Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Missouri Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Religious Expression Amendment

Missouri voters yesterday approved state Constitutional Amendment 2 by a vote of 82.8% in favor and 17.2% against. (Official results.) The measure was described briefly on the ballot:
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
The actual language added by the constitutional amendment is extensive. Here it is, slightly edited, and broken down by subject matter headings that I have inserted:

Anti-Establishment and Free Exercise Provisions:
  • 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;
  • 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;
Prayer On Public Property and Legislative Invocations:
  • 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;
  • 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;
Protection of Students' Religious Expression:
  • students may express their beliefs about religion in written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work;
  • no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs;
  • 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;
School Display of Bill of Rights:
  • to emphasize the right to free exercise of religious expression, 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;
Prisoners Get No Additional Religious Rights:
  • 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.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports on the results.