Main | Wednesday, August 15, 2012

MISSOURI: Voters Approve Referendum Granting Students Right To Refuse Evolution Lessons

Last week Missouri's voters approved a "Right To Pray" referendum that includes, among many others things, the "protection" of public school students' God-given right to refuse to be taught evolution.
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." Those words give students the legal right to skip assignments related to evolution if the subject matter conflicts with their beliefs, Rosenau says.
The ballot measure also grants students the right to refuse lessons that teach about other religions. Yesterday the Kansas City Star published an editorial denouncing the vote. An excerpt:
Most voters who approved the Missouri prayer amendment likely assumed the proposal sounded innocuous, knowing that their religious freedoms are already guaranteed by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. But when pressed by media, many backers of the amendment spoke about ensuring that school children have the right to refuse learning about Buddha, or Islam, or being somehow indoctrinated by learning about how Muslims pray. And there the true intent is discovered. This amendment is for conservative Christians who are offended that they might have to acknowledge that not everyone in the world is Christian.
The ACLU has already filed a federal lawsuit. (Tipped by JMG reader Daniel)

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