Your Opinion: 'Prayer' amendment's troubling possibilities

Dear Editor:

Neither the fact nor the percentage of victory for the “Prayer” Amendment surprised me.

My first perception was that it represented no more than a redundant restatement of settled law for America and more so for Missouri. I read Missouri Article I, Sections 5, 6 and 7 which were replaced by the amendment. I read the proposed amendment. I read information on Engle v. Vitale [1962], the Supreme Court Case that prohibited mandatory in-school prayer but protected private in-school prayer with disruption and respect for the rights of others as limiting. Additionally in Schultz v. Medina, a federal Judge recently stated, “Any American can pray, silently or verbally, seven days a week, twenty four hours a day, in private as Jesus taught or in large events as Mohammed instructed.” I sacrificed a little time but learned valuable information. I also expect the usual replies from the usual characters.

First is the open-ended lack of definition. Two words, disturbance and disruption, will be the source of lawsuits against school districts from both sides of the argument. There is also the simple fact that some child, whether Jewish, Muslim or perhaps even Catholic, will hear the whispered abuse, the probability that one child will be told his “prayer” is disturbing or disruptive. That is how it begins, with a little religious bigotry. That it is probable is potentially problematic for every school district in the state.

Equally troubling the amendment exempts students in public schools from being compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.

The basic and core function of the public school system is to teach reading, writing and arithmetic and eventually what science and demonstrable research can verify, things like gravity, the structure of the universe, the chart of the elements and so forth. That some Christians believe that the date of creation can be determined as approximately 6,000 year ago is their perfect right. It is not the obligation of public education to deny carbon dating proving billions of years of planetary history and the science proving evolutionary realities.

Finally there is one other insert in the amendment that struck me as curious and almost shallow: the posting of the Bill of Rights. Great! Fantastic! And I suppose posting them is sufficient to explain the intricacies and development of this document over the previous 230 years.

Issue-oriented letters to the editor in response to this or about other local topics are welcome. All letters should be limited to 400 words. The author's name must appear with the letter, and the name, address and phone number provided for verification. Letters that cannot be verified by telephone will not be published. Send letters for publication to editor@newstribune.com

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