Missouri Passes 'Right to Pray' Amendment by Over 600,000 Votes

On Tuesday, voters in Missouri expressed their views concerning religious freedom and overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment that supporters feel will protect it.

The measure, known as Amendment 2 but commonly referred to as the "Right to Pray" amendment, gives Missourians the right to express religious beliefs in public without fear of their freedom to do so being limited.

The amendment also protects voluntary prayer in public schools and requires public schools to display a copy of the Bill of Rights.

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With only a few precincts statewide not officially counted, the number of votes which garnered a supportive vote were 779,628; 162,404 voted no, which meant the victory was a landslide at more than a 4-1 margin, with religious freedom winning by 617,224 votes.

Missouri voters believe "religious liberty is pretty important to them and a high priority," Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network, told the Kansas City Star.

"The public feels like the Supreme Court took this away from them over 50 years ago with a ruling against mandatory school prayer," he added.

But not everyone is excited about this new piece of legislation, claiming that it is redundant.

Alex Luchenitser of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which opposed the measure, explained that he was not surprised with the outcome of the vote.

"This amendment promotes unconstitutional conduct … It's going to result in a whole lot of litigation." But it is still not clear what if any immediate impact the amendment, which takes effect in 30 days, will have.

The new amendment broadly expands the protections in the state's constitution by adding new sections on religious issues. The Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the amendment in June.

"The proposed amendment makes certain or safeguards the right to freedom of religious expression by setting forth specific ways to avoid infringing upon this right," the court wrote in the opinion.

The amendment was introduced by Missouri Representative Michael McGhee in late 2010 and passed by the state legislature in 2011.

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