Missouri’s Constitutional Creationism Amendment

At the website of Science, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), we find this headline: Missouri ‘Right to Pray’ Law Could Limit Teaching Evolution. Here are some excerpts, with bold font added by us:

Last week, Missouri voters gave themselves the right to pray without state interference. But some science educators are worried that the seemingly innocuous referendum on the 7 August ballot, which passed overwhelmingly, could also undermine the teaching of evolution in public schools.

Missouri had two creationist bills in their legislature this year, but neither passed (see Missouri Creationism: Both 2012 Bills Are Dead). Somehow this thing happened without our noticing it. Creationists are always slipping their cultish nonsense into seemingly innocent legislative measures. Let’s see what else Science has to say:

Amendment 2 “is a lawyer’s dream” because of its vagueness, says Joshua Rosenau, programs and policy director of the National Center for Science Education in Oakland, California, which tracks efforts by groups that oppose evolution. While the amendment begins by declaring that all residents “have a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences,” it also lists several situations in which that right must be protected. Rosenau is worried about one particular clause: “that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.”

We’ve looked around, but we can’t find any official site that gives the wording of that amendment, so we’ll go with Josh Rosenau’s version. Let’s read on:

Those words give students the legal right to skip assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with their beliefs, Rosenau says. And that exemption could extend throughout their scholastic career, he adds, since evolution is not just taught in one lesson but remains a recurrent theme throughout science education. The amendment also leaves a hole in their coursework, he says, as it provides no guidance on any substitute lessons.

How wonderful for the children in Missouri! They have a right to grow up ignorant –and receive a high school diploma too. We’ll skip to the final paragraph:

Mike Hoey, a supporter of the amendment and executive director of the Missouri Catholic Conference, thinks that Rosenau is “overanalyzing” the language in the amendment. “I don’t think this will affect science in the classroom in any significant way,” he says. “I think the vast majority of students will want to participate in all units of their science classes.” The amendment makes no mention of providing an alternative curriculum, Hoey adds. So any student who opts out of a biology lesson, he says, “will need to face the consequences” of missing those lessons.

It may be difficult to get the US Supreme Court to declare a state’s Constitution to be unconstitutional, so the people of Missouri could be stuck with this thing. If that’s what they want, they deserve the results. As long as they’re happy, we’re happy.

Copyright © 2012. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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11 responses to “Missouri’s Constitutional Creationism Amendment

  1. Hey,
    They also don’t have to take astronomy (the Sun doesn’t orbit the earth) or geology (the earth is 3.4 billion years old) or geography or English literature (atheists … atheist authors!) because once they do, aren’t they giving up their right because they aren’t being consistent. Do they get to pick and choose? No! Claim the exclusion once, you have to claim it every time there is a conflict! What other subjects are they prohibited from taking once they claim a religious exclusion? Ah, girl’s sports are excluded (unseemly behavior for females, exposing too much flesh)! Boy’s sports, too (chasing Mammon).

    Such students would not even be able to greet their teachers (If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.)! Actually the teachers of those classes they cannot take must be killed (Anyone arrogant enough to reject the verdict of the judge or of the priest who represents the LORD your God must be put to death.)!

    Help me out here, how many subjects will they be banned from for religious reasons? Let’s make a list!

  2. Charley Horse

    I think they shot themselves in the foot by mentioning …a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God ….
    That, to me, sets up a defense for anyone accused of not allowing prayer. The state, by only naming one entity, is limiting this silly
    “law” as allowing prayer to only one entity. Of course, I could be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time.

    More of the “law”:
    that students may express their beliefs about religion in written and oral assignments free from discrimination based on the religious content of their work; that no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs; that the state shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference, as long as such prayer or other expression is private and voluntary, whether individually or corporately, and in a manner that is not disruptive and as long as such prayers or expressions abide within the same parameters placed upon any other free speech under similar circumstances; and, to emphasize the right to free exercise of religious expression, that all free public schools receiving state appropriations shall display, in a conspicuous and legible manner, the text of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution of the United States; but this section shall not be construed to expand the rights of prisoners in state or local custody beyond those afforded by the laws of the United States, excuse acts of licentiousness, nor to justify practices inconsistent with the good order, peace or safety of the state, or with the rights of others.

