Do States Need 'Right to Pray' Amendments?

Praying HandsMissourians will vote tomorrow on an amendment to their state constitution that would guarantee them the right to pray in public.

The wording of the amendment would "ensure that any person shall have the right to pray individually or corporately in a private or public setting," and polling indicates that about 80% of Missouri voters support it. This is not surprising, given that 80% of Missourians are Christians.

But critics worry the amendment could create scenarios where people feel uncomfortable not praying, or praying according to their own religion.

We're asking our political bloggers this week what they think about Missouri's right to pray amendment -- in the meantime, we want to hear from you.

Let us know what you think of the amendment in the comments. Would you support it?


Here's how the amendment is explained on the Missouri ballot:

A "yes" vote will amend the Missouri Constitution to provide that neither the state nor political subdivisions shall establish any official religion. The amendment further provides that a citizen's right to express their religious beliefs regardless of their religion shall not be infringed and that the right to worship includes prayer in private or public settings, on government premises, on public property, and in all public schools. The amendment also requires public schools to display the Bill of Rights of the United States Constitution.

A "no" vote will not change the current constitutional provisions protecting freedom of religion.

One potentially problematic part of the amendment states that "no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs."

This leads to questions about defining exactly what would violate one's religious beliefs, and how it would do that. And questions often lead to lawsuits -- which taxpayers would have to defend.

Science teachers in Missouri have expressed concerns if the amendment passes about their ability to teach evolution, climate change, and the use of geology in determining the age of the earth.

According to the Huffington Post, though, supporters say the amendment will counter the current "hostility toward Christians."

Yet others question how Christians can feel hostility in a state where they make up 80 percent of the population.

Here's what our political bloggers have to say about right to pray amendments:

Hey Missouri, Americans Already Have the Right to Pray (Or Not)

Right to Pray Amendment Protects as Much as Right Not to Pray

The Politics of Prayer


Image via Irina Petruscu/Flickr

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