The Founding Fathers were explicit in the First Amendment’s separation and no-establishment clause that prohibits religion from dictating the course of any part of the government. Republicans are allegedly extraordinarily fierce defenders of the Constitution except where it conflicts with their ideology, and as Americans have witnessed for the past year-and-a-half, GOP ideology is firmly rooted in obeisance to fundamentalist Christianity. On Tuesday, voters in Missouri took a major step towards granting Christians the right to dominate public meetings, discriminate against non-Christians, and dictate school curriculum as defined by evangelical Christian fanatics. Now that residents of the “show me state” have established Christianity as the state religion.
Voters overwhelmingly approved the “right to pray” Amendment (Amendment 2), a measure that ensures public meetings, school functions, and educators are beholden to adhere to the whims and mythos of fundamentalist Christianity. The amendment was sponsored by Republican state Rep. Mike McGhee, a Baptist, to allegedly protect the state’s Christians, about 80 percent of the population, who complain they are under siege in the public square. The Christian’s, buoyed by support from the state’s four Catholic bishops, define “under siege” as not being allowed impose their version of Christianity on the rest of the population. In fact, McGhee worked in concert with his preacher, Rev. Terry Hodges of First Baptist Church, who said if the amendment passes, it will “level the playing field” because Christians “enjoyed home-field advantage for the country’s first 150 years, but that’s changed, and now there’s a hostility toward Christians.”
McGhee said the amendment will protect Christianity in the state and he cited an incident he claims proves Christianity is under attack when a teacher told a kindergarten student singing “Jesus Loves Me” to change the verse to “mommy loves me.” A similar incident in California underscores the pressure evangelical fanatics are putting on educators to fall in line and promote Christianity. A mathematics teacher was chastised for not acquiescing to a student’s demand to play religious music in the classroom, and despite citing the Constitution’s separation clause, a religious group demanded the teacher’s head on a platter for persecuting Christians in the classroom. The matter is still unsettled and the teacher is under investigation for “restricting Christian’s right to their religious freedom to praise Jesus during classroom time.” It is an alarming trend from Christians who claim their religious liberty is being restricted because the Constitution prohibits them from imposing their religion on the rest of the population.
The hostility towards Christians is fantasized by the president of Missouri Family Network who said, “religious liberty is pretty important and a high priority, the public feels the Supreme Court took this away from them over 50 years ago by ruling against mandatory school prayer.” Opponents of the amendment say it will “become the vehicle for a sectarian agenda, typically Christian and typically Protestant, in violation of the no-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.” The amendment also jeopardizes education by including a clause that allows parents and students to dictate curriculum and instruction to fit their religious inclinations.
One section of the amendment says “no student shall be compelled to perform or participate in academic assignments or educational presentations that violate his or her religious beliefs.” The programs and policy director for the National Center for Science Education, Josh Rosenau, said allowing students to opt out of assignments would be problematic. Rosenau said, “What if a student says that long division is against his religion? Would he be accommodated by his math teacher?” However, that frivolous example does not address Christian parents and students who will impact how topics such as the age of the earth, climate change, and evolution are taught in schools if they are allowed to continue at all. According to Christian extremists, the Earth is 6,000 years old, climate is controlled by god, the universe is a six-day project of an imaginary sky-being, and science is the work of the Devil. Proponents of the amendment said it will protect students who want to read the bible during class time or drop and pray for rain, money, or whatever school-age children pray for. With the overwhelming majority of Missouri residents subscribing to Christianity, education will be transformed into bible classes and students will finish school with the academic acumen of Dark Ages hunter-gatherers; only more superstitious.
According to the Constitution, religious protections are already guaranteed under the Bill of Rights, and if a person wants to pray in public, they have that right. However, they do not have the right to force other citizens, or students, to suffer their superstitious appeals or praises to an imaginary being. Some opponents of the amendment fear “all manner of unintended and costly consequences including endless taxpayer-funded lawsuits” will drain much-needed public funds, but Missouri’s four Catholic bishops said the amendment was about “democratic clarity” which is code for the Christian majority dictating the course of education, public meetings, and public proselytizing. In a rare moment of religious reason, an Episcopal Bishop worried that prayer in public schools will “become the vehicle for a sectarian agenda, typically Christian and Protestant, in violation of the no-establishment clause of the U.S. Constitution’s First Amendment.”
Missouri’s Amendment 2 is a Dominionist ploy to insert Christianity into education and public discourse regardless the Constitution’s prohibition on establishing a state religion. The so-called “democratic clarity” is little more than religious imposition by Christian majority to transform America into a sectarian Christian nation and is part of a long-term effort to establish a theocracy. The movement has infiltrated all levels of public and private entities, and the educational system is their best opportunity to program an entire generation of “onward Christian soldiers” to finally establish the Christian nation they fantasize America becoming. The Missouri Family Network’s assertion that the Supreme Court “took religious liberty away” from Christians by banning mandatory school prayer informs their sense of entitlement to force students to submit to Christianity, and now Christian parents and students have legal cover to force schools to alter their curriculum to meet bible standards.
America is creeping toward a theocratic government the Founders evaded with the First Amendment, and Dominionists scored a major victory with passage of Amendment 2. It is unfortunate that taxpayers will lose millions-of-dollars fighting this religious intrusion in the courts, and all the while, superstitious children will dictate to teachers what they are allowed to teach. Like the Supreme Court’s decision in Roe v. Wade, the ban on mandatory school prayer is enduring a long-term assault by Christian fanatics who will not accept that the bible is not the law of the land, and that Christians do not control every aspect of society and government. If Missouri was an aberration, one could chalk it up to regional religious lunacy, but all across America, Christians are infiltrating school boards, city councils, state legislatures, and Congress to impose their version of religious liberty on the entire population.
Dominionism is as dangerous a threat to the existence of a free America as the corporatists seeking to take control of the government. There is nothing as perilous as religious zealots with power and motivation to seize control of all aspects of society, and if Americans are not vigilant, this country will go the way of Afghanistan when the Taliban took advantage of an opening and began a reign of terror that continues unabated. The 2010 midterm elections should be a lesson to all Americans that when enough fundamentalists gain a little power and influence, no group is safe from extremism and religious imposition. This week in Missouri, fundamentalists were handed a lot of power by voters who thought they were protecting their religious liberty, but tragically, they just dealt a devastating blow to the Constitution in a moment of religious insanity they will remember as how theocracy came to America.