    No licentiousness…so much for the “Show Me State” and holding hands in the hallways.

  3. From the law: this section shall not be construed to… excuse acts of licentiousness…

    But what if “acts of licentiousness” are essential to my religion? What if my religion demands orgies in public?

    And who defines what “licentiousness” is? Do these Taliban decide? Just 2 or 3 decades ago, a black person holding hands with a white person would have been considered licentious by these Christian taliban, and prohibited. Certainly it was prohibited at Bob Jones U. until 2000.

    Anyway, I’m amazed no one here has cited the cartoon of Calvin and Hobbes where the teacher asks Calvin, “What is 5+14?” and Calvin responds, “I’m sorry, but it’s against my religion to answer that question.”

    This is exactly where it’s heading. Some creationists have stated that MATH IS A RELIGION, one with which they have the right to disagree. So eventually we’ll have dumb lazy kids opting out of math class, so they can stay dumb and lazy forever.

  4. They also don’t have to take…

    Missouri only requires 3 credits in science to graduate, so most kids already have the ability to skip biology if they want to. Just take physics, chemistry and earth science. Or astronomy. Or some 2-credit AP physics or chemistry. There’s a lot of possibilities.

    I do not think that is what creationists are going for. That would be too honest. What they want is to take biology and be given A’s for not learning the evolution material. They want their religious beliefs counted as science. And they want their transcript to say “college prep track” without having to learn some of the material universities look for in prospective applicants.

  5. The text of the amendment is provided in HJR 2, the legislative instrument by which the proposal to amend the state constitution was placed on the ballot: http://www.sos.mo.gov/elections/2012ballot/fulltext_1.pdf

  6. retiredsciguy

    stephenpruis asks, “Help me out here, how many subjects will they be banned from for religious reasons? Let’s make a list!”

    Don’t forget math — the Bible states that pi equals 3.

    Charley Horse: “I think they shot themselves in the foot by mentioning …a natural and indefeasible right to worship Almighty God …”

    Bet you’re right. This law will put the state in the position of deciding which religion is allowed protected status, and which isn’t. Clearly unconstitutional.

    “…the state shall ensure public school students their right to free exercise of religious expression without interference…”

    Here’s a prediction — there will be a sudden upsurge of students claiming to be Rastafarians, and they will demand that the school provide them with the pot necessary to practice their religion.

  7. And the moment a Muslim student demands to only be taught by a male teacher, this will immediately go south. We saw how quickly that happened in Louisiana it will happen again here too. As soon as it happens of course, they will immediately bend over backwards trying to find a way to exclude other religions while only keeping the benefits for themselves.

  8. It’s amazing that they write a law saying students have the right to pray to “Almighty God” but not other deities. Christians can’t even agree amongst themselves who is or isn’t worshiping the same God.

    For example, many fundamentalists believe that Catholics only think they’re worshiping Jesus– really they’re worshiping some Babylonian demon. Specifically, they argue that the Virgin Mary venerated by Catholics is the witch-whore Semiramis, consort of Nimrod, who together are all the male / female god /goddess pairs of all pagan religions.

    That idea is promoted by Jack Chick, the creationist comic book artist. It’s based on the late 1800’s book “The Two Babylons” by Alexander Hislop.

    Henry Morris, author of “The Genesis Flood”, cited Hislop as his authority (although Morris changed it so that Satan invented the theory of evolution and taught it to Nimrod in an astrological temple atop the Tower of Babel.)

    So who decides which deities are “Almighty God” and which aren’t? Christians can’t agree on that amongst themselves.

  9. Retired Prof

    Will Buddhists, be allowed to pray to their ancestors even though they have more than one and they don’t consider them to be almighty?