While the recent legislative session was a very productive one for the pro-family
and Christian community, one critical issue failed to win approval by the General
For the third straight year, religious liberty legislation promoted by
the Missouri Family Policy Council died in the Missouri Senate.
A proposed constitutional amendment to protect the religious freedoms of Missouri
citizens, schoolchildren, and elected officials was approved by the Missouri House
on a vote of 125-30. This is the third straight session that the joint resolution,
sponsored by Representative Mike McGhee of Odessa, has won bipartisan support and
passage in the Missouri House.
Unfortunately, Representative McGhee's bill, while endorsed by a Senate committee,
was never taken up for debate by the full Senate. An identical bill, sponsored
by Senator Delbert Scott of Lowry City, was discussed by the full Senate but was
set aside after a filibuster by religious liberty opponents. Opposition has come
from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Americans United for Separation of
Church and State, liberal Baptist groups, and Jewish organizations. They contend
that the law would empower the Christian community to "place its symbols and impose
its prayers on others in the public square."
Yet the religious liberty amendment considered by the Legislature would protect
the religious freedoms of adherents of any faith group and its believers. The amendment
ensures that any person shall have the right to pray individually or corporately
in private or public settings and on public property. It protects the rights of
elected officials to pray on government premises and to invite ministers and clergypersons
to offer invocations at public meetings.
In the public school setting, the proposed constitutional amendment assures students
the right to pray and express their faith in and out of the classroom. It guarantees
the right of students to express their beliefs in written and oral assignments.
It protects students from being compelled to participate in educational presentations
or participate in academic assignments that violate their religious beliefs. This
is the fifth straight year that the Missouri House has passed some form of proposed
prayer amendment to the Missouri Constitution.
Attacks on the religious liberties of Christian families and citizens are so frequent
and pernicious today that they constitute a new class of bigotry. Atheist groups
advocate a distorted notion of the false legal theory of the separation of church
and state, and in so doing, seek to squelch any and all forms of religious expression.
This is a malicious abrogation of the First Amendment and the Bill of Rights, which
asserts that government can take no action to prohibit the free exercise of religion.
Federal courts have consistently declared that the government, including our public
schools, cannot engage in "viewpoint discrimination" against religious speech.
Instances of the denial of religious freedom and religious expression happen every
single day in this country. A man from Elmira, New York, recently served a sentence
of nine days in jail for praying in a public park. He and a group of other Christians
had entered a public park where a "gay pride" event was being held and laid prostrate
and prayed silently for the participants. They were arrested and charged with "disorderly
A teacher in San Diego, California, was ordered to remove posters from his classroom
wall which read "In God We Trust" "One Nation Under God," and "God Bless America."
He was told that the posters over-emphasized God, and that they might prove offensive
to Muslim students.
Attorneys with the Alliance Defense Fund are appealing a decision by a New Mexico
judge upholding a ruling by the New Mexico Civil Rights Commission. In that case,
the Commission had cited a Christian couple with discrimination. The couple own
a photography business, and declined to photograph a same-sex "commitment ceremony."
The couple were ordered to pay thousands of dollars in attorney's fees.
Liberty Counsel appealed a ruling of the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in the case
of a high school student who gave thanks to God in her valedictorian speech. The
Colorado high school attended by Erica Corder demanded she issue a public apology
before they would provide her with her graduation diploma.
The recent action by a federal judge in Wisconsin to declare unconstitutional the
Congressional establishment of the National Day of Prayer is for many Christians
the final straw on this issue.
While there is no question that it often takes two or three sessions of the Missouri
Legislature to win ultimate passage of new legislation, there is no excuse for
the continuing failure of this proposition.
The proposal has overwhelming bipartisan
support in both chambers of the Legislature, and is being consistently blocked by
the filibuster tactics of a couple of liberal state senators. The leadership of
the Missouri Senate needs to put an end to this injustice, and give Missourians
the opportunity to vote on this critical issue. Next session they will have the
chance to prove they are serious about this subject.