Prayer Amendments Introduced in Missouri House and Senate
Legislation to protect the religious freedoms of Missourians has once again been
filed in both chambers of the Missouri General Assembly. The proposed
amendment to Missouri's Constitution would ensure that
citizens and schoolchildren have the right to pray and acknowledge God in public
Representative Mike McGhee of Odesssa has again filed House Joint
Resolution 2 in the Missouri House, and Senator Jack Goodman
of Mt. Vernon has introduced Senate Joint Resolution 16 in the Missouri Senate.
The proposed religious liberty amendment, developed in large part by the
Missouri Family Policy Council, has been endorsed for three straight years by
the Missouri House, but died each time in the Missouri Senate.
the heart of the proposal is a provision guaranteeing the right of students in
public schools to pray on a voluntary basis. Students would be assured of
the right to pray and acknowledge God so long as such expressions abide within
the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar
circumstances. This section of the proposed constitutional amendment has
been approved by the Missouri House for five straight years.
While the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that "state-sponsored prayer" (organized
prayer led by school officials) is unconstitutional, the High Court has also
declared that schools and other governmental bodies cannot infringe on the
voluntary free exercise of religious speech in school settings.
Schools cannot engage in "viewpoint discrimination" by prohibiting speech based
on its religious content.
Yet school officials across the country regularly suppress the religious values
and voices of students based on a false understanding of the constitutional
theory of the "separation of church and state." Opponents of religious
liberty such as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Americans United for the
Separation of Church and State, and the Freedom from Religion Foundation
incorrectly argue that any and all references to God and religion must be
banished from school premises.
The bills filed in the Misssouri House and Senate would also protect the
privilege of students to express their beliefs about God and and their religious
convictions in written
and oral assignments without suffering discrimination based on the religious
content of their work. Students would also be protected from being forced
to perform academic assignments or participate in educational presentations that
violate their religious beliefs.
The joint resolutions also address the religious freedoms of all citizens to
pray individually or corporately in any public setting, so long as such prayers
do not result in disturbance of the peace, disruption of a public meeting, or
impede public access on public property.
The legislation also safeguards the right
of government officials to pray and acknowledge God in public buildings, and the
privilege of government bodies to offer invocations before public meetings.
The Senate in the State of Hawaii recently suspended invocations before its
daily legislative sessions due to the threat of a lawsuit from the ACLU.
Hawaii Senate officials buckled to the ACLU, despite the fact that the U.S.
Supreme Court has upheld the right of legislative bodies to "solemnize public
proceedings" through invocations. The Hawaii House of Representatives has
decided to continue their practice of beginning sessions with an invocation.
In another recent case, a Superior Court Judge in New Jersey ordered the Point
Pleasant Beach Borough Council to stop praying before its meetings. The
Council dropped its practice of praying the Lord's Prayer before meetings after
a lawsuit from the ACLU.
The Council then adopted a new policy allowing each council member on a rotating
basis to offer an extemporaneous prayer. Judge Vincent Grasso also ruled
that unconstitional, saying that offering prayers at governmental sessions "is
contrary to the role of secular government."
Brett Harvey, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), says that our
Founding Fathers didn't think so. "As one of its first acts, the United
States Congress hired a paid chaplain to give prayers and three days later, they
settled on the final wording of the First Amendment. So obviously Congress
didn't feel that having a minister give a prayer violated the First Amendent."
Attacks on the religious heritage of our nation have now even been extended to
symbols of the Christian religion. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals recently ruled that the Mt. Soledad war memorial cross
is an unconstitutional government endorsement of
religion. The cross was erected in a San Diego public park in 1954 in
honor of Korean War veterans.
That decision comes on the heels of a similar challenge to a cross erected by
the Veterans of Foreign Wars in the Mojave National Preserve.
"Veterans are outraged over these cases,"says ADF senior counsel Joe Infranco.
"These federal courts have an extreme view of the establishment clause that
amounts to hostility to religion. Veterans should be allowed to honor
heroes, many of whom gave their lives for this nation, in the manner they
Jimmie Foster, national commander of the American Legion, agrees. "The
sanctity of this cross is about the right to honor our nation's veterans in a
manner which the overwhelming majority supports. The American Legion
strongly believes the public has a right to protects its memorials."
The most egregious example of judicial hostility to religion occurred last
spring when U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb ruled that the National
Day of Prayer was an unconstitutional establishment of religion.
Congress passed a law in 1988 establishing the
first Thursday in May as a National Day of Prayer "on which the people of the
United States may turn to
God in prayer and meditation..." Crabb ruled
that the sole purpose of the law is to "encourage all citizens to engage in
prayer, an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function in this
These judicial rulings not only stand in contradiction to the First Amendment of
the Bill of Rights, they stand at odds with the clear sentiment of the American
people. A survey conducted last summer by the First Amendment
Center found that 76% of the public support the designation of a National Day of
Prayer. 75% of respondents believed that students should be able to offer a
prayer or speak about their faith at public school events.
We encourage you to contact your state legislators to urge their support for the
proposed prayer amendment to the Missouri Constitution.
You can contact your State Representative to urge suppport for Representative
McGhee's House Joint Resolution 2 by using the following link:
You can contact your State Senator to urge support for Senator Goodman's Senate
Joint Resolution 16 by clicking this link:
If you do not know who your legislators are, you can obtain that information
through this link:
Please be praying for Representative McGhee and Senator Goodman.
Representative McGhee is one of Missouri's
most charitable legislators. He has persevered in promoting the religious
freedoms of Missourians despite repeated setbacks. Senator Goodman is a
man of extraordinary conscience and principle who will need to overcome the
annual filibuster of this vital legislation. We appreciate your continuing
prayers for them.