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SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

MISSOURI HOUSE COMMITTEE PASSES RESOLUTION
TO REFUTE THE SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE

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Sponsored link.


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Quotation:

"When the government puts its imprimatur on a particular religion it conveys a message of exclusion to all those who do not adhere to the favored beliefs. A government cannot be premised on the belief that all persons are created equal when it asserts that God prefers some." Supreme Court Justice Harry A. Blackmun in the Lee v. Weisman ruling, 1992.

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Overview:

On 2006-MAR-02, a committee of the Missouri House approved a resolution to both

bulletRepudiate the principle of separation of church and state and
bulletGive Christianity a preferential position in Missouri.

John Mills of the TV station KMOV wrote a summary of the resolution:

"Missouri legislators in Jefferson City considered a bill [HCR13] that would name Christianity the state's official 'majority' religion." ... "The resolution would recognize 'a Christian god,' and it would not protect minority religions, but 'protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs.' ... "The resolution also recognizes that, 'a greater power exists,' and only Christianity receives what the resolution calls, 'justified recognition.'.....[Missouri Republican] State representative David Sater of Cassville in southwestern Missouri, sponsored the resolution, but he has refused to talk about it on camera or over the phone." 1

This resolution is a direct violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. It violates various U.S. Supreme Court resolutions concerning the separation of church and state. It has the potential to generate extensive inter-faith friction throughout Missouri between Christians and everyone else: Jews, Muslims. Buddhists, Native Americans, members of other organized religions, secularists, Agnostics, Atheists, and other non-theists. The Representatives apparently do not recognize the profound anger and frustration that this display of Christian Triumphalism will generate in non-Christians.

This resolution may have be related to the bill introduced by state senator Jason Crowell, (R-Cape Girardeau), on the previous day, MAR-01. It was Senate Bill 1248 which, in theory, criminalizes almost all abortions in the state. The latter bill became law on MAR-06.

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House Rules Committee action:

Missouri House Resolution HCR-13 was sponsored by Rep. David Sater (R-Cassville) and co-sponsored by Rep. Barney Joe Fisher (R-Richards). By a vote of 5 to 3, it passed out of the House Rules Committee. 2

According to the St. Louis Post Dispatch, the key sentence of the resolution states that "voluntary prayer in public schools, religious displays on public property, and the recognition of a Christian God are not a coalition of church and state." But the version found on the legislature web site appears to have dropped the phrase "recognition of a Christian God." 3,4

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The full text of House Concurrent Resolution #13:

The resolution, as downloaded from the Legislature web site on 2005-MAR-07 states:

bulletWhereas, our forefathers of this great nation of the United States recognized a Christian God and used the principles afforded to us by Him as the founding principles of our nation; and
bulletWhereas, as citizens of this great nation, we the majority also wish to exercise our constitutional right to acknowledge our Creator and give thanks for the many gifts provided by Him; and
bulletWhereas, as elected officials we should protect the majority's right to express their religious beliefs while showing respect for those who object; and
bulletWhereas, we wish to continue the wisdom imparted in the Constitution of the United States of America by the founding fathers; and
bulletWhereas, we as elected officials recognize that a Greater Power exists above and beyond the institutions of mankind:

Now, therefore, be it resolved by the members of the House of Representatives of the Ninety-third General Assembly, Second Regular Session, the Senate concurring therein, that we stand with the majority of our constituents and exercise the common sense that voluntary prayer in public schools and religious displays on public property are not a coalition of church and state, but rather the justified recognition of the positive role that Christianity has played in this great nation of ours, the United States of America. 2

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Reactions to the resolution:

bulletRob Boston, a spokesperson for Americans United for the Separation of Church and State said:

"This is a resolution, not a law. The legislature is basically approving a statement saying it does not like the Supreme Court’s rulings on school prayer. It changes nothing. It’s akin to passing a resolution praising motherhood. It may make some people feel good, but it doesn’t achieve anything..... Sure, they could pass a law based on the resolution and see it promptly declared unconstitutional by the federal courts."

bulletKaren Aroesty, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said:

"I’m sure Representative Sater is coming from a place of sincere and strongly held faith and you can’t fault him for that. But this would disenfranchise a whole bunch of people who are his constituents…even if this doesn’t pass, the harm is substantial."

bulletDavid Clippard, spokesperson for the Missouri Baptist Convention, was not familiar with the resolution, but after hearing its language said the resolution

"...seems to reflect our country’s history. Fifty three of the founding fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence were committed evangelical Christians. The foundations of this country started with Christianity, and this just goes back and acknowledges where we started."

Clippard said that critics of the resolution are not familiar with the basic foundations of the U.S. government. He said: "For someone to get upset with the country’s historical roots…you can’t change history, you can’t change truth."

bulletAccording to Rep. Leonard Hughes (D-Kansas City), another member of the Rules Committee, the Committee was told during the public hearing that the purpose of the resolution was "to protect majority rights." Hughes said: "Last time I checked, majority rights were protected...It's ridiculous."
bulletOne of the three representatives to vote against the resolution, Rep. John P. Burnett (D-Kansas City) noted that the resolution does not have an enacting clause, and therefore: ...is just a political statement about Christianity."

