August 9, 2012
Missouri Students Can Now Opt Out of School Assignments on Religious Grounds
Voters overwhelmingly approve prayer amendment that critics argue is unnecessary.
Missouri voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment this week that will permit students to refuse school assignments that violate their religious beliefs.
Supporters of Amendment 2, which was expected both to pass and to be challenged in court, argued that it protects religious expression in schools and other public forums and hope it becomes a model for other states. Critics argued that the amendment duplicates existing legal protections and will prove a "nightmare for school districts."
Amendment 2 adds a number of religious protections to Missouri's constitution. What will likely prove the most contentious aspect is this: "No student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs."
The amendment has already received its first of many expected legal challenges. The ACLU has filed a class-action lawsuit in federal court, claiming the new amendment actually reduces the religious freedom of prisoners because it restricts prisoner freedoms to only what federal law allows (vs. broaden freedoms permitted by Missouri law).
The specific ballot and amendment language can be found here.