By Cynthia Holmes and The Rev. Rudy Pulido

Missouri voters will be asked to vote on several ballot initiatives on Nov. 8. As the president and vice president of  AU’s St. Louis Chapter, we hope that Missourians will vote no on Amendment 3 because it would strip religious freedom protections from our state constitution.

Amendment 3 is officially titled the Early Childhood Health and Education Amendment. Its stated purpose is to improve health care and increase access to early childhood education opportunities by implementing a tax on cigarettes.

This sounds good, in theory. But in actuality, it is harmful. Hiding in the amendment is language that would exempt these public funds from religious freedom safeguards in the Missouri Constitution.

Missouri's Amendment 3 is a bad deal all around.

Article IX, section 8 of the state constitution rightly prohibits public funds from aiding religious institutions. This is a fundamental protection for religious freedom, guaranteeing public dollars cannot be used to promote religion over non-religion or any particular religion. Amendment 3, however, states that the funds disbursed from money raised by the cigarette tax “shall not be limited or prohibited by the provisions of Article IX, section 8.”

That means, of course, that those funds could flow to religious institutions. Public dollars, however, should not fund religious institutions and religious education.

That is why we oppose the provision.

We are not alone in our opposition to this amendment. Many groups, including education, health and civil rights groups oppose Amendment 3 for various reasons. And, the St. Louis American and the Kansas City Star have written editorials opposing the amendment.

If you are a resident of Missouri, we urge you to join us and vote against Amendment 3 to uphold religious freedom and prevent taxpayer money from supporting religious institutions in Missouri.

Cynthia Holmes is president of the St. Louis Chapter of Americans United. The Rev. Dr. Rudy Pulido is the chapter’s vice president.