Burnett said he wondered who

"the majority [referred to in the resolution, was.] "Is the majority 'we the policy makers in the legislature,' or is it 'we the citizens of Missouri,' or is it 'we white people'?"

He said that that the resolution doesn’t have the "force or effect" of a bill that could eventually be signed into law, the resolution was "a clever half step" in that direction. 4

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The path forward:

Suggested amendments to HCR 13 have allegedly been discussed in the legislature. Some would make it more inclusive by mentioning Islam and Judaism while still denigrating many dozens of other organized religions present in Missouri. Other amendments would try to tone down the reference to "the majority." The discrepancy between the St. Louis Post-Dispatch version and the version on the legislature web site may be an indication of changes underway.

Rules Committee member and Minority Whip Rep. Connie “LaJoyce” Johnson (D-St. Louis) said she thought there might be an ulterior, election-year, motive to the resolution. She said:

"If some people vote against this, there’s a fear it might be used to make them look like atheists. If you come out against something like this, you can fear a backlash - like you’re coming out against Christianity."

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Comments by visitors to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch website:

The paper encourages its visitors to post comments. Responses to the MAR-02 article totaled 79 by the morning of MAR-08. Some, with spelling corrected, were:

bulletGo_Fish: "Elections are coming up. When politicians don’t want to take on real issues, they make up fake ones to get publicity. Campaigning on Mom, God, and Apple Pie are always winners. And to think we actually pay these chuckleheads."
bulletBob Valerius: "...we don’t want Missouri to become like an Islamic republic, where they force a certain religion down your throat at the point of death. In the NT [New Testament], there is really no intermingling of church and state, with the exception being the admonition to obey the government where it does not conflict with God's laws. I would also argue that when (Christian) church and state co-existed in the past, there has been a plethora of corruption. Jesus came to establish a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one. Let’s leave it there."
bulletbob: "Again, my opinion, but I believe the church is guilty of not spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth; not even to our own friends and neighbors. The church is also guilty of compromise with the world. How many denominations have said its ok to have women preachers and active homosexuals in the pulpit? How many strive to figure out ways to accommodate evolution and Darwinism, instead of believing the Word of God. Sorry to preach, but I think the church needs to lead, not follow. And right now its doing a good job of the latter."
bulletChris the Great: "Stating that the foundations of this country started with Christianity is as accurate as saying that the foundations of this country started with Pagan beliefs (much of our republican system was based on concepts started by the Greeks and the Romans). As usual, a relatively small group of people with very loud voices, claiming to be a majority, with dangerous and self-righteous motives, wish to foist their particular brand of religion upon all of us. Perhaps they would benefit from rereading the Constitution - particularly the First Amendment. They should also take note of the absence of ANY reference to ANY god within the Constitution. The framers of our Constitution may well have been Christians, but they were also intelligent enough to know that governments and religion mix like oil and water. Those who would like to see prayer in school need to realize that there are myriad views of faith out there, and allowing one over others is obviously unconstitutional, and allowing all of them is opening the door to pandemonium.
bulletEric: "Be careful not to reinforce Christo-fascist rhetoric. ;-) Prayer is by no means disallowed in school; students are free to pray whenever they want so long as they don’t make a big distraction. They can have group prayer sessions, Bible clubs, and whatnot. However, schools’ administrators and teachers, while acting in an official capacity, cannot proselytize or lead religious activities. Prayer was not banned from school, *school-sponsored* prayer was struck down and rightfully so."
bulletLarkin: "This bill seems to do more to alienate the minority than to “protect” the majority."
bulletElaysha: "This is absolutely outrageous. Why is there any need to recognize the religion in the first place? In this recognition, there is no separation between church and state, instead it forces the religion upon the residents of Missouri. I don’t care if it’s not a law, this is just one step backwards to the dark ages. How is this to reflect on the state itself? Are we to fall into the stereotype of being unaccepting Christian children of the Midwest that don’t know about the real world? I’d rather not. I’d rather this state actually have some potential in reputation rather than paint me, one who practices a faith other than Christianity, as an ignorant Missouri girl that wants a theocracy. This is a democracy, not the dark ages." 4

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References:

  1. John Mills, "State bill proposes Christianity be Missouri's official religion," at: http://havenworks.com/ (Temporary listing). Also at: http://www.kmov.com/ (Requires registration).
  2. "HCR13: Resolves that voluntary prayer in public schools, religious displays on public property, and the recognition of a Christian God are not a coalition of church and state," Missouri House of Representatives, at: http://www.house.state.mo.us/
  3. Text of HCR13 is at: http://www.house.mo.gov/
  4. Tim Townsend, "Mo. House considers Christian resolution," St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2006-MAR-07, at: http://www.stltoday.com/

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Site navigation: Home page > Religion & law > Church/state here

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Copyright © 2006 by the Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Created: 2006-MAR-07
Latest update 2006-MAR-0
8
Author: B.A. Robinson

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