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

woman praying

Let's talk about the Right to Pray amendment in Missouri. Don’t we Americans already have the right to pray (or not pray)? I just returned from a family vacation to Boston where we walked the Freedom Trail. The guide spent much of his time (in character as a settler) talking about religious persecution and religious freedom. I was reminded of our country’s tenuous beginnings in vivid 3D that only the bricks and gilded domes of Boston can unleash. I grew up in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson penned the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom. Congress looked to this Virginia law, passed in 1786, when drafting the Bill of Rights in 1789. Freedom is more than rhetoric, more than a buzz word, more than an idea. The biggest fallacy in the freedom argument these days is the concept that granting freedom to one means taking it away from another.

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I believe in one’s right to pray (or not to pray). It is a common sight where I live to see people bow their heads in the middle of a restaurant to say a prayer before a meal. I’ve worked in an office where prayer was de rigueur before meetings (which carried with it other implications). I grew up with a moment of silence in my school each morning. I keep hearing from Christian friends that they feel persecuted, judged, and under attack. Really? Last I heard, a Christian church wasn’t the site of a hateful bullet riddled attack. I’m not clear who’s under fire here. I haven’t seen any hostility and hate aimed at Christians. Will Amendment 2 in Missouri also protect those who face Mecca to pray? Does this protect those who abstain from prayer? Is this a Christian only amendment? Something reeks of an attack on the separation of church and state here.

I don’t understand this intersection of government and religion. How does government dictating religious freedom create smaller government? Surely there's something clever to add here about old adage “my body is my temple," but I'm not witty enough to come up with it. But I digress ... We already have religious freedom, and our ancestors fought for it. We take it for granted and now interpret religious freedom as Christian only, or worse, “thinking just like me or you’re wrong and should be persecuted.” Missouri’s Amendment 2 is shrouded in something sinister, veiled as religious freedom. Sounds like lawyers will be the real winners here. Missouri should focus instead on boosting its weak economy, one that has shown lackluster improvement compared to the rest of the country in recent years. Simply praying for jobs in a public square isn’t going to be enough.

This post is part of a weekly conversation with our Moms Matter 2012 political bloggers. To see the original question and what the other writers have to say, see Do States Need Right to Pray Amendments?


Image via US National Archives and Records Administration

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