By Talia Kaplan
St. Louis, MO (KSDK)- Joint Resolution Number 2 passed the Missouri House last year by 126 to 30 and passed unanimously in the Senate. Senator Jim Lembke is a supporter of the measure.
"I think what this does is it tries to protect those rights that are already secure but now that we have challenges over the decades and over 231 years in the courts challenging our religious freedom I think it's better for the states if we do make it clear that you have these freedom of conscience, freedom of religion and that we spell it out," said Senator Lembke.
Wednesday, Governor Jay Nixon set the vote on the right to pray for the August 7th ballot. The measure would guarantee the right to pray in public places as long as it does not disturb the public. It also says that students may express their religious beliefs in school and do not have to participate in assignments that go against their beliefs.
"I feel like if it's written in law there is less dispute and people will be more accepting of people's customs, not necessarily their religion but the customs that come with the religion, and there would just be less argument about it," said Tim Day, a Kirkwood High School Fellowship of Christian Athletes member.
"I feel that if parents want the religious aspect to their child's schooling they should send them to one of the private schools in the area but, Clayton for example is a public school and I feel that it's still run by the government and there should be separation between Church and State," said Thalia Sass, a Clayton High School Jewish Student Union member.
The governor's office says it chose to put the question on the August primary ballot as opposed to on the ballot for November's general election because the measure would take effect as soon as approved by voters.
"The American Civil Liberties Union represents two Missouri citizens, an educator and a minister, who are challenging the ballot statement for the proposed constitutional amendment," said Tony Rothert, the ACLU-EM's legal director. "The legislature wrote a summary statement that will mislead voters by suggesting the amendment gives students the right to voluntarily pray and prevents the government from interfering with religious beliefs. That is already the law. What the amendment really does is take away religious liberty protections from persons in prison and give students in public, private, and parochial schools the right to refuse any assignment they say violates their religious beliefs. If Missourians knew what the measure did, then they would vote against it."
The ACLU-EM has a special hearing before the Court of Appeals in Kansas City on June 6 to challenge the ballot statement summary.
"The United States and Missouri Constitutions already broadly protect freedom of religion. This amendment would open the door to coercive prayer and proselytizing in public schools and other government settings," said Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.