Fortifying Public Prayer in Missouri?

Missouri votes to fortify public prayer with amendment that critics call unnecessary:

Missouri voters approved an amendment to the state constitution Tuesday that proponents say will help ensure the right to pray in public.

The amendment was on a statewide ballot and had widespread support, though critics said the right to pray is already protected under the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights.

First, this bill is redundant and completely unnecessary. Second, part of the bill goes beyond protecting the right to prayer and becomes dangerous to real education:

Another part of the amendment sparking controversy is a section that reads “no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.”

Should students get out of learning algebra because it is against her religious beliefs? Of course not, but the law would also likely be used to get students from participating in assignments that teach scientific facts like we’re seeing in Louisiana.

This amendment will go to the courts and most likely be struck down, but we should be clear about the challenges to education coming from the right all over the country.

P.S. Don’t forget that Texas wants to take critical thinking out of its education system.

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3 thoughts on “Fortifying Public Prayer in Missouri?

  1. TW: I am wondering about whether or not what you mean (and I mean as well) by “real education” has specific ontological commitments that rely on particular religious positions. For example, that truth is knowable being such a commitment, and the existance of a Creator Who is , by nature, Self- and Truth-revealing towards the creation–specifically, human persons–whom the Creator has gifted with reason and a capacity to learn being the theological premise on which the ontological commitment is based. It would seem that in order to remain completely religiously neutral, one must suspend any mandatory activity–educational or otherwise–that would violate someone’s religous beliefs. But maybe we cannot remain religiously neutral. Perhaps we have made the mistake of assuming that the plural nature of our culture makes agreeing on basic theological truth an impossible task when our terms might actually be less incommensurable (Alisdair MacIntyre)than we think, given enough honest dialogue. But given our current vague understanding of the proper relationship between “‘Church and State,” which seems to have become something more accurately called the relationship between “Spirituality and Religion and State,” a law protecting the theological integrity of the individual to live out a religion seems to be fair, seems to be equal. Tangent on “equality”: I find Aristotle’s definition of equality from The Politics quite stimulating: equality is treating equally those things that are equal. This definition has two different applications to the present discussion, I believe. The first is that, if all religious beliefs are equal, and if we are to be a religiously-neutral state/union of states, then yes, we must protect every religious belief, regardless of outcome, but, secondly, if all religious beliefs are not equal, then we must engage such discussion very carefully, lest we fall into persecuation of persons based on religious belief. Nevertheless, I posit that it is a discussion we must enter, full of grace. I guess that I am suggesting that we turn our attention to the relationship between Theology and the State–in particular a Union of States of people who happen to be very spiritual, at the least, very religious, given a classical understanding of the word “religious”. Your thoughts?

    1. I think I understand where you’re coming from. I would say that real/proper education in a secular society, which is what our country is, regardless of how many people identify as religious or spiritual, is likely based in the Enlightenment, but especially in verifiable facts. As to the Aristotle quote and the two possible applications that you bring up, I think we can say, on the one hand, that all religious beliefs are equal and must be protected, but also say, on the other hand, that specifically religious beliefs have no place in secular education. It is one thing if a family chooses to homeschool their children and teach them religious “truths” that are clearly at odds with the best scientific knowledge we have. It is another thing when states work to put certain things into their state-wide educational objectives that, in the hopes of “protecting” one’s religious beliefs, do harm to the beliefs of many more, and all of this is being done with tax payer money. That is, citizens of the state have an agreement with the state, through the Constitution, that no religion will be favored and that all religions will be protected. The moves in Missouri, Louisiana, and Texas do neither of those things.

      So whether our ontological commitments rely on particular religious positions or not, is almost irrelevant, I think, especially in a secular state.

      I hope that makes sense and actually addresses your comment.

  2. I feel compelled to modify my comment twice: Firstly, we are a Union of States of people, many of whom, but not all of whom, identify themselves as spiritual…even though, debatably, depending on your definition, you could classify more than those who believe in God to be spiritual, even religious. And secondly, by Theology (Theology and State), I do not necassarily mean revealed theology. Perhaps philosophy of religion or natural theology would be a better term. Of course, this is another topic entirely, and we could discuss the pitfalls of the Enlightenment false dichotomies of philosophy, theology, morality, ethics, etc. at length. Perhaps what I am getting at is a desire to give Nietzche a good hearing: with God die many things: all hope of thoughtful dialogue, real educaiton of any sorts, and any sort of a framework in which to have political discussions that even try to point to the realities involved in living together in the best human society possible. At least, I think, an acknowledgement of this sort needs to be made at a wide societal level, before we can move ahead in any kind of fruitful dialogue that rises above political circus acts mobilizing their respective masses instead of entering into relational, respectful dialoge with those with whom they disagree, seeking to work for a common good.

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