Karen, smugly: “My religion doesn’t believe in the theory of evolution. My Mom says I don’t have to do your assignment, you know, cause it’s against our beliefs; she says the new law says I don’t have to do it. So there!”
Teacher (high school): “Robert, where is your comparative religion report that was due yesterday?”
Robert, defiantly: “Mrs. Teacher, mine is THE only religion, there are no others. My Dad was furious that I was asked to do that report. He told me to tell you that the new law says I don’t have to do it since it’s against MY religion.”
Fantasy? Absolutely not!
These scenarios are only two minor examples of the unintended consequences of a little known Constitutional Amendment 2 on next Tuesday’s ballot. The amendment, among other things, gives children the right to NOT do homework assignments if they simply say it’s against their religion. What kind of chaos do you think this will bring in classrooms already overcrowded and teachers overwrought with the responsibilities of trying to teach?
MAJOR OPPOSITION TO 2
That’s why in the past few weeks, a coalition of religious leaders from many denominations, educational, civic and social groups have come together, many under the banner of The Missouri Coalition to Keep Politics Out of Religion, to openly, and forcefully, express OPPOSITION to Amendment 2:
• “…Missourians who truly care about our basic freedoms should reject this misguided proposal,” wrote The Rev. Jason Samuel, pastor, Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration,” in a Post-Dispatch OpEd, noting that, “Amendment 2 spawns confusion because it’s poorly worded and misleading.
• “(Amendment 2) simply isn’t needed. It doesn’t do anything,” editorializes the Kansas City Star.
• “Amendment 2 fails to recognize important constitutional limitations and, in doing so, invites confusion and conflict,” says Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty Executive Director Rev. J. Brent Walker.
Adds Rev. Walker: “Amendment 2 purports to grant or secure several rights that are already constitutionally protected. A number of the measure's provisions are redundant and misleading because they falsely suggest to voters that certain rights are under siege and must be secured by constitutional amendment.”
• Writer Lance Finney on the Ethical Society of Saint Louis’ website points out the educational hazard contained in the amendment:
“This means that Mormon students will be able to demand an A for a paper that says that Native Americans are descendants of a tribe of Israel…that fringe Christian students will be able to demand an A for a paper that says that the Earth is flat and the center of the Universe. This means, essentially, that any teacher of science or history has to be ready to endorse as equally valid any notion that a student claims is core to her religion.”
Says Finney, this is a “deceptive attempt to insert religion into our government and schools.”
• While most opposition covers a broad spectrum of thought, in an editorial titled “Deception in Amendment 2” Dr. Russell Dieterich, state representative for the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, takes a very specific, focused tact charging that Amendment 2 will “enshrine human cloning into our Missouri Constitution” by changing the scientific definition of cloning.
• Calling the amendment “misleading at best,” Jay Umansky, president of the St. Louis Region of the American Jewish Congress, in a letter to the editor in the Post-Dispatch stresses “It offers us little protection in exchange for its serious threats, adding,
“In fact, Amendment 2 would restrict religious freedoms for many people in Missouri” both in Christian and non-Christian religions.”
The Catholic Bishops have endorsed Amendment 2.
The overwhelming majority of opposition comes from several basic facts, says Americans United for Separation of Church and State:
• The amendment is vague and misleading.
• The ballot language you will see is seductive and itself misleading designed to ensure its passage.
• The amendment goes too far, leading to unintended consequences that will harm, rather than protect, the religious freedoms of Missourians.
• Because of the confusion it will create, it will lead to costly lawsuits.
• It’s completely unnecessary. The guarantees of religious freedom are enshrined in the U.S. Constitution and the Missouri Constitution.
• It will harm public education.
• Current school curriculums don’t infringe on student’s free speech rights.
Playing politics with Missouri’s constitution
What’s the real story behind Constitutional Amendment 2?
The Southeast Missourian hit the nail on the head:
“Some have speculated that this ballot initiative was put to voters for political reasons in attempt to get more conservative voters to the polls in November. The Democratic governor thought it was important enough to move up to August.”
Politics pure and simple? With critical state-wide offices and a United States Senator up for grabs in November vote, the more conservative Republicans in the Missouri Legislature thought this kind of an amendment would turn out their voters in order to help increase their chances of sweeping the elections.
Noted the Kansas City Star: “…the Missouri Constitution isn’t meant to be a holding ground for political statements or redundant amendments. For that reason, we recommend NO on this ballot question…”
Wisely, Governor Jay Nixon put the issue on the August ballot.