Focus on the Family today applauded a Missouri senate panel’s endorsement of legislation which Focus claims would merely protect religious freedom.
In fact, the legislation does the opposite:
The legislation, Senate Resolution 31, establishes a ballot issue to amend the state constitution. The amendment would permit conservative Christians to impose official prayer and official religious symbols in public schools — against the will (and the faith) of Jewish, Islamic, Buddhist, atheist, and liberal Christian parents.
The Resolution would violate the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It is poorly written and, while likely to increase litigation, may be difficult to enforce, according to Leigh Hunt Greenhaw in an article in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The real purpose of the law is to scare conservative voters into believing, falsely, that their right to pray is under fire so that they will go to the polls and vote for extremist candidates who are intolerant of religious minorities. The Post-Dispatch writer observes:
The proposed amendment to Section 5 could be a partisan strategy. If voters hear our right to pray is endangered and that an amendment to the Missouri Constitution is needed to protect it, they might come out to vote for it. And those that do might well favor candidates and parties that have supported the amendment.
Focus and its Missouri affiliate hinted at this true intent in today’s statement:
Joe Ortwerths, executive director of the Missouri Family Policy Council, said his group promoted Senate Joint Resolution 31, because groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, for example, are trying to convince public school officials that freedom of religious expression cannot be permitted in public settings.
The Christian Rightists deliberately mischaracterize the ACLU’s defense of individual religious freedom — in particular, the freedom of minorities to pray as they wish without official school interference or official religious indoctrination.
The “religious freedom” that Focus and Missouri’s Christian Right seek is a freedom from the religion of others, not religious freedom for all.