ballot title

The official ballot title of the measure read:[4]

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.

Ballot language

According to the Missouri Secretary of State's website, the official ballot language read:[5]

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.

Constitutional changes

The measure repealed Section 5, Article I of the Missouri Constitution and replaced it with a new Section 5:[6]


Section 5, Article I

Section 5. That all men and women have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; that no human authority can control or interfere with the rights of conscience; that no person shall, on account of his or her religious persuasion or belief, be rendered ineligible to any public office or trust or profit in this state, be disqualified from testifying or serving as a juror, or be molested in his or her person or estate; that to secure a citizen's right to acknowledge Almighty God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion, nor shall a citizen's right to pray or express his or her religious beliefs be infringed; that the state shall not coerce any person to participate in any prayer or other religious activity, but shall ensure that any person shall have the right to pray individually or corporately in a private or public setting so long as such prayer does not result in disturbance of the peace or disruption of a public meeting or assembly; that citizens as well as elected officials and employees of the state of Missouri and its political subdivisions shall have the right to pray on government premises and public property so long as such prayers abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; that the General Assembly and the governing bodies of political subdivisions may extend to ministers, clergypersons, and other individuals the privilege to offer invocations or other prayers at meetings or sessions of the General Assembly or governing bodies; that students may express their beliefs about religion in written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work; that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs; that the state shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary, whether individually or corporately, and in a manner that is not disruptive and as long as such prayers or expressions abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; and, to emphasize the right to free exercise of religious expression, that all free public schools receiving state appropriations shall display, in a conspicuous and legible manner, the text of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; but this section shall not be construed to expand the rights of prisoners in state or local custody beyond those afforded by the laws of the United States, excuse acts of licentiousness, nor to justify practices inconsistent with the good order, peace or safety of the state, or with the rights of others.

Support

  • The campaign in favor of the measure was Vote Yes On Amendment 2
  • Bill sponsor Rep. Mike McGhee argued that school children "are being targeted for professing their religious beliefs."
  • State Representative Kurt Bahr was a co-sponsor of the amendment.[7]
  • Rep. Jeff Grisamore said, "This (legislation) is one of the most important pieces of legislation...that we will pass this year, because it is fundamental to protecting the rights of Missourians to pray and express their faith and at the same time, protect Missourians from being coerced or compelled in a way that would violate their faith."[8]
  • According to reports, State Sen. Dan Brown, and State Representatives Jason Smith and Dr. Keith Frederick were among 80 Missouri legislators that went on record to support the measure. The 80 legislators were: 13 state senators and 66 state representatives.[9]
  • Arguments in support of the measure included that the measure upheld Missourians' First Amendment rights and would protect the state's Christians, which according to reports was about 80 percent of the population at the time, who supporters argued were under siege in the state.[7]
  • Missouri's four Catholic bishops stated support for the measure, with Mike Hoey, executive director for the Missouri Catholic Conference stating about the measure's effects, ""it ought to be that the First Amendment is sufficient, but problems have cropped up here and there."[7]
  • The Rev. Terry Hodges of First Baptist Church in Odessa, Missouri, and reverend of Mike McGhee, the sponsor of the bill during the legislative session, stated, "For first 150 years in this country Christianity enjoyed home-field advantage. That's changed and now there's a hostility toward Christians."[7]

Opposition

  • The main group opposing the measure was Vote No on Missouri Amendment 2, sponsored by Americans United.
  • The ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri and the ACLU of Eastern Missouri stated opposition to the measure, according to a filed lawsuit against the proposal.
    • According to the lawsuit challenge by the organizations, they stated that the summary was misleading because it did not mention that students could use the amendment to avoid homework assignments and that the measure would "remove any state constitutional protection of religious expression or liberty for prisoners in state or local custody."[10]
  • Rep. Michael Colona said, "It's kind of hard to argue against the fact and reality that it's election season and this might be on the ballot, gonna get the (Republican) base out. This doesn't give us one iota of additional protection, it simply restates status quo."[8]
  • According to Noah Fitzgerald, in a guest column for the Huffington Post, "Amendment 2 is no safeguard to ensure the continuity of religious freedom in Missouri. It is a clear attempt by state legislators to allow for religion to find a greater niche in government and public education to an extent that is inappropriate in this country. Don't let them fool you.[11]
  • On July 30, 2012, the Missouri Libertarian Party passed a resolution to oppose the measure. According to Libertarian Party Chair, Dr. Cisse Spragins, "This is yet another example of a political question that really has no Libertarian answer. Libertarians are certainly in favor of the Bill of Rights and would be delighted if all Americans would insist that politicians and bureaucrats respect our natural rights. We further support the right of any person to pray when and where they desire. However, this ballot question is just another symptom of the problem of government involvement in affairs that are outside the defined role of protecting our freedoms."[12]
  • According to a column by Melody F. Green, Director of the Science Teachers of Missouri organization, "It is the responsibility of the schools to educate students. The potential disruption that this could produce makes that job even more difficult. It is not the responsibility of the schools to teach for or against religious practices but to inform students and to help them understand the world that they live in. As a science teacher and a Christian I feel it is essential that students understand the world and how it works, how to think, and solve problems. They cannot do that if they do not have adequate information."[13]
2012 measure lawsuits
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Lawsuit

