942,032 Missourians voted out of 4,137,545 registered voters (as of 2010.) 22% of the registered voters made decisions for the other 88%. The result will be expensive legal battles when this amendment is challenged in court.]
People in Missouri today are voting to amend their Constitution's Article I, Section 5 Religious Freedom--Liberty of Conscience and Belief--Limitation. They are going from about 100 words to about 600 words.
I was first struck by this phrase which only gets changed by adding "and women":
"all men have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences;"The Alaska Constitution,
§ 4. Freedom of ReligionNo law shall be made respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.
Specifying "Almighty God" seems to suggest a particular god, a single god, one that has ultimate power. There's no article such as "an" almighty god. And it's capitalized which suggests it's a proper name of a specific god.
I'm guessing it refers to the Judeo-Christian god. Possibly the Muslim god is included since Muslims also worship Almighty God.
But what about Hindus or Buddhists who don't worship an Almighty God?
It doesn't include "not worship," only worship. What rights does "according to the dictates of their own consciences" give to agnostics and atheists?
The most controversial language, apparently, is that part that allows school children to opt out of curriculum that conflicts with their religious beliefs.
"no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs;"The Kansas City Star's Midwest Democracy writes:
Susan German, president of the Science Teachers of Missouri, said the amendment could have a major impact on the teaching of certain topics in classrooms around the state.The sponsor, state Rep. Mike McGhee, according to the article, says the intent is to allow students to not take a class on Buddhism or Islam if they so choose. And a Muslim student wouldn't have to learn about Christianity. He thinks if the curriculum is offensive to some, it should just be changed.
"It is evident that some of the major areas of concern include teaching the age of the Earth, evolution, or climate change in the science classrooms," German said in a letter to the organization's 450 members. "While this may not be a direct attack, it certainly opens the door."
German said her organization has not taken a formal position on the amendment, but it is urging its members to go beyond the summary to fully understand potential ramifications.
There is a difference between "learning about" and being proselytized. The only reason I can think of that a parent might not want their child to learn about other religions is that such classes may raise questions about their own religious beliefs. Blocking objective knowledge about other beliefs deprives their own children's right to religious freedom.
The article then points out that this section of the amendment is not mentioned in the ballot summary:
"You can't put the entire amendment in the summary, but letting students opt out of assignments is a pretty big change," said Anthony Rothert, the legal director of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri. "I don't know if voters will know that this is what they are voting for."
It appears that the vagueness of the amendment - despite its length - means it will be resolved in the courts. Perhaps that will have the unanticipated effect of questioning the language which specifies worshiping Almighty God.