ST. LOUIS — Missourians will vote on Tuesday (Aug. 7) on a proposed amendment to the state constitution that supporters say would protect residents’ right to pray in public, and if a recent poll is any indication, it could pass by a mammoth margin.
Supporters say the so-called “right to pray” ballot measure — known as Amendment 2 — better defines Missourians’ First Amendment rights and will help to protect the state’s Christians, about 80 percent of the population, who they say are under siege in the public square.
Opponents, meanwhile, say that the religious protections Amendment 2 would offer are already guaranteed by the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution, and that it will open the door to all manner of unintended and costly consequences including endless taxpayer-funded lawsuits.
State Rep. Chris Kelly, a Democrat who opposed the original legislation, called Amendment 2 “a jobs bill for lawyers.”
Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State have questioned how disturbance or disruption would later be defined. What if one person’s “right to pray” intrudes on another’s right to abstain from prayer, or to pray according to the tenets of his or her own faith?
But Episcopal Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri said prayer in public schools “becomes the vehicle for a sectarian agenda, typically Christian and typically Protestant, in violation of the no-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.” Leading Jewish and Muslim groups also oppose the measure.