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Lawsuit Filed Against Missouri's "Religious Freedom" Amendment

school prayer.jpg
Don't drink the Kool-Aid, warn plaintiffs.
In November 2012, Missouri voters will be asked to approve an amendment to the state constitution, titled Religious Freedom in Public Places.

According to the sponsor of the resolution, Republican Mike McGhee of the western Missouri town of Odessa, the amendment would make it "okay to read a Bible in study hall" and "pray briefly before a City Council meeting." The amendment also requires public schools to prominently display a copy of the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

But that's not all the amendment would do.

It also states that school children cannot be compelled to participate in any assignments that violate their beliefs. Moreover, the amendment goes out of its way to deny inmates any additional religious freedoms under the state constitution, noting that "the resolution cannot be construed to expand the rights of prisoners in state or local custody beyond those guaranteed by federal laws."

Voters at the polls, however, won't know about those last two provisions. That's because they're excluded from the ballot language that asks:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:
  • That the rights 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 and the U.S. Constitution.
Now two Missouri women are challenging that ballot language. Last Thursday, the Reverend Madeline Coburn, a Methodist minister who works with prisoners, and Brenda Bredemeier, an associate professor at University of Missouri - St. Louis, sued the state in an attempt to change what voters will see at the polls.

In their lawsuit filed in Cole County, the women argue that the ballot doesn't sufficiently state that the amendment would reduce the religious rights of inmates and deny children a well-rounded education. As Bredemeier's attorneys with the ACLU argue, the amendment "would detract from educational quality by curtailing students' exposure to significant concepts and theories that are integral to related domains of study and underlie important public discourse."

Coburn and Bredemeier want the ballot language changed to the following, which they believe more accurately reflects its intent:
Shall the Missouri Constitution be amended to ensure:
  • Repeal the the state constitutional right of prisoners to religious freedom and liberty of conscience and belief, and;
  • Create a right for any student, in public or private schools, to refuse to participate in assignments or classes that violate the student's religious beliefs?

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7 comments
Rudy Moore
Rudy Moore

I can't wait until my tax dollars go towards funding the defense against the ACLU's imminent case -- which the state will lose -- which will fuel the conservative propaganda machine even further.

It's been said time and time again: there's much better things for our government to be doing than selling religion, xenophobia and homophobia to the state and its citizens and proposing hasty, reactionary programs and legislature doomed to fail like synthetic marijuana, the pseudoephedrine database, and "Caylee's Laws". Too lazy and stupid to think up creative job and revenue creation programs, too afraid to alienate their constituents by balancing the budget at the expense of raising taxes on anything whatsoever. Get these do-nothings out of office.

KittyLitterKing
KittyLitterKing

So, we have an unnecessary amendment being offered to appease to a certain segment of the population (conservative Christian Republicans) with incomplete ballot language approved by the Secretary of State (a Democrat).  And people wonder why a huge portion of the population is disgusted by both political parties *sigh*

Anonymous
Anonymous

Moreover, its largely irrelevant, because MO law is unlikely to provide any rights to prisoners beyond what the US Constitution provides, and to the extent that MO law attempts to limit rights granted by the US Constitution, the MO law is invalid anyway.

Anonymous
Anonymous

"the resolution cannot be construed to expand the rights of prisoners in state or local custody beyond those guaranteed by federal laws" is NOT equal to "Repeal the the state constitutional right of prisoners to religious freedom and liberty of conscience and belief"

JJ
JJ

We have the nutjobs doing a number on Kansas as we speak. Why do Missourians keep electing these people who are doing nothing about jobs???????

Oh
Oh

Does this guarantee muslim students who wish to observe their faith can wear full body hijabs in school? Doubt it.

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