If you’ve been keeping score at home, then you know all about Missouri’s deceptive “right to pray” amendment, which will be on the ballot next week.
Many clergy have already criticized Amendment 2, which would disrupt the state’s public education system, invite coercive prayer and proselytizing into classrooms and create an unknown number of conflicts that would have to be sorted out through lengthy and expensive lawsuits.
Now educators are speaking out against this unnecessary and dangerous measure. Randy Turner, an English teacher in the Joplin, Mo., public school system, said sarcastically in a Huffington Post op-ed that he has “failed as a teacher in the American public school system” because he “could not even remember the last time I confiscated a Bible or slapped a student for praying that the bell would hurry up and ring so he wouldn't have to listen to Mr. Turner any more.”
In a satire from the vein of Jonathan Swift, Turner went on to note that he “even accepted writing assignments in which the students talked about their religion and the important role it plays in their lives. And it wasn't just the Muslim girl's papers that I accepted, I even allowed an evangelical Christian to turn in her paper and Lord help me, it was so well written I had to mark a bright red ‘A’ across the top of it.”
Turner, a former newspaper reporter and editor who has 14 years of teaching experience, blamed the perceived need for Amendment 2 in part on the inaccurate branding of public school teachers “as godless liberals, arriving each day at their schools with the express purpose of indoctrinating impressionable children with secular humanism and turning them into tree-hugging, spotted owl loving liberals, looking for every opportunity to accept a government handout and drive a carload of job-stealing ‘illegal immigrants’ across the border.”
Turner said that characterization doesn’t fit with his experience.
“Many [teachers],” he said, “attend church services, have their Bibles with them every day, and follow their beliefs -- but they know where to draw the line between their religion and their jobs.”
There is thus no “epidemic” of infringement on religious beliefs, Turner said, and any perceived problems could easily be solved by making sure teachers know students’ rights.
As Turner correctly explained, Amendment 2 is completely unnecessary. There is no mass effort to marginalize religion in America, nor is anyone in this country restricted from praying or expressing one’s faith publicly – unless they’re trying to impose such practices by government action on an unwilling audience.
Since most teachers aren’t on some sort of anti-religion crusade, the real reason this so-called “right to pray” amendment popped up, Turner said, is so lawmakers can “keep the voters’ minds off the fact that their elected representatives spent another session addressing non-issues and doing nothing to bring jobs to Missouri.”
Unfortunately, it seems that distraction tactic is working pretty well. As rising high school senior and Americans United intern Noah Fitzgerel pointed out recently in his own Huffington Post op-ed, a poll conducted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found 82 percent of voters likely to approve Amendment 2 next week, with just 14 percent against it.
That’s pretty scary, and we can only hope that poll is as misleading as Amendment 2 itself.