JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (BP) — The passage of Missouri Amendment 2 — which guarantees the right to pray and worship on public property and to choose any or no religion — was cheered by Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) leaders who worked hard for its passage.
Missouri votes passed it Tuesday (Aug. 9) by a margin of 83-17 percent.
“This is the very first time that any state has voted on this issue since the early 1960s, when prayer was removed from public schools,” said Kerry Messer, legislative liaison for the Christian Life Commission (CLC) of the MBC. “The nation has been held hostage to the U.S. Supreme Court on this front for over 50 years. This is the first time we’ve had a credible measure of what citizens think about that topic.”
The MBC distributed 186,000 bulletin inserts to affiliated churches, outlining how passage of the amendment would impact the state:
— Children would have the right to pray voluntarily in public school.
— Citizens would have the right to pray and to acknowledge God in public settings and on public property.
— Elected officials would have the right to pray and acknowledge God in public meetings and public ceremonies.
— Students would have the right to express their belief in God in their school work and classroom discussions.
— Students would have the right to decline participation in school assignments or programs that violate their religious beliefs.
David Krueger, chairman of the MBC Christian Life Commission (CLC) and pastor of First Baptist Church, Linn, said he hopes other states will follow Missouri’s lead.
“I think that this amendment becomes a model for other states,” Krueger said. “We needed it. I’m glad it passed. It’s sad that we had to have it, because for 50 years the Supreme Court has had conflicting decisions regarding freedom of religion. The CLC is very pleased with this historic show of support for the amendment.”
MBC Executive Director John Yeats said the vote was “indicative of the sentiments held by so many people who live and work in the heartland.”
“The confusing decisions by the state and federal courts and the potential threat of litigation by groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United have intimidated, until now, many good people into being silent in the public square,” said Yeats, who also serves as recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention. “This decision demonstrates the reality that Missourians understand that our constitutional religious liberties are valuable and viable at the church house, the work house, the state house and the schoolhouse.”
Messer said the Aug. 7 result was a triumph of perseverance.
“It took us 12 years to get it through the state legislature so we could have it on the ballot for Missouri voters to vote on,” he said. “Most activists don’t stay involved on a project that long.”
The full text of the amendment is available online at http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012ballot/fulltext_1.pdf.
Allen Palmeri is associate editor for The Pathway, the newsjournal of the Missouri Baptist Convention (http://www.mbcpathway.com/).