See also: List of ballot measure lawsuits in 2012 and 2012 ballot measure litigation

Madeline Coburn et al v. Robert N. Mayer et al.

On July 7, 2011 the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Eastern Missouri and the ACLU of Kansas and Western Missouri filed a lawsuit challenging the wording of the ballot summary. According to reports, the legal challenge called for the summary to be rewritten or for the measure to be removed from the 2012 statewide ballot.[14]

Specifically the lawsuit challenged that the summary was misleading because it did not mention that students could use the amendment to avoid homework assignments or that the measure would "remove any state constitutional protection of religious expression or liberty for prisoners in state or local custody."[10]

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a minister in the United Methodist Church who was a spiritual advisor to inmates in the Missouri Department of Corrections and an associate professor at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.[10]

Measure upheld

On March 29, Missouri Judge Pat Joyce upheld the prayer amendment's summary, allowing the measure to remain on the ballot.[15]

Path to the ballot

See also: Missouri legislatively-referred constitutional amendments

In order to qualify for the ballot, the measure required approval by a majority of the members of each chamber of the Missouri General Assembly. On March 10, 2011 the Missouri House of Representatives voted 126-30 in favor of the proposed measure.[16] On May 10 the Senate gave final approval on the measure following a vote of 34-0.[17]

Timeline

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The following is a timeline of events surrounding the measure:

Event Date Developments
Vote Mar. 10, 2011 Missouri House of Representatives voted 126-30 in favor.
Vote May 10, 2011 Senate gave final approval on the measure following a vote of 34-0.

See also

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Articles

External links

Additional reading

References

  1. KTTS,"State House Backs Prayer Amendment," March 11, 2011
  2. ConnectTriStates.com,"Right to pray issue on the ballot in Mo.," May 12, 2011
  3. KOAMTV.com, "Mo. prayer measure to appear on August ballot", May 23, 2012
  4. Missouri House of Representatives,"HJR 2 full text," retrieved March 18, 2011
  5. Missouri Secretary of State, "Fair Ballot Language - Measure 2", Retrieved June 26, 2012
  6. Missouri Secretary of State, "HOUSE JOINT RESOLUTION NO. 2", Retrieved August 2, 2012
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 St. Louis Today, "Missouri's proposed Amendment 2 on prayer gets mixed reviews", July 30, 2012
  8. 8.0 8.1 OzarksFirst.com,"Proposed Missouri Amendment Focuses on Prayer," March 12, 2011
  9. The Roll Daily News, "Local legislators among 80 who endorse proposed Amendment 2", July 24, 2012
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 ACLU.org,"Missouri Ballot Initiative on Religion Amendment is Misleading, Says ACLU," July 7, 2011
  11. Huffington Post, "Missouri Amendment 2: A Strike Against Separation of Church and State", August 1, 2012
  12. Southeast Missourian, "MO Libertarian Party Opposes Public Prayer Amendment", July 30, 2012
  13. Southeastern Missouri, "Constitutional Amendment 2", July 30, 2012
  14. Courthouse News Service,"School Prayer Back on the Ballot," July 11, 2011
  15. CBS St. Louis, "Public Prayer Ballot Summary Upheld by Missouri Judge," March 29, 2012
  16. Associated Press,"Mo. House approves proposed amendment on religious expression in public and government places," March 10, 2011
  17. Missouri News Horizon,"Religious Expression Amendment Heading to 2012 Ballot," May 10, 2011