Note: This is an older post I wrote offline when this site was still in planning stages. It is no longer a “timely” post, as I was wanting it to be. Some things cannot be avoided. But just because it isn’t timely doesn’t mean I don’t like it. As for the subject of this post, the Amendment to the Missouri Constitution I write about has been passed.
We here at the Perpetual Skeptic tend to be skeptical. In true form, I am skeptical of this article I read in HuffPo concerning a proposed amendment to the Missouri State Constitution. No, not skeptical about the content, but rather skeptical about the issue.
Looking at the summary of the proposed amendment piques my curiosity; why does the state constitution have to be amended to ensure “That the right of Missouri citizens to express their religious beliefs shall not be infringed”? That is already part of the US Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Another point is that such an amendment would ensure “That school children have the right to pray and acknowledge God voluntarily in their schools”. I’m pretty sure this is also protected by the aforementioned federal-level documents. Of course, I think what they’re trying to say is “you can’t stop school prayer”. However, to be fair, I don’t think anybody has ever tried to say it is unconstitutional for a student to pray in school; rather, the issue has always been the constitutionality of school led prayer (as in a teacher or other administrator, or even a student, leading a school-wide prayer).
As it turns out, the bullet point summary of the bill is a bit too summarized (again, the skeptical mind-set proves its worth, for I actually read the whole 2pg bill…go me!). The actual text of the proposed amendment states, specifically, that “the state shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expressionwithout interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary”. So, it is private prayer. But again, I don’t think anybody has ever tried to take that away.
Perhaps slightly more controversial would be two other provisions, one being that any governing bodies are free to invite clergy to perform invocations or other prayers at the start of General Assembly meetings. Opening prayers of this type have been criticized as a way to sneak religion into the running of government. I don’t know. I don’t personally like it, but then most of these types of prayers are so thoroughly mainstream and non-denominational as to render them harmless. But one could certainly argue about the principle of it all.
The other controversial provision is that students cannot be coerced to do school assignments that would violate their religious beliefs. It’ll be interesting to see how many “math atheists” are out there. But aside from that, I shudder to speculate on how empty the biology classes will be.
And that is the point—that is the golden nugget hidden in all the rest of the benign provisions of the bill. How many other school assignments are there that conflict with religious principles? This is nothing but a way for creationists to toss out the “theory” (as they like to misrepresent the word) of evolution in order to make room for some good, solid biblical facts.
You can see the path laid out before you (this path leading to “creation science”) when you consider that the pastor to the state representative who proposed the bill, and has spoken to him for several years about such legislation, is quoted as saying “if Amendment 2 passes, it will ‘level the playing field.’ Hodges said Christians ‘enjoyed home-field advantage’ for the country’s first 150 years. ‘That’s changed, and now there’s a hostility toward Christians,’ he said.” So, as long as everybody agrees, or at least as long as those who disagree keep quiet, then everything is fine. However, as soon as people start speaking up and saying “should we really be trying to teach science from a 4000yr old book?”, then special legislation is needed to “level the playing field” for the 80%+ of the population who is one form of Christian or another. Right.
The nick-name for Missouri is the Show Me State. According to the state website , the slogan “is now used to indicate the stalwart, conservative, noncredulous character of Missourians.” I think it will be a sad day for Missouri if this passes. It will be sad to see the Show Me State be so very credulous.