Secular Coalition condemns passing of Missouri Amendment 2, continued false definitions of “religious liberty”
The Secular Coalition for America today expressed disappointment at the passing of Missouri Amendment 2, the so-called “Public Prayer Amendment.”
The vague wording of the amendment to the state constitution has the ability to institute a slew of religious privileges that include everything from sectarian prayer at school board and legislative meetings to exemptions from school assignments for religious students.
Several provisions in the amendment are blatant overreaches that could cause harm to Missouri’s public education system by expanding the role of religion in the public sphere and jeopardizing established First Amendment protections. The few legitimate protections of religious freedom included in the amendment were already provided for in both the U.S. and Missouri state constitutions.
Edwina Rogers, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America, said this amendment is one of many recent attempts throughout the country to redefine “religious freedom.”
Other recent examples are the “Florida Religious Freedom, Amendment 8“, which seeks to legalize public funding of religious institutions on the ballot in November, and North Dakota’s recently defeated Measure 3, the so-called “Religious Freedom Amendment,” which also sought to publicly fund and privilege religion.
“The passing of this amendment is a symptom of a larger attack on true religious freedom that we are seeing introduced throughout the country via ballot initiatives, in state legislatures, and through public relations campaigns run by groups such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops,” Rogers said. “Although it was sold to the voters as an issue of religious freedom, Amendment 2 actually attempts to write the privileging of religion into law.”
Amendment 2 has the ability to:
- Allow for the commingling of religion and government, by creating an opening for-and in some cases, encouraging-sectarian prayer in unconstitutional settings such as school board and legislative meetings.
- Violate the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, by allowing government employees to openly pray while performing their duties, which infers a government establishment of religion, as employees are an extension of the state.
- Create a series of privileges and educational loopholes for students who claim their homework assignments and/or classes conflict with their religious beliefs, despite the courts repeatedly ruling that teaching science-based topics such as evolution in public schools does not violate students’ free exercise of religion.
- Further exacerbate America’s poor standing in science education, which already lags behind many other nations.
“This amendment is full of blatant overreaches and inconsistencies with federal law and court precedent-it attempts to chip away at true religious freedom and ultimately will cost the taxpayers millions in litigation fees,” Rogers said. “The ongoing attempts to redefine religious privileging as ‘religious freedom’ is a dangerous attack on the very principles our country was founded upon, and we will continue to fight similar attempts across the nation.”
The Secular Coalition for America is in the process of rolling out 50 new state chapters across the country to fight legislation at the state level that seeks to insert into law religion, religious privileging or exemptions from generally applicable law based on religion. The Missouri chapter held its initial organizing call in June.