I’m sure you know by now that Missouri voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum on Tuesday that purported to supporta “right to pray” — a right that is already protected, of course. But the law is a trojan horse that will inevitably lead to serious lawsuits. Here’s the relevant text of the amendment:
That all men and women have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences; that no human authority can control or interfere with the rights of conscience; that no person shall, on account of his or her religious persuasion or belief, be rendered ineligible to any public office or trust or profit in this state, be disqualified from testifying or serving as a juror, or be molested in his or her person or estate; that to secure a citizen’s right to acknowledge Almighty God according to the dictates of his or her own conscience, neither the state nor any of its political subdivisions shall establish any official religion, nor shall a citizen’s right to pray or express his or her religious beliefs be infringed; that the state shall not coerce any person to participate in any prayer or other religious activity, but shall ensure that any person shall have the right to pray individually or corporately in a private or public setting so long as such prayer does not result in disturbance of the peace or disruption of a public meeting or assembly; that citizens as well as elected officials and employees of the state of Missouri and its political subdivisions shall have the right to pray on government premises and public property so long as such prayers abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; that the General Assembly and the governing bodies of political subdivisions may extend to ministers, clergypersons, and other individuals the privilege to offer invocations or other prayers at meetings or sessions of the General Assembly or governing bodies; that students may express their beliefs about religion in written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work; that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs; that the state shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary, whether individually or corporately, and in a manner that is not disruptive and as long as such prayers or expressions abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; and, to emphasize the right to free exercise of religious expression, that all free public schools receiving state appropriations shall display, in a conspicuous and legible manner, the text of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; but this section shall not be construed to expand the rights of prisoners in state or local custody beyond those afforded by the laws of the United States, excuse acts of licentiousness, nor to justify practices inconsistent with the good order, peace or safety of the state, or with the rights of others.
Most of this is redundant, stuff that is already legally protected. But the portion in bold is a very serious problem. It will lead inevitably to parents claiming that their kids shouldn’t have to study anything that conflicts with their religious views like, oh I don’t know, evolution. Or the big bang. Hell, there’s no limit to what kind of exceptions might have to be made here. There is virtually nothing taught in school that doesn’t conflict with someone’s religious views.
And you just wait until the first Muslim student demands that they be excused from learning about something because it conflicts with their religion. The very same people crying about religious freedom now will be yelling, “How dare those Muslims come here and refuse to learn our culture! They must be terrorists!” Mark my words, that single provision of this law is going to create a judicial boondoggle.