Lawsuits
12:25 pm
Fri August 10, 2012

'Right To Pray' Amendment Prompts ACLU Lawsuit

Missouri's Amendment 2, which reiterates the rights of individuals to pray in public and in schools and was passed by 83 percent in Tuesday's elections, now faces opposition from a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit takes issue with the Amendment's wording being oversimplified "to the point of deceit." Specifically, the suit alleges that there is a provision — excluded from the ballot wording — that would unlawfully limit the religious protections afforded to state prison inmates.

The ACLU had unsuccessfully challenged the proposed amendment prior to its unusual landslide win on Tuesday, but an Eastern Missouri ACLU official told the Associated Press that the prison inmate provision will give the court a solid reason to block the amendment.

"The Missouri Constitution provides more protections of religious liberty than the U.S. Constitution, so the state can't remove protections in a way that affects just one group," said Tony Rothert of the ACLU of Eastern Missouri.

The U.S. Constitution's 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause requires each state to provide equal protection to all people within its jurisdiction. The ACLU argues that inhibiting prisoners', i.e. one particular group's, religious freedom, while ensuring the religious freedom of others, is unconstitutional.

The suit was filed on behalf of two inmates against the head of the Missouri Department of Corrections.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that the ballot wording also left out provisions "assuring that elected officials will be able to pray on public property, and that school kids will be allowed to opt out of any assignment that runs contrary to their religious beliefs."

Rothert told the AP that if this lawsuit is ineffective, the ACLU will continue to pursue the issue by finding another way to challenge the amendment.